One night in April, I was in a rabbit hole sailing on Ssense’s website when I got into something so strange that it made me question whether I was still in possession of a healthy mind. The article in question was a pair of sick green-colored knee boots; each boot had no square finger or almonds, but four digits reproduced, similar to an alien foot. They were less “foot” than “a partially sensitive creature that seems to have come out of the Shrek swamp.” While I was trying to determine what type of customer I could buy these $1,650 boots, my entire melted brain could mix with each other was “fetichista de lemon” or “designer of costumes with a community theater production Flubber. (Later I found a picture of Tessa Thompson using a black version of them with a mini-dress of metallic gold in a 2021 Met Gala after the party, but even his insoluteness could not convince me of the appeal. )
The boots are a twisted creation of Avavav, the brand based in Florence, whose creative director, Beate Karlsson, is responsible for other preposterous garments as a dress that seems to be sprouting hip goitres and a pair of short silicone pants to imitate a photorealistic ass, nicknamed “The Bum”. The very existence of such garments raises the question “Where do we draw the line between clothes and suit?”
People wear suits to become someone else. They are pantomimes, used to escape the current circumstances. But the amazing garments I have seen lately do not seem to reflect the desire to be placed within an alternative reality; rather, they seem to be a manifestation of who we are. As renowned fashion critic Sarah Mower wrote in her review of Loewe’s Judgement 2022 “At a time when reality becomes outrageous and nonsensory, it is logical that fashion will begin to reflect the illogical.” In a world where there are no rules and nothing matters, the only thing left to dress like ourselves.
The Avavav boots join a litany of other bizarre elements that, although not exactly “take” are certainly ascending in popularity. Fall 2022 tracks were dominated by Surrealist elements, like Loewe’s dresses and Moschino’s musical ensembles. Even eternally Lady as Dior embraced eccentricity with bright tubes in the dark sewn in body suits. The rise of new style icons like Sara Camposarcone, a content creator based on Hamilton, Ont., whose style resembles what a clown’s son and a fairy princess could wear, and Clara Perlmutter from New York, better known as @tinyjewishgirl in TikTok, who looks like a Gen Z reincarnation of a club boy from the 90s, confirms that after a long absence, irony and madness are back.
Every day is like Halloween more than two years in a global pandemic in which the simple act of dress has become a celebration of life. Maybe the clothes have become so anarchic to compensate for the fact that living through one of the most frightening imaginable events in human history has turned out to be less like the dystopian film Mad Max and more like Hoz Day – with more screen time.
“I’m inclined towards color and brightness because they bring me joy,” says Shea Daspin, 32-year-old stylist based in Los Angeles who describes her approach to dress as similar to the technical artist Marcel Duchamp popularized, in which she created sculptures of a variety of found objects. Daspin started dressing like Rainbow Brite in acid at the age of 13 years after discovering Japanese style street Revista Fruits, which has been his stylist North star ever since. “I have many different personalities within me, and it’s almost as if I want to express them all at the same time,” he says. One day he could dress up as a rich socialite Park Avenue, another day as a handler at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. But don’t call it a costume. “Just because something is too high doesn’t mean it’s a costume,” he says.
Growing up, Daspin’s unconventional style marked his status as a stranger. But since culture has become more receptive, even celebratory, of wild clothing, now sees its wardrobe as a way to spread happiness to strangers. “It’s not a form of activism per se, but it’s hard to see a lot of sparks and not think “That’s funny.”
The hunger for endless sympathy can also be a side effect of experiencing the world mainly through screens. Boring outfits just don’t get your attention when you’re infinitely moving through an app. It’s always more overwhelming than best, which is perhaps why TikTok Trends like “clowncore” and “night luxe” are apparently ephemeral, appearing and disappearing so quickly.
The appetite prevailing by absurd clothing is not only a result of the past, but also a vision of the future. Much is being made of goal — a parallel virtual reality in which the inhabitants can dress like avatar in a video game, donating clothes covered with abrasive flames, for example, or veiled in a cloud of fog. In the metaverso, anyone can dress up like the Met Gala, even if they’re home in sweat pants.
Fashion and fashion culture in general — it is in the middle of a mass reimagining possibilities. Previous limits — such as not being able to wear a burning dress — are no longer applied. Even if an article doesn’t initially make sense in real life, it could feel at home in a digital file where a person can still experience the playability of dressing without being subject to limitations of the real world.
Perhaps the non-sensitive Avavav slime boots do not compete for me, not because they are ridiculous or unpractice, but because they were not intended for the earthly realm at all.
This article first appeared FASHION September issue. More information here.
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