The tulips are blooming, snow is melting (rapidly), we are dusting off our sandals, putting away our ski boots and the Coachella Valley music festival has returned for the 23rd time. Ah, the hallmarks of spring.
Between last weekend and the next, Indio, California, will be graced with the presence of Blink-182, Bad Bunny, TV Girl, Gorillaz and dozens of other popular artists — including a disappointing return from Frank Ocean, according to NPR. But who cares? These days the performers simply provide a stage for A-listers to show off their creative looks.
Hollywood stars celebrated for pioneering new fashion trends will make their presence known through bold, unconventional looks that will eventually be tamed and trickle into the summer fashion cycle.
Hailey Bieber, the Jenner sisters, Shawn Mendes, Emma Roberts and a handful of Gen-Z TikTok stars have already donned their hippie-esque looks at the music festival — sparking a slew of articles highlighting the unofficial fashion show’s best looks.
But before the Coachella musical festival evolved into the fashion photo-op we know today, it was a small-time music festival that struggled to take off.
Where is Coachella?
Coachella is held in the Coachella Valley (which is also known as Greater Palm Springs) in Indio, California, at the Empire Polo Club. Known for being located off the beaten path, the festival is somewhat in the middle of nowhere — which is why a lot of guests camp or sleep in their cars, per Today.
The history of Coachella: Coachella Music Festival debuted in 1999
Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen founded Coachella music festival in 1999. Coachella was meant to be the antithesis of Woodstock: peaceful, affordable and filled with polite music fans. From free parking to $3 burgers, Coachella had everything going for it that Woodstock did not.
“Polite behavior is not something associated with large-scale rock festivals, but it was very much in effect at Coachella. People would say ‘excuse me’ after they bumped into you,” Rolling Stone wrote in a 1999 review of the festival. “Officer J. Garadena of the Indio Police Department called the crowd ‘very well-behaved.’”
With a lineup of performers including Beck, Rage Against the Machine, Morrissey and Tool, Tollett and Van Santen expected to draw in an audience of 70,000. They sold roughly 25,000 tickets at $50 each and ending up losing $850,000, per HypeBeast. The festival was a bust.
The next year, in 2000, the festival got canceled.
In 2001, the music festival returned with headliners such as Jane’s Addiction, Weezer and Fatboy Slim. Ticket prices were raised to $65 each and the festival was a single Saturday in April.
During the decade since the music festival’s somewhat-humble beginnings, several notable changes have been made. For one, the festival now spans two weeks and will cost you a pretty penny (general admission starts at $549).
In addition, the festival has become a haven for celebrities, influencers, fashionistas and social media campaigns.
Michael Mente, the co-founder of fashion brand Revolve even compared the music festival to New York Fashion Week. At Coachella in 2017, Revolve dressed 416 influencers, booked out an entire hotel and opened a pop-up shop for festivalgoers to take pictures and post them online. The result? 4.4 billion social media impressions, per Forbes.
“Coachella, and more broadly festivals, have become the new fashion week for millennials. It’s authentic, experiential; an environment where everyone is expected to have fun and push the envelope with their fashion choices,” Mente told Forbes.
Coachella influences future fashion trends
At Coachella 2022, Kendall Jenner (supermodel and fashion icon) embraced the Y2K takeover — pigtail braids, baguette purse and all. She paired her look with a micro top and excessively baggy pants. In April 2022, she was being experimental. In April 2023, her look is right on trend — it’s the type of outfit you’ll see by the dozens at your local high school.
In terms of other fashion trends, Coachella 2022 saw sheer dresses, matching knitwear sets, crochet everything, glittery skirts, baggy jeans, cowboy boots, tailored vests, maxi skirts, lots of denim and bright colors, according to Nylon and Desert Sun.
If you compare last year’s Coachella trends to what Vogue considers top trends for 2022 and 2023 (so far) you’ll see how the music festival has a way of predicting what is coming next in fashion.
To you, Coachella might just be another rowdy music festival for disruptive young people, but to the Instagram influencers and A-list fashion icons it is so much more — an opportunity to walk a dry, dusty de facto runway in hopes their look catches on.
Coachella in 2023 highlights
For those who couldn’t care less about what the Jenner sisters wear to Coachella — the music side of the festival has its own set of highlights.
For starters, Grammy Award-winning artist Bad Bunny is making history as Coachella’s first Latino singer to headline the festival, reports the Deseret News. The Puerto Rican native gave fans a two-hour performance laced with a Latino-inspired atheistic.
“With set designs, outfits and song choices centered around his upbringing in Puerto Rico, the concert frequently alluded to his journey from an economically modest but culturally rich Puerto Rican neighborhood to the highest echelons of California celebrity,” wrote Desert Sun.
While Bad Bunny impressed audiences with his Coachella debut, Frank Ocean left fans disappointed with his weak performance.
The singer’s Coachella appearance was his first time performing live in six years. Ocean took the stage nearly an hour late, was prone to long, awkward pauses, lazy lip syncing and finished the show with a bizarre halt, per the Guardian.
Variety said the performance was “messy, loose, and a near-disaster that will likely go down as one of the most divisive in Coachella history, with flashes of brilliance that only made for a frustrating final outcome.”