What happens to fashion when the human body turns into something else?
Contact lenses, cosmetic surgery, microdermal implants, nail art, tattoos, replacement organs, fillings, face transplants- we’re already, unconsciously in the thick of what some people like to call trans-humanism. Through bodily modification and eventually bio-engineering this global movement believes that the next step in evolution won’t be natural, but rather through our own technological skills.
It’s easy to see the appeal, as we yearn to push fashion further and strive towards becoming more (or less) beautiful. Over the century, many transhumanists (or ‘humans plus’) believe that ever more extreme body-mods will open up as an aesthetic choice and their initial horror shock will melt into wide-scale acceptance as the technologies behind them get more available and easier to understand. So blue Avatar skin, temperature-controlled Prada t-shirts and Gaga’s CGI eyes in the Bad Romance video could be commonplace in twenty, let alone a hundred, year’s time. There are already two clinics in the Netherlands who will inject 'JewelEye' crystal hearts and four-leaf clovers into your eyeballs, for example.
So what will this next step really look like, in fashion terms? Well, a movement away from clothes towards the body itself is inevitable. Think of people like Dennis Avner, who holds the Guinness record for the most body modifications after altering himself to resemble a tiger. It’s just an onwards step from the widespread fashioning and editing of the face through cosmetic surgery, something we are exposed to daily through the media.
There are already scientists creating nano-thick LED screens and animated tattoos that sit beneath the skin, as reported by H+ magazine (one of transhumanism’s flagship titles). And designer Suzanne Lee's 'Biocouture' project is growing clothes from bacteria; eventually, we might mould or growing garments from our own tissue. Has anyone in fashion really dissected Craig Venter’s ability to create synthetic life forms using a desktop computer?
We already live in a world where, thankfully, those who were born the wrong gender can be re-aligned; but imagine the bringing together of plastic surgery to allow, one day, people to change into someone completely different; a flesh version of something like Second Life. Not just humans, but into cartoon characters, beasts, or whatever body styles Raf Simons chooses to roll out on his A/W 2070 catwalk (some claim that society will have achieved immortality by around the middle of the century).
Skin jewellery, edible clothes, 'heartbeat hoodies' and trainers that monitor your fitness regime- these have all hit headlines for the right and wrong reasons. As fashion houses turn to greater extremes in the search for what’s new, bio-engineering and ever-greater personalisation will surely be an option, firstly where there are boundaries to be broken, and secondly, in the mainstream, where there’s inevitable money to be made. It's just a question of when.