It’s a well-known saying that fashion trends run in 20-year cycles. So where does the currently trending coquette aesthetic come from? I think it’s very similar to the Gothic Lolita style that was popular 20 years ago and that I was a big fan of – I collected the Gothic & Lolita Bibles (issue 1 was published in 2001) for their beautiful artwork and inspiring street style, and for their features on key figures like Mana and Moon Kana. Back then, J-Pop and J-Rock were our version of the current K-Pop trend, albeit much less popular and certainly much less accepted by the mainstream, as we hid in forums and message boards and didn’t discuss our obsession in real life, lest we meet with confusion at best or ridicule at worst.
Those Gothic & Lolita Bibles still stand proudly on my bookshelf and I still have my Moon Kana and Dir en grey CDs, DVDs, books and merchandise. I had even managed to buy some clothes from Japanese brands (remember Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, h.NAOTO, and Putumayo?) through a Japanese website that bought the clothes themselves and then shipped them to me, as these were the early days of e-commerce, and multilingual shops and worldwide shipping were still a novelty.
Some designers did pick up on the Gothic Lolita trend – Bora Aksu and Jenny Fax both draw heavily from the style, while Vivienne Westwood’s rocking horse styles are a staple shoe.
Just over twenty years later, that youthful, girly look seems to be back with a new feel and a new name – the coquette aesthetic. Defined by bows, pastel colours and ribbons, it emerged on TikTok and can also be seen on catwalks, particularly with designers such as Molly Goddard, Cecilie Bahnsen, Simone Rocha and Sandy Liang.
Back in 2001, when I was obsessed with pretty dresses, frills and bows, there was definitely something escapist about it all, and I suppose that escapism is still there now. There was so much uncertainty and tension in the world then, and there’s the same now – war, climate change and inaction – it just feels like we’re all doomed and would like to get away from it all.
I think the coquette aesthetic will still play a big part in 2024 – it’s being picked up by more brands and can be found in so many recent collections and products. I might have to revisit my Gothic & Lolita Bibles for old times’ sake, and maybe I’ll buy myself some pretty bow earrings or shoes. If you want to try out the trend for yourself, here are a few ideas featuring bows.