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Gucci severed head AW18 collection fashion future Prosthetic
Photography Giacomo Cabrini

2018 was the year fashion fast-forwarded to 3018

Designers including Gucci, Dior, Charles Jeffrey, and Xander Zhou imagined what humanity might look like 1000 years into the future this year

What might our bodies look like in 1000 years? That was the question on fashion’s lips this year, as a host of designers explored the futuristic possibilities of our anatomy through physical manipulation and body modification, and sent an army of post-human-humans down the runway. After all, with technology now moving faster than ever, is it really that far-fetched to think that, someday soon, some of us might have an extra limb or two?

Throughout the course of the year, Matrix-style sunglasses, streamlined ‘futurewear’, and utilitarian, technologically innovative collections have infiltrated catwalks across all four fashion capitals (and beyond). A number of designers took it one step further, though, imagining not just clothes, but an intergalactic future, where the parameters of our current physicality had seemingly been obliterated – with Xander Zhou, Gucci, and Dior among them.

It all started back in February, at Gucci’s AW18 show, where some models had three eyes and others carried replicas of their own heads. Inspired by Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay A Cyborg Manifesto, the human-alien hybrids Alessandro Michele seemingly spliced together in the operating theatre set the show took place in not only imagined what an extraterrestrial body might look like, but also, perhaps more importantly, what it would look like dressed in the Gucci monogram.

Meanwhile, at its SS19 show in Milan, Italian streetwear label GCDS made room on its line-up for models with a third breast. Wearing cropped bralettes that flashed more than a little underboob, the internet went wild and the models went viral, with many believing they were directly inspired by cult 1990 movie Total Recall – but in actuality, the reasoning behind the body modification ran a lot deeper than that. As part of an interview with People, creative director GCDS Giuliano Calza explained he was making a different kind of statement: “In a time when culture and art need feeding more than ever, three breasts might be useful.” Apart from when you need to buy a bra, that is.

It wasn’t just in Milan that body modification was being explored, though. At Xander Zhou’s show in London, ‘pregnant’ male models wearing the designer’s utilitarian SS19 collection walked down the catwalk, as if they’d been artificially inseminated or impregnated by aliens. On his Instagram, a photograph of one of the boys – complete with prosthetic bump – was captioned ‘At Supernatural, Extraterrestrial & Co., we’re prepared to welcome a future of male pregnancy’. The work of make-up artist and Dazed Beauty Creative Director Isamaya Ffrench, there were also six-armed models and fibre-optic threads seemingly running under the skin of many of those walking, as Zhou blurred not only the line between gender roles, but also the one that separates human and alien.   

“In 2018, designers were imagining not just clothes, but an intergalactic future: where the parameters of our current physicality had seemingly been obliterated”

The idea of an evolved, extraterrestrial being was something Charles Jeffrey also explored for SS19, as he enlisted Dazed 100 make-up artist Lucy Bridge to create subtle facial mutations. Changing the facial structure of some of the models by extending and protruding their brow bones and foreheads, the show imagined a queer utopia where marginalised people (and alien beings) would relocate to and evolve in the years to come. And at Kim Jones’s recent Pre-Fall Dior show, which took place in Tokyo, models had circuit-board style skin embellishments stuck to their hands and the backs of their necks – because it’s not just aliens were morphing into, it’s robots too.

Inevitably, body modification also spilled off the catwalk and onto Instagram feeds everywhere this year. An entire community of IG creatives are experimenting with otherworldly facial prosthetics, and particularly elf ears, as part of a rejection of traditional beauty standards, while in New York, exhibition A.Human showcased a futuristic line of ‘jewellery’ made largely from silicone in flesh-like tones, which was moulded to the wearer’s body as if actually part of it. As if you needed further proof that body modification was going to be huge in 2019, Kim Kardashian showed her support by posting herself wearing one of A.Human’s to her Instagram – and we all know that where Kim goes, a trend is sure to follow.

So what’s it all about? Given the fragile state of the world today, it’s only natural designers are imagining what life on earth (or beyond it) might look like in the future, be that through technological advances and innovation or body modification. Aside from prosthetics, labels including Balenciaga are experimenting with 3D-modelling within their collections, while a whole host of brands – including Balmain, Ugg, and Dior – employed CGI and AI influencers to ‘model’ in their campaigns this year.

As well as rejecting established and archaic ideas of beauty, and imagining a future in which the parameters of gender and even species have been shattered completely, the alien-like humanoids seen on runways around the world are establishing something entirely new in fashion. And given the fact the likes of Lil Miquela and Sophia the Robot are taking coveted editorial roles and gracing the covers of a multitude of magazines, maybe it’s time that we accepted if you can’t beat them, join them. Now – pass the elf ears, please.