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Throw formalwear out of the window: ‘Office Punk’ rules the working world

By Jule Scott


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(Left to right): Richert Beil, Ifm, LGN Louis Gabriel Nouchi Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics

The arrival of Generation Z in the world of work has been the subject of heated debate for years. While most researchers and studies to date have focused on the work ethos of this strong-willed generation, little attention has been paid to their fashionable affinities for the office. And yet it is hard to imagine that the highly expressive generation, which breaks with classic corporate structures and conformity, will not also express this visually.

Through social media in particular, where "quiet quitting" - the idea of not going beyond one's own limit as a working person - is already being touted and TikTok videos with converted corporate language such as "Please feel free to contact me" go viral every day, the experts at trend research institute FashionSnoops are currently spying a fashion shift and predicting a new microtrend (in)suitable for the office, the Office Punk.

Gen Z breaks with workwear and reinvents it

The office punk trend, as it has been christened by the trend researchers at Fashion Snoops, still has no official 'internet name' and therefore no corresponding hashtag on social media. But that is precisely where the style is already being propagated. Even though the trend was born on the catwalks, the young generation - driven by the far-reaching and seemingly unstoppable ecological, economic and social crises of this world - are allowing the trend to blossom.

Ifm Bachelor Of Arts Spring/Summer 2024 Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics

“Generation Z is under the influence of the 'poly crisis', which fosters an attitude of collective fear," said trend analyst Péter Kecskés. "As a result, elements of rebellious subcultures like punk and grunge are reappearing in mainstream culture." Out of these sentiments and aesthetic currents comes Office Punk, a trend that, as the name suggests, rebels against and repurposes stereotypical workwear. It's hardly surprising, then, that the trend has also taken over the catwalk of the bachelor's degree collection of the Institut Français de la Mode (IfM). But designers like the Berlin duo behind Richert Beil or Namesake, a brand founded by three brothers in homage to their father, are also embracing the trend.

Richert Beil Spring/Summer 2024 Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics
Namesake Spring/Summer 2024 Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Even without an interest in a classic "9-to-5 job", Gen Z does not completely forgo the hallmarks of the classic office look, but rather puts its own stamp on it. Oxford shirts and ties are no longer a must, but they are still popular because of their look and the connotations that go with it. "The office punk aesthetic is characterised by a mix of allusions to office attire and punk style,” explained the FashionSnoops trend expert.

Office Punk not only rejects conventions, as the namesake punk movement of the 1970s did, but also borrows elements and the do-it-yourself mentality of the style that had flourished as a reaction to political and social ills of the time. "Among the youth, DIY design still dominates, but amidst all the chaos and catharsis, we are moving away from cute crochet and granny knits and towards a harder, punkier deconstruction that popularises raw hems, rips and studs,” Kecskés continued.

David Koma Fall/Winter 2023 Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics

The best examples of this are provided by designers Dilara Findikoglu and David Koma at London Fashion Week. While Koma's combination of vinyl trousers with a tie and high-necked shirt is just neat enough to perhaps even score in the office, Findikoglu's subversive school uniform underlines the ‘punk’ in the name of the trend.

Dilara Findikoglu Fall/Winter 2023 Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics

Office elements meet punk attitude

Optically, Office Punk relies on old familiar tricks and combines classic pieces with unconventional, unexpected and sometimes contrary elements. "It's about a pencil skirt in pinstripes with a leather fetish bra or a leather button-down shirt with tailored suit trousers,” Kecskés summed up as the basics of the trend. The combination determined by "highs and lows of style" are harmonious, he added, especially when it involves pieces in a coordinated colour palette.

LGN Louis Gabriel Nouchi Spring/Summer 2024 Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics

The key elements of the style are clothes that are worn in many offices on a daily basis. Ties, button-downs, blazers, pencil skirts or pleated trousers are also part of good school in office punk, but these pieces are being rediscovered both through their choice of materials and thanks to the associated punk attitude. The trend analyst points out that interest in office punk looks is sparked by contradictory combinations of materials and garments.

"With Office Punk, we dare to do the unexpected with tailored trousers in high-shine leather or exciting tops in pinstripe fabrics that you usually only see in traditional tailoring,” he explained. "It's about throwing the rules out the window and being rebellious with our design choices - an attitude that is very much in the spirit of Gen Z."

Miu Miu Fall/Winter 2023 Credit: Spotlight Launchmetrics

In its mildest form, office punk is a youthful approach to tailoring, while in the most extreme case the style is almost a fashionable critique of the system. Some designers are also venturing into the subject, but are deliberately approaching it slowly. In particular, combinations of shirts with ties and hoodies, as in the case of French designer and ANDAM Award winner LGN Louis Gabriel Nouchi, or pencil skirts with tousled hair, visible tights and cardigans in the case of Miu Miu, are simple introductory combinations to the trend that could perhaps even already be seen in the office - at least on a "Casual Friday".

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.

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