How to talk fashion and sound like you understand it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Paris, Milan or even London: the conversation at fashion week unfurls in a language impenetrable to the outsider. Everyday terms acquire a new resonance as they approach the FROW (that’s front row, to you and I), as if proximity to next season’s wares bends language just as black holes warp space-time.

So as editors converse with designers about cross-hybrid-interpretations of the seasonal zeitgeist (more to be revealed later), we mere mortals nod and smile like chimps being shown a magic trick.

But as with so much in fashion, appearances are everything. Armed with this dictionary you can join in even the most nebulous discussion, and shore up your own credentials with a liberal sprinkling of, well, bullsh*t.

Unleash these terms at will and see your vacant nods echoed in kind. Because, we’ll let you into a secret – no one at fashion week knows what they’re talking about. You just need to look like you do.

Diffusion Lines

Not to be confused with a GCSE lab technical exam, a diffusion line is the affordable olive branch from top tier brands. While Alexander Wang, Versace and Alexander McQueen may seem like an apparel pipe dream, diffusion lines take their form in T by Alexander Wang, Versus for Versace and McQ by Alexander McQueen, respectively. It’s the cheaper younger brother, for want of a better term.

The reduced price-tag doesn’t mean diffusion lines are to be sniffed at; these collections are often the bread-and-butter of designer brands thanks to their USP – affordability. The rabble brings the roubles after all, and in exchange, we get pocket-friendly collections.


Not your uncle Frank’s crap shirt for his Saga cruise. Instead, these collections fall in between the big shows to keep up the momentum – fashion-worthy titbits to sate our appetite. A comparatively recent phenomenon – which also goes under the moniker ‘cruise collection’ – the aim is to create extra dates in the calendar for grabbing consumers’ attention.

Granted, resortwear collections rarely receive the same level of attention as their fashion week cousins (which probably explains why the term eludes so many), but such lines often make up 80 per cent of a designer’s annual sales: definitive proof that there’s popularity in the mid-season pudding.

For extra points, link the rise of resort collections to designer burnout – Raf Simons, on exiting the Dior job last year, blamed the lack of time between collections for stunting his creativity.

Capsule Collection

Deployed ad nauseam by everyone from J.W.Anderson to A$AP Rocky, it’s easy to accept the term ‘capsule collection’ without question. But what does it exactly mean? Despite sounding like something Sigourney Weaver would wield in Alien, a capsule collection entails a few staple pieces to carry you throughout the year – the grey marl sweater and navy chinos that come round season after season.

On paper, they’re timeless investments but be warned, the term can be applied incredibly loosely; leopard print bomber jackets and longline tees have no place in a capsule collection. In fact, the phrase has become so devalued that it’s now more more regularly applied to collections of a few pieces, often in collaboration with a retailer, that arrive mid-season to – again – stop consumers’ attention wandering. Starting to think Raf had a point?

Cadillac x Nick Wooster 2015 Capsule Collection for Gilt

Trompe L’oeil

It is painfully difficult to express a French phrase in regards to fashion without sounding like the kind of guy who reads Sarte on public transport just so other passengers can see.

However, trompe l’oeil is a befitting label for a rather complicated thing. The phrase is ported from art criticism, where it refers to images that toy with perspective to create an illusion of depth. Oversimplified, it’s basically paintings where the things depicted appear to project from the canvas.

At fashion week, the technique takes realistic, often photographed imagery and presents them on a piece of clothing to appear three-dimensional – à la Lou Dalton T-shirts, Gucci bombers and Maison Margiela jackets.

Essentially, it gives the impression of texture and structure without complicated tailoring; it’s nothing more than an optical illusion. Proof that menswear can be much more than a pretty face.

Lou Dalton SS16


As a term more accustomed to hypebeasts than high fashion, deadstock originally meant items that had never been worn but were no longer in production. Those who delve into Japanese vintage market will discover everything from 1950s Levi’s, still with the original price tags, to jeans taken from pre-war US prisons to Koenji’s shelves without ever being worn. It’s enough to make denimheads flush.

These days, as the internet has turned sneakerheads into entrepreneurs (or, less kindly, scalpers ruining fashion for everyone) it’s become synonymous with ‘mint condition’. Exclusive collaborations that sell out within days (think the Kendrick Lamar x Reebok Ventilator or the Yeezy 350s) are hoarded by would-be trainer touts and sold on auction sites for prices that make you question whether we need to rip up capitalism and just start again.

Deadstock specifically refers to these pristine pieces, copped by kids in Supreme whose job is essentially to queue then stick what they waited for on eBay as soon as it sells out. Not the most brotherly of style moves, but one that lines many a hypebeast’s pocket.

Yeezy 350s


The ‘zeitgeist’ is the general overarching theme within each season. It’s one of the more abstract terms and therefore earns you extra kudos. And since no one really knows what it means, you’re less likely to get called out for dropping it at the wrong moment.

Put simply, the zeitgeist refers to the common thread that ties every collection together – was it an ocean of utilitarianism? Did we see a mixture of monochromes? Spot the emphasis on Sicilian Mafia threads? Whatever the label, the zeitgeist is often plucked out, seemingly at random by front row journalists, in a bid to spot the ‘next big trend’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *