Are you confident about the future? If you’re a frequent reader of this column, you perhaps know that I’ve touched on the anxiety that seems to define the times we are living in. I’m particularly fascinated with global politics, where confusion and uncertainty prevail in the context of rampant misinformation that often renders the truth subjective.
This is most clearly demonstrated by the rise of Trumpian politics in the US, where for the first time perhaps since the civil war, authoritarianism seems an unavoidable, imminent reality. Russia’s war in Ukraine does not seem to be nearing an end, and here in SA it seems impossible to predict what the future could look like as coalition politics seem unavoidable at a national level — an ominous prospect considering the very real failures of coalition governments at local government level.
I’m thinking about these uncertainties as I ponder fashion’s affinity for pixelated prints. Recently pixel prints appeared in the form of suiting at Louis Vuitton as Pharrell Williams presented his first collection for the luxury brand. Just last year Loewe’s pixel-inspired fashion appeared on the runway and on the backs of celebrities including A$AP Rocky. From pixelated logo-embroideries to entire garments that look more like computer graphics than real clothes, Loewe’s garments make the wearer look like a character out of a video game like Minecraft.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen this in fashion. Back in 2011, Japanese designer Kunihiko Morinaga presented out-of-focus patterns, stitching and decorative fabric elements of this ilk. But now, more than then, it’s an aesthetic that seems fit for the moment.
It would be tempting to see this only in the context of the rise of artificial intelligence and the uncertainty this suggests as we all wonder whether our jobs — and even our very existence as a human species — are in peril. It is indeed tempting to see it all in the context of a society that seems headed for a future no different to what Hollywood sci-fi films such as ‘iRobot’, or ‘Ready Player One’ suggest. Computer graphics do make one think of code, the metaverse, Apple’s imminent mainstreaming of virtual reality through its Vision Pro, but underneath all of that obvious stuff there are other factors that I certainly feel mark the merging of reality and fiction in ways that are frightening to imagine.
Global temperatures gesture towards a nightmarish future that easily makes one wonder if the movie 2012’s depiction of the end of the world precipitated by climate destruction is an imminent reality.
Compound all of these realities with seemingly inept political realities defined by power struggles and very little in the way of addressing these scary future prospects, and you have a recipe for Orwellian conditions.
Have I scared you enough? That certainly isn’t my intention, but in the face of TikTok so-called trends, every now and again fashion does something that looks beyond frivolity, reflecting on the state we are in. Right now, the state we are in feels like an IRL glitch, no different to the stuff of computer game pixels and the clothing the likes of Loewe is selling us in the form of blown up pixels.