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Go BTS of the virtual, otherworldly beauty at GCDS’s digital fashion show


TextAlex Peters

This season the models are looking a little different – including a Gigi Hadid-inspired alien

When it comes to extreme fashion week beauty, we always know GCDS is going to deliver. From the triple-breasted models that walked the SS19 runway to the blooming models we saw last year who had flowers literally growing out of their faces to the tripped-out, super-sized, manga-inspired pupils of SS20, the hair and make-up is always unexpected and always extra-ordinary. 

Now, the Italian streetwear line is taking things one step further. Welcome to GCDS: UFO-edition. Thanks to the pandemic, the fashion industry has had to rethink the way they go about presenting their collections. While some brands have been determined to continue business as usual, others have taken the opportunity to go outside the box. For GCDS, this means an interactive virtual reality fashion arcade complete with avatar models looking straight out of an intergalactic planet that certainly isn’t our own. 

Partnering with Thomas Webb, Jeron Braxton, and Nonny de la Pena from Emblematic, the team created a digital platform that will host the show space as well as interactive areas like the game room, bar, and backstage. When it came to hair and make-up, it was the usual suspects: longtime collaborators Erin Parsons and Syd Hayes who were given the freedom to push beauty boundaries right out of this world and create a selection of looks for designer Giuliano Calza to choose from to adorn the faces of the alien models.

The inspiration for these unidentified alien creatures came initially, Parsons tells us, from a fish. One with very full lips. “I had remembered seeing it in a random news post and it stuck with me!” she laughs. There was also a strong 80s influence thanks to stylist Anna Treveylan’s suggestion of the film Liquid Sky as a reference and Hayes pulling from media such as film Mars Attack and cartoon Gem. It was, as he puts it, ‘80s Video Arcade Club vibe kids with a Sci-Fi/Avatar twist.’ “They had to have a twist with weird and wonderful movement in hair,” he says. “They needed to be sexy creatures with insane hair!”  

As well as the fish, meanwhile, Parsons also took inspiration from a real life model. “One cute alien was inspired by Gigi herself. I used her face shape as a reference and then created the alien to have huge eyes but a sort of infantile “Baby face” feel,” she explains. Another is genderless. “It’s super sleek and chic. I was also inspired by the idea of one eye hanging onto a blank face.” 

Working with digital avatars rather than flesh-and-blood human models takes a different mindset than the usual skills required backstage but Hayes and Parsons found the process both fun and freeing, if not a little challenging. “Your mind begins to question where you can take beauty and begins to bend the perception of normality,” says Hayes. Parsons agrees. “I can literally create anything I have in my mind. There’s no restrictions, the possibilities are endless,” she says, explaining that she wanted to convey a new being with the creatures. “I want to allow people to dream up characters and to show that make-up can create these ideas. Even if we brought them to life digitally, I truly hope to see actual humans recreate them.”

For Calza, the process was also an enjoyable one. “Each year there’s a different excitement and this year was a completely different one, I was alone in Milan and not surrounded by the glam team where we’re used to having a lot of talks about what’s going to happen,” he says. “But being able to paint the face of an alien or floating giant Afro in the hair was a priceless experience. They gave me a brush, I was able to paint a full world with it.”  

Ultimately, it’s about fantasy, unlimited imagination, and creating what Parsons calls a “beautiful moment of escape from our sometimes mundane reality.” 

Enjoy some exclusive behind-the-scenes sketches from Parsons and initial renderings of the strange alien creatures in the gallery above as well as hot-off-the-press runway images below.

The GCDS show streamed live from the Dazed Fashion Instagram account. Visit the arcade at gcds.it

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