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Neon Playground: The State Of Fashion In The Dawn Of The New Aesthetic

Neon Playground: The State Of Fashion In The Dawn Of The New Aesthetic

Last Friday, The Creators Project’s Global Editor Julia Kaganskiy put together a blog post in response to Bruce Sterling’s “Essay On The New Aesthetic”—an oration to a new emerging visual movement that’s quickly making waves across the internet. Being a clothes whore with a vendetta for style that’s “so bad it’s good,” I decided to do a little fleshing out of what implications the New Aesthetic has for fashion.

As a medium that’s re-invented at least twice a year and constantly referencing past decades, the idea of the New Aesthetic (NA) is at once a challenge and a welcome breath of fresh air to the world of fashion.

But as Sterling mentioned, designers must move beyond the surface if they’re really going to embrace the NA.

Moving Beyond The Digital

It’s like what we’ve been seeing with digital prints, which essentially copy and paste designs from the computer and render them onto physical clothing to give the illusion of different textures or fabrics. This method seems to be the current lowest common dominator as far as reaching towards the NA goes—that, and putting pixels on everything.

The most widespread example out there illustrating the digital print phenomenon is the Comme des Garçons Junya Watanabe MAN x Levis “jeans,” but I think a better one (and a more fashion-y one at that) can be found in Jeremy Scott’s F/W 2012 collection. For fall, he’s designed pants made to look like Mac keyboards, sweatshirts and tees bedazzled with pixelated emoticons, and a Tumblr page-printed sweatsuit, among other spastic, 90s neon pieces.


Jeremy Scott F/W 2012

Taking this idea one micro-step ahead is the Netstyl.es project, curated by artist Sterling Crispin, which invites net artists to custom design limited-edition T-shirts culled from or inspired by their web-based work. While technically the technique is still transferring imagery from the digital to the physical, these net artists are already using tropes of the NA (like glitches or generative software) in their artwork, so printing them on fabric adds a whole new meta layer to these pieces.


On the opposite side of the spectrum, Sexy Sweaters, a popular Tumblr showcasing amazing and sometimes animated sweatshirt designs, exist only online (much to their fans’ dismay).


I’m very interested to see what happens in the next decade within the space between Netstyl.es and Sexy Sweaters.

Maybe something like this IRL

Cacharel F/W 2012. GIF by Greta Larkins of FashGif

Like many, I anxiously anticipate the evolution of the 8-bit aesthetic. I can’t wait until someone makes build-able fashion (think Anrealage meets Six-Forty by Four-Eighty) and wearable animated outfits. Imagine what it would be like to physically live one of Reed + Rader’s fashion stories!

Reed + Rader take Alexandre Herchcovitch S/S 2011 one pixel further.

Stop Indulging The Obvious

Another thing, I’m sick of hearing designers talking about and referencing the apocalypse. So many fall collections are channeling this theme, from Cassette Playa (who from my perspective is actually one of the clearest embracers of the NA), to graduate students—designers who really should be looking to new technologies to set their work apart from already established brands. Alexander McQueen put a hologram on the runway way back in 2006. If the end of the world is really coming, isn’t it time to make riskier decisions?

Cassette Playa F/W 2012. K_A_R_M_A_G_E_D_D_O_N

Giving Machinery Some Leeway

I think it’s fair to expect that we’ll become more reliant on machines embedded in our clothing to notify us of danger and potential harm. I would love a dress that blinked in a certain way when my BAC reached a certain level—like the opposite of Anouk Wipprecht’s cocktail-making dress. But I don’t think we’re at a point where we can rely on machines to make aesthetic choices, and I certainly hope human emotion is never fully removed from fashion.


Hussein Chalayan S/S 2012: Sip

It’s a given that machines and new technologies need to be put into place in order to move closer towards this idea of the NA, and there’s so much space within fashion to reinvent silhouettes, find new fabrics, and dream up new fabrication techniques. Issey Miyake, The T-Shirt Issue, Iris van Herpen, and Yuima Nakazato are a few designers pushing these innovations forward.


Yuima Nakazato’s holographic film dress from S/S 2011.

Entering The Playground

I like Joel Johnson’s position that New Aesthetic fashion is a playstation, in the fact that the actualization of NA requires play… and all the resources are at our fingertips, and our keyboards.

Thanks to the success of streaming online fashion shows or spaces like the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum, even the way we access and experience fashion is changing. It’s the physical forms that need to follow.

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Back to where we’re currently standing—merely scratching the surface of the NA—I can’t help but wonder if perhaps few designers have reached a point where going backward to fall forward is the next appropriate step. Rei Kawakubo’s F/W 2012 collection for Comme des Garçons is almost the perfect example of this—embracing two-dimensionality as the future when so many designers are reaching for the 3D.


Comme des Garçons F/W 2012

The collection is wildly tongue-in-cheek and paper doll-esque, almost mocking the virtual viewer. While it seems to be taking a step back, it would be wrong to call it “retro.”

How the NA will come to take shape is uncertain, but taking a bold step back—not to reference what’s already been done, but to reinterpret was has been—seems like a wise move in the next direction.

@kfloodwarning