Reading time: 5min.

by Hans Crusim

Strictly alternative

We often look at the denotations of niches and alternative culture in music and fashion forgetting “why” people choose what they choose and the deeper meaning of the subjective answers that follow.

A nuanced example is a 17-year-old girl who was particularly vocal about her reasoning in her choice in fashion and music. “Isla” (the teenager who I questioned about the “alternative” choices in her products) believed strongly in freedom of individual expression, specifically, the way people present their persona through their taste.

To Isla your taste in fashion and music should reflect as much of your personality as it possibly can. It is all about having an individual and unique voice that represents you and you alone – forming your own image. But in recent years, from her point of view, this has been discouraged by the idea of mainstream culture and the aspiration of businesses, which produce products such as music and clothing, to target a larger consumer base for the sake of higher profits. This in turn results in a convergence in taste (as trends form and become more prevalent, brands with mass market appeal are something people desire) losing that idea of individuality in expression of taste.

Due to trends, high street fashion is more likely to have similar design conventions. With big brands basically having similar products to appeal to the masses (and not smaller demographics), which in turn means customers end up dressing in the same style. To Isla, mass production is killing creativity and the same can be said by brand cultures and the anchorage that they have.

This is not only applicable to the world of fashion, but as well as music. With Isla’s main source of the latest tunes being on “Soundcloud” (a global online audio distribution website controlled by the people) she believes platforms like this, that help independent producers have a place to reach a possible audience, helps spread the idea of niches that advocate individuality as well as creativity and widening the variety of choice of music in the industry. As opposed to only listening to what is popular at the time.

Often she searches for the sub-genre of house music “deep house” on the platform because the latest and most popular house music she finds to be repetitive. All because of how mass markets work – it is controlled by current trends and not the quality of the artist. Creativity is then stumped due to this, as artists cannot take risks and explore with their style due to the responsibility of having to create music that take on certain characteristics based on what’s popular at the moment. With the primary purpose of being able to sell more of what they create.

Isla’s reasoning for her choice in products is also linked to her choice of diet. She tends to look at the bigger picture – how her lifestyle choices and things she indulges in affect the world that she lives in. This is made clear when she mentioned the fact that she is vegan.

Along with the obvious health benefits of being vegan, the primary reason to why she chooses not to consume animal products is the cruelty that comes with their production. With the knowledge of what occurs in establishments like slaughterhouses and the harsh realities of what even the name denotes; Isla strongly avoids the support of businesses that produce animal products due to the consequences of doing so. Her compassion for animals drives this lifestyle choice, so she does not add to the accountability of the suffering these animals endure. A suffering that from her point of view, the masses tend to forget.

With Isla’s taste directly linked to her own individuality and belief in expressing her identity; her reasoning goes far beyond the simple idea of being different for the sake of it. It stands almost as a silent protest to the effects mass marketing, homogeneous brand culture and the ignorance to the effects of buying into animal products. Whether you see it negatively as she does, that is up to you.