Why “Chaotic Chic” Is the Trending Aesthetic of Autumn/Winter 2021

I probably won’t be the first millennial to say this, but whenever I look on TikTok, I feel old. And as someone who is still in their 20s (okay, only just), I’m not sure I’m okay with it. But I suppose it’s just part and parcel of a new generation taking to new platforms to express their individuality and, most importantly, assert their point of difference from the previous generation. From a fashion-editor perspective, I have also been impressed by the sheer number of trends that have come out of TikTok, from dark academia to cottagecore. It’s essentially the new way subcultures are forming in the digital era. 

This season, a new aesthetic has emerged, and it’s yet another example of TikTok’s tendency to rebel against prevailing trends. Welcome to the world, “chaotic chic.” Originating from a particular street style tribe, chaotic chic points to an eclectic approach to dressing that embraces playful pairings, maximalist prints and unexpected silhouettes. A clear rejection of the minimalist trend that has dominated over the last few seasons, this new look is undoubtedly inspired by the noughties fashion resurgence that hit the fashion market this year.  . “Through our recent Gen Z research report with Bain, we saw how Gen Z personas on social media tend to stand out, compared to their older millennial counterparts, for being more authentic and spontaneous and less filtered and curated, which then plays out through content on their social platform of choice, TikTok,” explains a representative from Depop. “Gen Z fashion on TikTok is experimental and hybrid, gravitating towards high-low fashion collaborations mixing vintage and streetwear. It’s not a look you can buy straight off the rail from traditional retailers, which is the beauty of it.” As evidenced by Depop’s findings, the very nature of chaotic chic is its individuality—something that feels unique to Gen Z’s approach to personal style and second-hand—so really, there’s no point being too prescriptive about it. However, I thought I’d show you four outfits from this season’s street style album that epitomise how I’d love to work the trend this winter. From clashing colours to curveball layering, scroll down to see my chaotic chic outfits.  

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