Almost a year ago to the day, Taylor Swift threw herself a 25th birthday party. Many of Swift's famous friends were there, including (but not limited to) Sam Smith, Selena Gomez and Justin Timberlake. It was all business as usual until Beyoncé and Jay Z were spotted lurking in the background of a group picture. The Internet lost its mind.
It didn't take long before Swift's "#squadgoals" phenomenon began captivating the same portion of cyberspace that was once flummoxed as to how she and hip-hop's greatest power couple became acquaintances. Soon, Swift's friendships within the fashion industry — Gigi Hadid, Martha Hunt, Lily Aldridge, Karlie Kloss and more — began taking over our collective Instagram feeds.
While fashion has long been insular, a portion of its exclusivity hit a fever pitch in 2015. Despite social media opening up this world to any human with access to a computer or smartphone, the you-can't-sit-with-us mentality remained prevalent. No longer restrained to the likes of Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld, cliquey friendships seemed to resonate with models, designers and "It" girls more prevalently than in 2014.
Much of this can certainly be attributed to Olivier Rousteing, whose own "Balmain Army" has helped to create a rabid enthusiasm for the brand. As the first French house to surpass the million-follower mark on Instagram, Balmain has made a business of casting entire groups of friends in both runway shows and campaigns. Rousteing sits at the head of the table as the crew's common thread.
The 30-year-old creative director has as a knack for recruiting talent as well as for growing Balmain's digital and retail fan bases. In October, the house debuted a capsule collection for H&M with a bumping runway show — Kloss, Kendall Jenner, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn and Alessandra Ambrosio all walked — followed by a rare performance by the Backstreet Boys. That "interest" in the line went on to "[exceed] all previous collaborations" was no surprise, even despite the range's steeper price point. It literally paid for Rousteing to have friends in high places.
Whether intentional or not, when did these friendships become a business transaction? From the Alexander Wang "gang" to Riccardo Tisci's Givenchy "family," designers understand that customers buy into theirs labels' cult of personality as much as the clothes themselves. The same can be said for Swift, whose own friends have participated in distinctly Swiftian activities like baking Ina Garten's famous flag cake and posing atop vintage, pastel bicycles. In biology, one might refer to this as the perfect symbiotic relationship where a "host" and a "parasite" benefit mutually from each another for the duration of their contact. There is strength in numbers, and as one's circle grows, so does his or her influence.
As always, within overarching groups of friends are smaller pairings and communities. Jenner and Cara Delevingne — nicknamed "CaKe" — have been attached at the hip since walking hand-in-hand down Chanel's Paris-Salzburg Métiers d'Art show last December. Models Lexi Boling and Binx Walton are similarly inseparable, though they occupy a very different sector of the modeling sphere. While the Jenners and the Hadids spent much of last Fashion Month party-hopping in glittery Balmain, Boling and Walton let loose with Heinekens and Pringles on a train from Milan to Paris. With a unique toughness, the latter pair get cast in many of the same shows and campaigns — including Wang's fall 2015 ads — alongside their other "gang" members, like Anna Ewers and Hanne Gaby Odiele.
Kim Kardashian gave many interviews this year discussing how Tisci was the first high-end designer to dress her when no one else would. In the street style realm, too, bloggers loped around Europe holding hands, even going so far as to wear matching "Best Friends" jackets. Caroline Vreeland and Shea Marie, the stylist and blogger behind Peace Love Shea, were the most obvious perpetrators, though Bella Hadid and Stella Maxwell gave them a run for their money. Speaking of Maxwell, Victoria's Secret introduced its largest class of Angels ever this year — including besties Taylor Hill and Sara Sampaio — and the tight-knit sisterhood traveled the world together, taking group selfies the entire way.
But are these cliques a step backward for fashion? Throughout 2015, the industry has finally grown more inclusive of different types of men and women than ever before, from size acceptance, to gender fluidity, to featuring people of all ages and races in campaigns and on covers. While we're all for genuine friendships, the vibe of exclusivity seems to go against everything the industry's worked so hard for.
There's no denying that there is still much to be done, but the happenings in 2015 are proof that fashion is slowly (but surely) becoming more accepting. We'd hate to see this progress be stalled by a trend reminiscent of our middle school cafeteria. You can sit with us anytime.