Prior to the pandemic, fashion’s elite flocked to the four major fashion cities — New York, London, Paris, and Milan — twice a year to see new designer collections. A major part of those Fashion Month voyages — one in February-March and another in September-October — was street style, which, in the years leading up to the pandemic, had changed. Whereas photographs taken by Bill Cunningham and Scott Schuman captured personal style in its truest form, street style has since become an increasingly manufactured operation, as people began to get dressed by stylists and borrow clothes from designers, creating looks for the sole purpose of capturing the eye of the photographers.
Still, there’s a reason why street style photos continue to be so popular — for those of us who can’t afford looks straight off the runway, personal style is oftentimes more interesting to observe than luxury fashion. So, when the pandemic put street style (for the most part) on hold, many looked to Instagram for inspiration, where accounts like Parisiens in Paris, Milanesi a Milano, and Londoners in London give a glimpse at how people in fashion cities dress. But rather than showcasing the over-the-top looks outside fashion show venues, these accounts capture everyday style — spotted on the streets, at the grocery store, and on the subway.
Parisiens in Paris — or PiP, as it’s now known — started two years ago as an antidote to Fashion Month. “During fashion weeks, I constantly saw influencers dressed perfectly from head-to-toe, with designer clothes and impeccable hair,” Parisiens in Paris’ anonymous founder tells Refinery29. “I wanted to pay tribute to the people for whom fashion is not necessarily their profession, in order to show that the Parisian style really exists naturally.”
When going through photo submissions, she says the photos that stand out most are the ones that feel organic and relatable, while still displaying a strong fashion aesthetic. “I like the looks that are not too worked on — not too fussy.” For example, she says it’s extremely rare that she’ll post a photo of someone wearing heels: “It just doesn’t represent the ‘working girl’ that we know in 2021.”
Many of the looks on PiP’s feed appear to show uniforms of sorts: A wool coat, jeans or trousers, and boots. Designer bags, like Gucci’s Jackie bag — which was reissued by creative director Alessandro Michele for the brand’s fall ’20 show last February — and vintage, quilted Chanel cross-bodies are commonplace.
The page has become even more popular since COVID, according to the founder. “People are eager to look [outside] at streets and people,” she says. She speculates that the page’s followers have gone “back to basics,” meaning that they enjoy seeing everyday Parisians putting their own spin on fashion, rather than have it dictated to them by the industry. “It’s refreshing to see trends emerge from the [actual] streets and to look at how people interpret clothes, bags, etc. — I think it’s a great replacement for Fashion Month street style.”
Parisiens in Paris got so popular in fact that, in the span of two months, two other accounts — one based on Milan’s street style and another dedicated to London’s — surfaced on Instagram. In October 2020, Milanesi a Milano began sharing photos of stylish Italians scouring the hometown of labels like Gucci and Bottega Veneta. Like in Paris, the outfits presented are casual, yet elevated, and feature their own city’s twist — think: sneakers rather than boots, and vintage varsity jackets instead of camel coats. One photo shows a woman wearing UGG boots with white carpenter jeans and a fur coat. The caption reads: “She’s freezing in a very voguish Milanese way.”
A month later in November, Michelle Bellucci, a fashion styling and production student at the London College of Fashion, was inspired to start her own IG account after witnessing how her fellow Londoners continued to showcase their personal style despite the lockdown. Called Londoners in London, the page shows off the unfiltered style in her own city, from the eclectic fashions of East London to the more posh styling in West London.
For her, the account is also a way to highlight the diversity of London. “It is important to consider that each area of London is different,” she says. “The city is multicultural.” Given that traditional street style has time and time again been criticized for its lack of diversity, this is all the more important, and yet another reason why accounts like Bellucci’s make a fine replacement for the white-washed and thin selection of images that often populate fashion websites.
Like her fellow voyeur across the Channel, Bellucci believes that her followers are attracted to the original, authentic everyday style. “Londoners in London is about normal people getting dressed for their daily life, which I think is the reason people love it so much,” she says. “It’s about [sartorial] spontaneity.”
It’s the same reason why we’ve long loved “strangers on the street” content. Humans of New York — an account that’s appeal wasn’t only in the stories it told, but also in the street style-esque images that ran alongside them — was so popular on Instagram, it became a best-selling book in 2015. Chinatown Pretty, which started as a street style account featuring seniors living in New York’s Chinatown, has now, too, been turned into a photography book. The responses and photos that result from capturing people off guard and in their natural settings are authentic — something that, after years of carefully curated street style, we’re now longing for again.
Since lockdown, people have started to dress for themselves again and experiment with colors, patterns, and silhouettes that make them feel happy, comfortable, and confident. In turn, fashion is getting its edge back — with personal style flourishing in fashion capitals like Paris and London, but also in cities like New Orleans and Atlanta.
It’s a good thing Instagram accounts like these are around to capture it.
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