Can Fashion Sell ‘Brat Summer’?


Move over, Barbie: 2024 is officially the summer of “Brat.”

For the uninitiated (or terminally offline) being “brat,” has taken over the collective consciousness — or at the very least, TikTok. Inspired by the musician Charli XCX’s latest album, also called “Brat,” it can be interpreted as an attitude that’s both immature and commandingly careless, messy but still girly. The album’s bright, slimey green cover is a visual personification of the aesthetic’s signature colour, but to dress the part, all you need is a strappy tank top, a BIC lighter and a pack of cigs, Charli told the BBC.

The “Brat” obsession goes beyond the album. Hulu’s “Brat Pack” documentary, released last month, has brought the corresponding group of 1980s teen stars back into the zeitgeist, and Gabriel Smith’s novel “Brat” is attracting enough buzz to serve as outfit inspiration on Ssense’s Instagram. Less literal interpretations include pop sensations of the moment: “Espresso” singer Sabrina Carpenter and “Good Luck, Babe!” songstress Chappell Roan, also seem to embody what it means to be “brat” with their self-possessed lyrics and playful music videos.

Brat has all the hallmarks of a sticky cultural moment: It’s driven by a musician at a new height of popularity (who is set to take “Brat” on tour this fall), has an identifiable, bold corresponding aesthetic and is entering the conversation at the opportune time — the start of summer. And fashion brands, keen to tap into potential sales-driving trends following the successes of last year’s Barbiecore and quiet luxury obsessions, are taking notice. (Coincidentally, a brat-style green was on Prada and Gucci’s menswear runways last month, and has been on the rise for a few seasons now, according to trend analytics firm WGSN.)

Brat will undoubtedly shape how a swath of young people think about getting dressed over the next few months and like the trends that came before it, has the potential to boost brands that fit into the aesthetic.

While the term is proliferating online, it’s a bit more cerebral than easily merchandised trends like “balletcore” or “coastal grandmother,” which helped propel sales of products like ballet flats and linen separates, respectively. To capitalise on brat, it’ll take more than stocking green going-out tops.

“Brands should create references for people to tap into. They can look at this moment as inspiration, but it’s not about creating a brat aesthetic that is very strict. That’s the opposite of what this is about,” said Agus Panzoni, content creator and Depop’s trends spokesperson.

The Trend Train

“Brat summer” can be seen as a sibling to the “feral girl summer” and “rat girl summer” themes that ran rampant on TikTok in summers past. It also has similarities to the Megan Thee Stallion-inspired “Hot Girl Summer,” (think of brat as its distant, skinny-cigarette smoking, cool cousin) as well as the many trends that took off during 2023′s “year of the girl,” including coquette. It’s also influenced by grunge and early aughts club aesthetics, said Mia Jacobs, WGSN’s youth fashion strategist.

Still, brat’s rise feels like an important vibe shift, said Danielle Guizio, founder of her namesake brand known for its influencer-beloved mini-skirts and cropped sweaters.

“There was a little bit of pressure to dress and act like this very prim and proper woman. It sometimes felt like Prohibition with the state of the economy and everything else that’s going on in the world,” said Guizio, adding that brat’s “fun, crazy, free spirited” energy is “very much a relief.”

The idea is embedded in queer culture and even felt like the unofficial uniform of Pride Month in New York, said Michael Appler, Trendalytics director of communications. On her album, Charli XCX candidly sings about tough topics, including the difficulties of being a woman, self doubt and her anxiety about the future and motherhood, adding an element of sincerity to brat, said Panzoni. It also represents a grown up and more inclusive evolution of some of yesterday’s girl-tropes, she added.

“Barbie and hyper-femininity [of the past year] were positioned as an aesthetic correction of a previous version of feminism, but it also felt like a flattening. Not everyone is into that aesthetic,” said Panzoni. “This Brat moment gives you an alternative.”

While the green hue is integral to brat, when it comes to fashion, the emphasis on messiness and confidence make it more about personal style than one particular aesthetic. Panzoni said it’s about “clothes that are meant to be worn and partied in.” The music video for Charli’s song “360,″ features actresses Chloë Sevigny and Rachel Sennott, model Gabriette and YouTube star Emma Chamberlain in a range of mostly neutral leather jackets, workwear-inspired jumpsuits and jackets, fluffy sweaters, hoodies, short-shorts and a white, (eventually) wine-stained tank top.

“It’s one you can probably put together with things in your closet, it’s really about the styling and how to wear it, versus ‘I need to go buy this colour, this item and silhouette,’” said Divya Mathur, Revolve’s chief merchandising officer and fashion director.

Brands Go Brat

Brat’s visual aesthetic may be less cohesive than past trends, but retailers are still finding ways to capitalise on its popularity.

Revolve plans to do a brat-centric YouTube series with Chloe and Chenelle Delgadillo, stylists, content creators and frequent Revolve collaborators. Others have already tapped into the moment on social: Coach sales associates are calling the brand’s existing green bag offer “brat” on TikTok.

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Urban Outfitters-owned rental platform Nuuly platform has noticed searches for Charli’s Sweat tour, set to kick off in September, start to tick up, said Kim Gallagher, executive director of marketing at Nuuly. The company is watching to see if there is enough demand to warrant a dedicated edit, like Nuuly has done for Taylor Swift’s Eras and Beyoncé’s Renaissance tours, or if the rental service will just keep referencing it on social media.

Throughout the summer, Revolve’s homepage will have a brat curation featuring items it sees as within the remit of brat summer from brands like Tyler McGillivary, Miaou, Guizio, Never Fully Dressed and Amor Mia. The retailer will push it especially hard on mobile, where the prototypical brat consumer presumably shops. It won’t stay static or strictly “brat” for the rest of the summer — messaging and products will shift — but it will continue to riff off of the overarching idea as it drives conversation for its young shoppers, said Mathur.

“You can’t chase [trends], they happen so quickly, you’re either in it, you already have that product, you already have that world, or you’re not.” said Mathur. “And then it’s just about messaging about it and getting it to your customer.”

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