With the UK festival season looming, Amrit Virdi looks at the fashion evolution of renowned- California-based festival Coachella, and the implications of how its style varies from festival-goer, to performer, to celebrity attendee.
Coachella has been on a three-year hiatus, and it’s safe to say that the fashion scene has changed massively within that space of time, and even more since the mid 2010’s. With 2015’s boho-chic evolving into this year’s glam yet casual Y2K approach, Coachella is becoming less and less of a playground for the weirdest and wackiest fashion in some respects, as multicolour hairstyles are swapped out for trainers and sunglasses.
However, an interesting observation was that the trends changed depending on the individual’s status.
Let’s start at the top. I myself was excited for this year’s Coachella line- up, and I wasn’t even attending the festival. Looking at the scheduled performers, the likes of Doja Cat, Harry Styles, and Caroline Polacheck were tipped to take their fashion to the next level, and they certainly did.
A prominent theme amongst the performers seemed to be bright, vibrant colours. Conan Gray’s hot pink attire and Harry Styles’ and Shania Twain’s sequin-adorned numbers were hard to miss. Doja Cat’s sexy, intergalactic- like bold choices were also top of the best-dressed performers list for me, as she turned the Coachella stage into her own runway. Festivals are a chance for performers and their stylists to up the effort to 110%, to mirror the vibrant and eclectic crowds.
Even The Weeknd’s military style fashion and Billie Eilish’s graffiti-esque, Yeezy-like couture seemed to deviate from both of their usual styles, evidencing the importance of Coachella as a fashion statement.
It’s a well-known fact that Coachella doubles as a gathering place for the world’s most-followed influencers. With the likes of NastyGal sending some of social media’s most followed people there, on the premise that they will post photos in their clothing, the majority of the trends spotted from the festival are the ones put forward by Instagrammers, TikTokers and YouTubers.
A few recurring themes cropped up. Colourful Y2K prints worn by the likes of James Charles in a revealing number, and Kate Elisabeth in a NastyGal pink and orange crotchet woven top paired with a neon orange skirt, captured the fun and whimsical nature of the festival. Fringe also seemed to be prominent, with Paris Hilton and Abby Wetherington donning cream and white fringe-based staples.
Juxtaposing the abundance of colour that was present, neutrals and more subtle tones were seen in equal measure. After all, with the festival lasting three days, the more outfit changes, the better, right?
What wasn’t seen much were the boho-chic flower crowns, facial gems, layered necklaces, and wide hats that defined Coachella in 2015. I first got exposed to images from Coachella when these themes dictated its fashion, with YouTuber Alex Centomo’s Coachella looks even inspiring my fashion when going to UK festivals.
As the general style across the everyday world of fashion has shifted towards low-key glam with an emphasis on prints, and less being more, this has inevitably played into Coachella’s fashion evolution.
The likes of Tana Mongeau have been known for exhibiting a more ‘out there’ fashion at the festival, but many of her looks this year involved simple statement jeans with a crop top. One of my favourite looks of hers was a sequin-adorned double denim pairing with a denim bucket hat. Especially with festivals, understated can often be better… and more practical and comfortable!
On that note, high-status celebrity attendees seemed to ditch the trends demonstrated by performers and go for an even lower-status look.
Celebrity BFFs Hailey Bieber and Kylie Jenner were matching in their understated denim jeans, white crop tops and leather blazers. Understandably they don’t want to bring attention to themselves, but the Jenner clan have been known, amongst other regular celebrity-Coachella-goers, for setting festival trends with their eccentric looks. Then again, I would not be surprised if next year’s Coachella-goers follow their lead, and turn up in casual attire as a fashion statement.
Writing this out revealed to me that there does seem to be a dress hierarchy at the world’s most famous festivals.
Coachella is at the forefront, given that in recent years it seems to have become a breeding ground for influencers to promote fashion, with the focus on the music itself being lost at times. The more famous a celebrity attendee of a festival is, in the case of Coachella, the more low-key they dress, which in turn impacts trends after the event due to their influence.
A lot of my own fashion choices are inspired by the style of those in the public eye, but I have never thought to stop and think why we care so much about celebrity fashion, and why it is so impactful. Within the two Coachella weekends, I saw an abundance of YouTube videos and articles analysing who was best dressed at Coachella, as if it was a fashion show.
As discussed above, there was an array of trends this year, albeit more low-key in some senses. A lot of people had differing opinions on some of the looks, and it makes me consider why celebrity fashion is scrutinised so much. Especially with a festival, people attend to have fun and enjoy the music, so some of the incredibly harsh hate that people got for their looks at Coachella seems needless.
This all links to the glamourisation of the celebrity and culture of idolisation. With fashion being such an integral part of everyday life, and celebrities being in the public eye, their cultural implications on society via their style shape the trends of today. With their levels of influence, their cultural effect can even be subconscious at times. For example, the societal shift from skinny to baggy jeans, arguably aided by the rise of ‘indie’ fashion, was something which I cannot even pinpoint happening – it seemed to just appear in my wardrobe!
High street shops such as Urban Outfitters and Zara cater well to the latest trends, and are some of the go-to shops amongst a lot of my friends. Colourful prints, block colours, and leather blazers, all found worn at Coachella 2022, are staples in their stores. Specifically with the rise of fast fashion, retailers and brands can mirror trends pretty quickly. Pretty Little Thing has a dedicated ‘festival’ tab on its website, consisting of the block colours, animal prints, and Y2K fashion found at Coachella.
While festivals attract the fast fashions brands of the world, the ethical implications of this do need to be highlighted.
Pretty Little Thing and NastyGal are known for not being sustainable, exploiting their workers in harsh conditions, and not using ethically sourced materials. In reality, most ‘trendy’ buys are worn once, and go to waste. Wanting to achieve festival fashion can be done in much more sustainable ways, especially as it is becoming a lot simpler. Turning an old scarf or bandana into a colourful crop top, or adding sequins to forgotten denim staples, is a fun time-passer, and is not hard to do!
The Coachella effect is real, and if anything it should be called a fashion festival as well as a music festival. With the pattern of low-key glam increasing more and more every year, who knows what next year will bring.
You can read more of Amrit’s work via her portfolio at amritvirdi.journoportfolio.com, or by following her Instagram