In hindsight, the 1960’s seem burdened with purpose.

For America and the West, this was the decade of protest, of Civil Rights, of Vietnam, of righteous cause made mass culture. Even the lighter moments—Woodstock, the pill, Dr. Strangelove—appear saddled by their sincerity.

Ironically enough, this era of authenticity also produced one of the modern era’s seminal texts on… well, irony. During this moment of “air quotes” and anti-fashion, it’s a text that also appears uncomfortably prophetic.

Despite publishing more than 50 years ago, Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’” predicted the trappings of today’s fashion scene–from Balenciaga Crocs to the zeitgeist itself.

“Camp” opens by describing the tension between phenomena that have been named and those that go unnamed: “One of these [the unnamed] is the sensibility—unmistakably modern, a variant of sophistication but identical with it–that goes by the cult name of ‘Camp.’”
“Camp”—the phenomenon, not the essay—is described throughout the piece as a smattering of descriptors, since, in Sontag’s own words, “a sensibility (as distinct from an idea) is one of the hardest things to talk about.” Its first solid description is this: “The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”
Sontag continues: “Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style—but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they-are-not.”

From a critical perspective, this could describe nearly anything requiring production value. Italian opera (or a visit to the in-laws) requires both qualities. However, these broad opening statements are just setting the stage for what’s to come.

We’ve gone through and pulled out key quotes from Sontag’s original work, using the text as a explanatory guide (and, in some cases, foreteller) of what was to come for fashion writ large in the following years.

Here’s where our fun begins.

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Tags: demna-gvasalia, vetements, enfants-riches-deprimes, prada, off-white, gucci, balenciaga