Brand owner talks ‘90s grunge controversy, and accuses the fashion industry of either ‘excluding’ or ‘stealing’ from ‘the kids on the street’

Ruby (, the owner of the fashion label rudie, recently created a video drawing attention to the harmful ways in which the fashion industry operates — specifically, its tendency to either steal “from kids on the street” or bar them from participating in the conversation altogether.

“I have to talk about this extremely niche fashion industry thing that I can’t get out of my brain,” Ruby begins. “So, early ’90s grunge is hitting the scene, Nirvana is, like, on MTV, the whole grunge ethos is like, ‘we don’t care, we’re apathetic, we’re not like pop culture, jocks are stupid, the industry sucks, nothing matters’ et cetera.”

Ruby then references Steven Meisel’s “Grunge & Glory” editorial shoot, which was styled by Grace Coddington, for Vogue‘s December 1992 issue.

“Worn out combat boots, flannels, stuff that looks like you bought it all at Goodwill. Actually, a Nirvana t-shirt,” Ruby explains of the shoot’s sartorial choices. “Very Ally Sheedy Breakfast Club, nobody understands me in my regular, degular high school and I’m different.”

Seattle, Wash., the birthplace of grunge, is to credit for plugging the world into the zeitgeist of the scene, both musically and aesthetically.

“‘Thrifting’ is a verb in Seattle. Flannel and leatherette, the boho-hobo staples of second-hand attire, are the basics of a nonfashion statement” reads an excerpt of Rick Marin’s Grunge: A Success Story for the New York Times in 1992. “A flannel shirt worn around the waist is a precaution against the Pacific Northwest’s mercurial clime. Army boots slog effectively through mud…This stuff is cheap, it’s durable, and it’s kind of timeless. It also runs against the grain of the whole flashy esthetic that existed in the 80’s.”

The sudden popularization and commodification of the grunge aesthetic, which was “a pretty regular rendition of Seattle style at the time,” Ruby points out, was met with controversy. What pushed things over the edge, however, was Marc Jacobs‘s infamous grunge-inspired spring/summer 1993 show for Perry Ellis, which ultimately got him fired as creative director. The runway show served two functions: It immortalized the impact of grunge in fashion history and confirmed the industry’s fear of its prevalence at the time.

Why fear it, you might ask? Because it was apparently sullying the fashion industry’s highbrow appeal.

“He puts out this ready-to-wear show that is grunge-themed,” Ruby explains. “Anyway, this show cost Marc Jacobs his job. Apparently the capital ‘F’ fashion industry itself, was very scandalized by this show and they thought that it was putting a bad name on fashion, and taking away from, like, the sophisticated myths of it all.”

According to the band Hole’s frontwoman Courtney Love, she and her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, were also against Jacobs’s show. In fact, the duo apparently burned almost all of the collection, which was gifted to them, and this is something she actually regrets.

“Do you know what we did with it? We burned it,” Love told WWD. “We were punkers — we didn’t like that kind of thing.”

Ruby believes that with regard to the “kids on the street,” the fashion industry is either gatekeeping or stealing from them, under the guise of protecting its supposed “sophistication.”

“The more I think about this, the more it makes me realize that the fashion industry as Big Brother doesn’t know what it likes, doesn’t know what it wants, doesn’t know what is cool,” Ruby asserts. “And it’s constantly either taking bits and pieces from the kids on the street without understanding what they’re trying to say, or it’s excluding the kids on the street and saying, ‘You don’t understand what we do here.'”

“Moral of the story is f*** the industry and the pages of the magazine and the runways, and just wear whatever you want,” she adds.

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