At Coachella, parades of festival style and fashion industry tie-ups have brought a new commercial sensibility to the festival’s once music-centric image, stirring up debate over whether the music festival has since lost its way.
Once a year legions of music fans make a desert pilgrimage to Indio, California to seek hours of sun-soaked revelry and dancing at Coachella. Hailed as the number one music festival in the world, Coachella has been the stage for the most raved-about performances.
Since its inception in 2001, it has staged legendary acts from the likes of Prince, Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre as well as a digitally-resurrected artists such as Tupac, Beyonce and Jay-Z, The Cure, Jack White of The White Stripes and Daft Punk. These stellar lineups have drawn an ever increasing crowd, reaching almost 200,000 over the two successive three-day weekends. Coachella is said to have raked in US$84 million in 2015, according to trade publication Pollstar.
As Coachella’s sphere of influence widens, more brands become eager to cash in on its international appeal. Luxury and commercial fashion brands alike are making greater overtures into the festival domain; and staging grander and ever more share-worthy events. Lavishly decked out lounge tents are now a common sight, alongside invite-only runway events and brand-sponsored photo booths.
Swedish fast fashion retailer, H&M has taken this a step further. The six-time sponsor of Coachella has attempted to trademark the “festival fashion” look with the debut of the H&M Loves Coachella ready-to-wear collection. Tapping into the world’s fascination with the fashionably wild and free-spirited festival goer, the brand hopes to seduce consumers with a similar bohemian-inflected catalogue of embroidered dresses, crocheted crop tops and fringed jackets.
For better or worse, we’ve descended into an age where what fashion darlings are dressed in is just as important as the headlining performers. Coachella’s reputation as a celebrity-studded event has made it such that every decently-dressed festival goer is gunning to be featured in some fashion round-up. Micro fashion trends are birthed in the desert and doomed to die before the two-week festival has run its course. Have the current movements in fashion caused a dent in Coachella’s cultural prestige? As long as the stream of authentic and admired musicians don’t run dry, that future seems unlikely.
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