Euphoria, a snapshot on the life and aesthetics of Gen Z
Dealing with everything from drug abuse to mental health, through sexuality, social media and friendships, Euphoria is not only a hit HBO series: it is, above all, an illuminating kaleidoscope of cultural connections between fashion, beauty and the social tensions of the modern teenager.
Written by Sam Levinson and based on a 2012 Israeli series of the same name, it concluded its second season with an hour-long episode that kept more than six and a half million viewers glued to the screen. The lead role of Rue earned Zendaya two Emmys, making her the youngest actress to win one twice. The ever-growing numbers of those who come to this series says a lot about how much space there is to be filled with depictions of Gen Z’s emotions and experiences.
Beneath the main plot
Euphoria has progressed forward in a period of time where it is obvious that younger audiences only really trust something that captures the zeitgeist.
In order to be able to get to grips with the phenomenon, it is good to try to look beyond the main plot and the emotional portrayal of U.S. teenagers. The most visual part of the series is like a privileged observatory on style, fashion and beauty trends. On the small screen, the high school turns into a catwalk of the most liberated forms of self-expression, and on the Web, Euphoria’s looks have turned out to be the most searched for, and recreated on social media (Instagram, YouTube and TikTok).
The ingredients for success? Cultural relevance to teens, sticking with reality, moving away from the norm, and a keen eye on the experimental attitude toward aesthetics.
One only has to watch a few episodes to understand how the show transcends stereotypes by trying to break traditional boundaries.
Euphoria’s head of make-up, Doniella Davy said in an interview how it’s all about emotional glam and how makeup’s role is to “visually communicate the moods of the characters; it’s the looks that give more information about that character at that given moment.”
In the digital world, full to the brim with younger viewers, the idea of fluid self-representation is not that new: online identities are always influenced by iconography inherited from pop culture, as well as by languages and platforms that encourage a judgment-free way of looking at things. Clothing, accessories, and cosmetics come to be therapeutic for Gen Z, precisely because they can provide a way out for identities that often feel hemmed in.
Gen Z's portrait
A big fashion reset
After the pandemic and lockdowns, the fashion industry has had to tune in to new attitudes and habits, juggling home life and the desire for extravagant outfits.
One study, for example, highlighted how 35.8 percent of people are more likely to want to experiment more with fashion fter the health emergency, and 56.4 percent plan to buy new clothes specifically for post-pandemic events. It is no coincidence that brands such as Our Legacy, Balenciaga, and Margaret Howell are promoting “anti-fashion” collections that appeal to people who want style and substance together. So it is as well in Euphoria, where personal creativity is favored over trends and uniqueness is sought through difference. In the series, characters wear anything and everything, drawing on retro-nostalgia even from the 2000s which they did not experience firsthand, to show that it is of course still possible to have fun with fashion. One example out of many: at the launch of the series, Vestiaire Collective analysts observed an increase in searches for the I.am.Gia brand (+30%) and corsets (+125%) after a character wore one at a New Year’s Eve party.
Fashion in Euphoria
A new identity through make up
The hashtag #euphoriamakeupchallenge on TikTok has more than eleven million views, while #euphoriamakeup has more than two billion: jaw-dropping figures capable of revealing that the TV series has an audience eager to see all beauty standards crumble.
As standards and perceptions of beauty change, brands are also trying to keep up, as is the case with MAC Cosmetics and its “Be. Feel. Love.” which playfully celebrated people of all backgrounds, bodies, orientations and genders and showed them in the creative act with make-up. Rules Beauty the beauty brand owned and operated by independent production company A24, which also has Euphoria under its umbrella-has turned its make-up offerings right from the TV show into their product offerings.
Finally, Euphoria’s augmented reality filters on Instagram also go in the direction of creating tools in digital habitats that can enable greater forms of individual expression and inclusive experiences. At the same time, TikTok and Twitter have also been flooded with memes recreating the exaggerated looks sported at Euphoria’s East Highland High School.