The Ultimate RPG with Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe
Exploring the Boundaries Between Fashion and Cosplay
Identity is such an unstable concept, isn’t it?Like subatomic particles whose behavior operate under an uncertainty principle, who you are is a function of how others perceive you. Our identities are mediated through a complex social negotiation that constantly blur the line between performance and reality.And how labyrinthine that negotiation has become against the backdrop of today’s cultural turbulence and technological acceleration. The virtual has expanded our sense of self into a new digital layer, which creates new modes by which our identity may be expressed, fragmented, and understood.
Identity as spectacle. Two socially disparate worlds surface to mind: fashion and cosplay. Cosplay refers to the activity of dressing up as a fictional character, matching everything from hairstyle to clothing to even iconic mannerisms. The practice draws from a rich literary and graphic lineage of video games, comics, anime, and more.Both fashion and cosplay revel in participating in a fantastical world that has been envisioned by an artist, such as fashion designer Rei Kawakubo’s Comme Des Garçons or video game designer Yoko Taro’s Nier: Automata. Both are primarily concerned with clothing and styling as means by which to participate and express one’s identity (assumed or otherwise).
Research by behavioral psychologists indicates that adopted personas have the potential to change the way we behave. The Proteus Effect refers to the tendency for people to adjust their behaviors to match how they expect their digital avatars to act.Nowhere is this phenomena more pronounced than in role playing video games, like Final Fantasy or Deus Ex, where you are cast into the role of another person and placed in a world that offers a powerful vision of an alternate reality. It’s no surprise that both video game titles have collaborated with fashion designers whose aesthetics align.In 2012, Prada and Arena Homme+ collaborated with Square Enix to dress characters from Final Fantasy XII-2, including lead heroine Lightning, with pieces from Prada’s Spring/Summer collection. Only two years later, Lightning was again cast by Nicholas Ghesquière as the face of Louis Vuitton’s Series 4 campaign, which took the character’s involvement with fashion from a print editorial to global ad campaign.Last year, Final Fantasy XV collaborated with Vivienne Westwood, who designed the wedding gown for that game’s lead female character Lunafreya, and also has an in-game store facade that players can visit.The most recent installment of video game franchise Deus Ex features techwear brand Acronym, with a custom-designed coat digitized into the game as part of the main character’s costume. Acronym’s hyper functional aesthetic and rigorously engineered approach to the research and development of their product are a natural fit in the game’s dystopian transhumanist setting. Of course, even in the video game world, buying Acronym gear probably didn’t come cheap.A vital feature of social media is that we live in an era of image, where what we seem is more important than what we really are—a veritable society of the spectacle. Take for example post-internet artist Amalia Ulman, whose Instagram-based performance art underscores just how much we take the digital personas of others as verity. Or social media personality Lil Miquela, whose hyperreal existence makes followers question her very physical existence.The seams between reality and fiction become increasingly hazy.Might all clothes just be some form of cosplay? Life, after all, is the ultimate role-playing game.