December 05, 2023
Hello hyperreal. What fashion’s turn toward internet culture says about luxury and influence in 2023
‘Authentically artificial’, Greta Gerwig’s self-proclaimed descriptor of the Barbie aesthetic, may be my phrase of the year. It’s a reference to the film’s revelry and intentional embrace of life in plastic. But it’s also reflective of a shift in 2020s internet culture away from faking the real to being really fake. And from Pharrell’s pixelated Louis Vuitton runway to MSCHF’s big red boots, it’s permeated the upper echelons of fashion and luxury too. They’re calling it hyperrealism.
We hear a lot about people constructing their identities online as third spaces, often as extensions or exaggerated versions of their real selves. Indeed, 1/3 of Generation Z go as far as to say their online self is their most authentic. But what happens when people try to reconstruct these aesthetics in the physical realm, and the lines between online and offline blur? These trends in hyperrealistic fashion are what happens when looking like the internet becomes the new luxury. Boots that look like cartoon feet. Minnie Mouse heels that defy conventional footwear forms. Minecraft-inspired high fashion. AI-inspired, 3D-printed, anti-functional craft.
Without overstating the obvious, the premiumization of cartoonish internet culture is just another signal of Gen Z aging up into the audience driving culture at large. Just as high fashion appropriated club culture and streetwear in years gone by to remain relevant to ‘the youth’. Perhaps it also represents fashion’s acceptance of social buzz driving perceptions of luxury and desire. Designing for social in every sense of the word [those MSCHF memes are still inundating our feeds].
More mainstream brands (the Paris Hilton Crocs collab being a particular fave] are already getting in on the hyperreal action. For any other brand who may be interested, think about how you could lean into your own version of ‘authentically artificial’. And tapping into that as a way of making the next generation’s desire for escapism and crafting their identities feel that little bit more real.