Interview with Meme Saint Laurent: Fashion Meme Deep Dive Part 3
With the help of fashion meme titans like Vetememes, Meme Saint Laurent and Fashion Wankers, the ARCHIVE.pdf Team have interviewed all individuals to truly understand just how deep this fashion meme rabbit hole goes. From educating the masses on fashion, to their impact on the fashion industry, the toxicity and beauty of the community, and much more, today we’ll be revealing one of fashion’s greatest online mysteries: Fashion Memes.
If you ask anyone “Who first comes to mind when you hear the term Fashion Meme Account?”, it’ll come as no surprise if Meme Saint Laurent ranks among the top. Created by Karsten Kroening, MSL has simply stood the test of time in both the online fashion and fashion meme subcultures, and this comes as no surprise, for the sheer dankness of its original memes knows no limits. Underneath the multiple layers of this delicious onion, however, lays valuable insights into both the fashion meme community and fashion industry.
As part of our Fashion Meme Deep Dive Series, we have interviewed Karsten to gain a deeper understanding of this seemingly superficial scene called fashion memes. From Karsten’s involvement within the fashion industry to the multiple sides of the fashion meme community, this exclusive interview will show you just how deep the fashion meme rabbit hole goes.
What do you believe was your first experience when it came to memes and fashion memes?
I'm Gen Z so when I was handed a phone, I got a phone when I was maybe 14, so awhile back, and then just through social media, Instagram. I became pretty acquainted with early meme culture. Fashion memes in particular, when I got into fashion they weren't really as much of a thing. I think if you went on Reddit or male fashion you might see one or two every once in a while. And I think I even remember seeing some about Davil before I started making memes in that Grailed culture realm. But there was really no place for fashion memes in particular. I think Davil posted a couple but he wasn't mainly focused on fashion memes at the time. He was mainly focused on his brand Vetememes.
And so when I was like about 15 or 16 I started making starter packs for my friends. Two of my friends coincidentally were also into fashion and we knew a couple of people in our city who were also into fashion so I'd make little starter packs for them. I just started making those and I got good with hashtags and stuff. I was posted a couple of times by Davil and that really helped kickstart my page really, and from there I was just able to grow.
How would you explain your evolution in terms of the way you approach memes?
It started off like starter packs, just what me and my friends were wearing, the people we knew in the community, people online we knew, and then it progressed into I guess almost like a political comic, in what I would refer to the other ones as in comparison. Because oftentimes it wasn't necessary... It was mainly one or two images with some bold texts with a white background. It was pretty cut and dry, usually what those early fashion memes were. And it would usually be a pun or something of the sorts. It would be making a very direct commentary onto, for example, Rick Owens Ramones, Archive Culture, Hype Beasts. And then eventually it just moved on to a broader sense of what we would consider memes. It's just anything and everything. I guess it might be a little bit less commentary. And I think it's shifted into more of just fun, which I'm okay with because I think there's a lot of commentary to be made on fashion. But I think at the moment I'm just more focused on posting memes, which do have some commentary definitely at some points, but are just more fun for the community to enjoy.
Do you have any examples of memes you’ve made that were more heavy in subject matter?
I don't want to necessarily say people got worn down by these memes, but I think there were definitely times where I would go more into meme that have got heavier subjects. For example Ian Connor was somebody I made a lot of memes upon on the past. And not necessarily... Of course I wasn't joking about the sexual assault but I was making commentary on him as a person and saying, "Hey," it's one of those ways you can see satire can actually have a good effect on a sub community as a whole. It’s kind of saying, "Hey, there's a lot better designers than this guy. This guy has some questionable choices."
What are your views on toxicity in the fashion meme community?
I think we have been in a lucky enough state. Because I've been so involved in the community I've seen some pretty bad accounts pop up that are extremely toxic. And none of those have ever gotten a huge following, which is really nice. I also wouldn't say, that fashion memes have made the community more toxic. That doesn't line up to me because I was involved in the fashion community before I made memes and I see a lot of the same comments, I see a lot of the same behavior. The toxicity that is in fashion has existed way before the internet as well. We all know about The Devil Wears Prada stereotypes and stuff like that. Fashion has never truly been a non-toxic community. There's no community which isn't toxic when it has a community. But I think painting it on fashion memes in particular, I think there's always conversations about how to improve but I don't think that there's necessarily a huge correlation.
What would you say are the positive aspects to the fashion meme community?
In marketing, we talk about what are the three easiest ways to communicate with somebody. There are pretty much three ways. It's either fear, humor or sex. I'm not dealing with the other two and it's pretty much only humor. And humor is just an easier way to communicate with somebody about a much more nuanced issue. It's easier to show a funny conversation between two animated characters than for me to write a multiple faceted paragraph on why we need to be more, for example, environmentally conscious. If you can just show that between two characters, people are going to understand it a lot more and they might be able to see the ridiculousness in the conversations that are happening on both sides. When you establish humor in a conversation, it's starting off on the right foot, and that really helps bring someone into whatever your opinion or agenda may be. That's probably what I would say about fashion memes and their relation to the community in that sense.
Do you think that fashion memes influence our sense of style?
I think it definitely does influence people's style. I've seen, from when I got into fashion to now, an attitude towards fashion change a lot, which I'm really happy about. You're seeing a lot more people, especially younger people now are interested in brands like Rick Owens, Raf Simons. They're not necessarily into it just because ASAP Rocky mentioned it in a song or something like that, but they're into it because they're interested in the culture, they're interested in the history. I'd like to think that we helped foster that community. I really have been interested in archive for a while so naturally that bled into my memes a lot, especially in the earlier days. There's a lot of archive memes. The whole archive community has grown a lot as a whole.
When it comes to designers and brands, and when it comes to the fashion industry at large, how would you say memes play a role in industry?
I will tell you one thing, people definitely see them. It's a smaller industry than you think. I think as far as the creation process goes, I think there's a handful of brands which definitely keep that in mind. There's those brands who keep it in mind and they might fall into that. For example, I would say Virgil is a really good example of that. Demna is huge with that. And then there are other designers who I know appreciate memes. They find them funny. I know for example, Yang Li appreciates them. Unfortunately he's now a defunct designer. Matthew Williams, Heron Preston, who I both had very brief conversations with and they've thought whatever memes I've made have been funny to some degree.
Then there's I guess the other category, which I would say like Virgil or Demna where they understand that what they will make will be memed and they're leaning in towards that. When Virgil started designing at Louis Vuitton, it started off a little bit rough but he fell into a very maximalist vibe and a lot of his designs got a lot more... He plays with the concept of stealing a lot because he anticipates that people are going to accuse him of that no matter what. The more I've seen his collections, especially at Louis Vuitton, I've been impressed.
Do you think fashion memes will play a role in regards to intertwining with business and maybe fashion too?
I've worked in it all as far as I think the other meme pages go in regards to what are the opportunities to having a brand deal, what are the ways to make money? I've worked for companies that are even in fashion doing advertising. I've done work for Highsnobiety, a couple of other fashion publications. I've done work for reselling companies, done work for Valentino. I know Fashion Wankers has a project with all its own men store, I believe, and another reselling company that are both local to him, which from what I know works well. For example, another page Geocasket, which is less of a fashion meme page but more of a Rick Owens history book online, I guess you could say, he has a partnership with SSENSE which works very well.
But I think because meme pages in their DNA are meant for criticism, and I really don't see that working with many brands very well. So it could be a little shaky there sometimes. But for the most part for me the way I plan on making things is releasing my own clothes. I channel my following into many different platforms. I do YouTube which has been big and really also just as exciting for me is the meme page. I also plan on dropping my own clothes at some point, which I'm in the process of making right now.
What do you believe is the future of fashion memes? So whether that be the evolution of certain formats, for example, or its relationship with outside realms such as the fashion industry or fashion communities?
Number one would be TikTok. So as far as what those formats will look like, I don't know, similar to Vine, but fashion TikTok, and fashion meme TikTok, which has also been a thing, it's grown pretty big. And I think as far as criticism goes I think TikTok is going to be a pretty big platform for fashion criticism. Having talking, speaking, like in a video format but condensing it down to three minutes at this point is doable. I can definitely see a huge part of culture being invested into TikTok. As fashion memes go, formats, not really quite sure. Right now it's still pretty shit-posty, which is pretty fun, honestly. I really don't know what the future is for fashion memes besides TikTok.
Last question: Do it fart?
Do it fart? 100%.
Go even deeper down the rabbit hole of fashion memes:
Karsten Kroening: Instagram
Meme Saint Laurent: Instagram
Editor: Isaac L. Davis
Visual Content Sourcing: Felix R.