Fashion inhabits the relationship between human psychology, the human form, and the fabrics that act as that form’s facade. Because humans inhabit the ‘real’ world, fashion feels fundamentally analogue—because you can’t download a dress, right? And yet increasingly fashion is migrating with the 5 billion humans who now live partially online to evolve new forms in that ‘unreal’ world.
Through analogue research and conceptual ingenuity, Kunihiko Morinaga’s Anrealage—a name that blends the words ‘unreal’, ‘real’, and ‘age’—has long wowed us in Paris with his technologically-driven artistry. For this collection he stepped forward into a fashion space that was less Charles Frederick Worth than William Gibson to produce one of the most beautiful digital presentations and concepts of the pandemic period.
It began near the beginning of that period, when Morinaga was approached by Mamoru Hosoda to design a costume for his latest anime epic, Belle. The film was released in Japan this summer and not only looks awesome but has been hailed for its rewriting of the gender stereotypes endemic in its art form. Here, clearly less significantly, it contributed to an upgrading of our understanding of fashion, too.
Hosoda collaborated with Morinaga to create this great collection film. It begins with the formation of the clothes as Morinaga designed them, not through cut and drape but via cut and paste, and we see the garments as digital toiles made up of fractal contours true to the representation of futuristic facades stretching back to Metropolis and Tron. Then the dresses form more tangibly, but still in 2D, filling those vectored spaces with the angled jigsaw of reclaimed denim, chino cotton and gabardine plus reflective material (all seamlessly bonded) from which they are made. It slowly becomes kind-of-clear that we are seeing a fashion show in U, the virtual world which Belle’s heroine inhabits—and that it is also being streamed on U’s equivalent of YouTube. There are rooms within rooms within rooms.
As Morinaga explained, the collection will also be sold in NFT form via a platform that allows bidders to watch the presentation as U-inhabiting avatars and also to bid cold hard cash (or crypto) for the digital pieces. The final look is a real-world rendering of the digital dress and face mask he created for Belle herself, which appears in the feature film. “To create animation is something virtual,” said Morinaga of this digital-first collection: “but we can use the data to create it with materials. And we can change the textiles with one click.” Maybe the simple way to explain this process is that the digital sketch comes before the finished dress—like it always has—but that this digital sketch can itself be ‘worn.’ As for the digital sketch being sold, Morinaga added: “It’s true that there’s no physical object in the NFT world. But in this pandemic situation it’s become also true that something digital can be something real.” Even if fashion NFTs seem counterintuitive for us non-digital natives, there is clearly something in them—and in this collection Morinaga produced garments that were highly attractive to inhabit in whatever form, and on whatever platform. Plus Belle looks like the perfect reason to go back to the movie theater.