Browse all

Welcome to the cyborg-couture era

The transformation of the body according to haute couture designers

Welcome to the cyborg-couture era The transformation of the body according to haute couture designers

Bringing together stars and editors in a single room, from Robin Givan to Zendaya and Hunter Schafer, Daniel Roseberry presented a runway show that merged the fantastical world of Hollywood with the tailoring of fashion. Models covered in feathers and skeletal silhouettes reclaimed the favorite stylistic codes of maison founder Elsa Schiaparelli, such as human anatomy and surrealism. Two looks anchored the collection in 2024. It is said that the designer's uncle coined the term martian, and so the inspiration for Spring Summer 2024 was aliens, a theme taken to the extreme in a motherboard and microchip dress, covered with "technological artifacts dating back to before 2007," and a doll made of electronic panels, pearls, and Swarovski held by Maggie Maurer, dressed in white. One could say that the cyborg aesthetic has never reached such elegant heights, yet the first time fashion discovered the charm of robots was back in the distant 1999. A few months into the new millennium, while the world feared the Y2K virus or even "a technological apocalypse," designers and creative directors experimented with new technologies to amaze—and terrify. We have officially entered the era of cyborg-couture, where escaping from one's body reveals a new one.

The collections in 1999 that depicted cybernetic relationships were motivated by the fear of technological advancement. The world was preparing for the worst, forced to celebrate the New Year of a new era coinciding with the advent of the internet. For Givenchy's FW99, riding on a metallic aesthetic previously presented by Blade Runner (1982), Alexander McQueen brought this exact fear to the runway, reflected in a series of uniforms with a brutalist feel and looks that immersed models in lights and glowing circuits. That same year, John Galliano created a collection for Dior that drew on historical references and others from The Matrix, released just before. Meanwhile, Hussein Chalayan incorporated robotic panels into the legendary airplane dress in the following season. Anticipating the creative philosophy of contemporary brands like Coperni, which has made technology a stylistic code, the three great innovators of 1999 exemplary foresaw what would be considered the fashion of tomorrow. Simultaneously, in the music industry, visionary Björk released the now award-winning music video All Is Full of Love, where she was depicted as a love-struck robot.

Despite the media content and collections of 1999 actually anticipating a trend, the cyborg beings we have seen on the runway in recent years have played only an aesthetic role. Drones first appeared at a fashion show during the FW14 runway of Fendi to film the event, later returning in the form of models for the FW18 of Dolce&Gabbana. Karl Lagerfeld wanted Chanel's tweed jackets to be worn by characters in gleaming white metal for SS17, while the set of Dior Men's Pre Fall 2019 saw the exceptional participation of a gigantic female robot. In 2021, social media buzzed about Frank Ocean's arrival at the Met Gala with his green puppet, created to promote the launch of his new brand, Homer, while in 2023, Coperni allowed Boston Dynamics' robot dogs to interact with models on the runway.

«We exist to reproduce, but now we have gone beyond. We are certainly in a post-human era; it is happening,» declared Alessandro Michele after the FW18 Gucci runway show. One of the most representative collections of his artistic tenure, the show conveyed through clothes, casting, makeup, and some technological tricks how humans have become "«he Dr. Frankenstein of our life.» A concept exposed in Cyborg Manifesto by American philosopher Donna Haraway, from which Lady Gaga also drew inspiration in her Born This Way era. The cyborgs presented on the runway by Michele and Roseberry become a symbolic tool, differentiating themselves from brands that see robots as purely visual objects. Just as high fashion has always offered a window into an alternate world, Schiaparelli's aliens surpass the limits imposed by society and set us free. The cybernetic reality is no longer something to fear but a costume that grants us access to a new world. In this case, the world of haute couture.