Fall 2020 Studio Project.

Model: Kai Akinloye-Brown (Contact her here)

Untethered, is the physical manifestation of my anxieties regarding the current global trend towards authoritarian governments.

According to the Washington Post, currently one third of the world’s population are living in a backsliding democracy. Even more troubling is the fact that in many cases people are actively choosing these leaders. These leaders consolidate power by polarizing communities and creating false realities that capitalize on our desire for escape. Therefore, I believe dangerous amounts of escapism and an untethering from reality is what allows these leaders to take control and commit egregious crimes.

This collection draws on the ideas of illusion and showmanship, utilizing distorted forms and garish colors to hide the fact that every outfit is clearly a military uniform--the chosen garb of almost very 20th century dictator, from Mussolini to Gaddaffi. The wearer of this garment has been unwittingly seduced and is now complicit in the abuse of the fundamental human rights of others.

I hope you are scared.

Selected as a finalist for the 2020 Met Costume Institute Design Competition.

Exhibited in Many Years Later... , the 12th Annual Brown|RISD Dual Degree Exhibition January 22nd, 2020 - February 13th 2020.

Photographer: Gustav Reed (Check out his work here).

To realize my vision I borrowed from the aesthetics and philosophies of Glam Rock and fused this with a western military look.

Glam Rock was a musical movement in the United Kingdom that occurred in the early 1970s. David Bowie is often held up as the key person who personifies this movement.

This musical movement is characterized by escapism. While being very experimental in regards to gender and sexuality, Glam Rock was also a very conservative movement, coinciding in time with the leadership of Nixon and Heath and reemerging during the Regan and Thatcher era. The music critic Simon Reynolds argues in his book, Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-first Century, that Glam Rock arose during these more conservative eras because these artists glorified illusions, lies, and showmanship. It also had initially arisen as a rejection of the truth-seeking Rock of the '60s that was the sound of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Reynolds states that it is important to notice that the tactics Glam Rock Artists use–spectacle, absurdity, escapism–to capture an audience are the same ones utilized by autocratic and cult leaders.

The look of a western military uniform was borrowed as direct reflection of the dress worn by most 20th century dictators. These dictators borrowed this look because of its psychological and symbolic significance--it is a garment that serves to unify all people under one force. For this project I researched extensively the origins and reasoning behind the military uniform as 20th century dictators' choice of garb. The button below links to my full research paper on the topic.

Selected sketchbook pages: concept development

Drapes and design development
Proposed Collection