From Kanye West’s I Love Kanye third-person track to the Scream francise, the idea of meta is standard in modern culture. There is even now the concept of a “metafog”: when “something is so self-referential (ie, meta), that it loses all meaning because it is too confusing to follow,” according to Urban Dictionary.
Right now, fashion insiders might be suffering from a bad case of metafog. Anything self-referential is winning the style prize. Vetements, the brand that should be the second word out of every self-respecting fashionable mouth in the last 12 months, is partly to blame. A few months ago, the meta moment would have involved a selfie of you wearing a Vetements DHL T-shirt in front of a real DHL van – the image of Ken Allen, the CEO of DHL, in a Vetements DHL T-shirt went viral. But all of that was wiped with a picture seen this weekend: Céline Dion, the singer behind the Titanic hit My Heart Will Go On, wearing the Vetements Titanic sweatshirt. Self-referential, slightly removed and with a giant wink? Metafog calling.
Fashion shows – not generally the environment for millennial-friendly humour – have also recently been getting meta. Armani’s menswear show in June featured a T-shirt with an archive image of the designer himself, which was a hint at a lol where, in general, Armani sticks to the deadly serious business of providing suits for grown-up businessmen.
And then there was Chanel couture. Karl Lagerfeld put the atelier, complete with petites mains – women in skinny jeans, T-shirts and ballet flats who work in the studio making these four-figure dresses – on the catwalk, along with models. By referencing the workings of the house, Lagerfeld continued his flawless record for providing Instagram gold, and made a postmodern art installation worthy of Tracey Emin, in the process.
Meta moments like this work in fashion now because they have the visual gag to play out on social media but they also allow the alpha to say things without having to open their mouths. These moments are power plays really, ones that massage the ego – Armani gets to control his legacy, Dion gets to be in on the joke – but they also manipulate the media cycle. Celebrity clothes are the ultimate here. See Tom Hiddleston silencing the doubters by wearing a“I ♥ TS” T-shirt or Beyoncé. Not really one for the TMI world of social media – she chose to produce an entire album’s worth of material on her husband’s infidelity rather than talking it through with anyone, least of all an interviewer. Bey used meta to respond to the Miami police threat to boycott her concerts. Merch stands on the Lemonade tour sell “Boycott Beyoncé” T-shirts, with fans queuing up to buy them for around £35 a pop. As she herself sings: “You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation/Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.” And, indeed, a bit of the metafog that comes with the best style statements in 2016.