Founded by artist and designer Rafa Bodgar, Chromosome Residence follows a strict diet of anti-aestheticism, distorting anything that is considered a social norm
Scrolling through Chromosome Residence’s Instagram feed can feel like falling down a rabbit hole, only you bypass Wonderland and end up somewhere altogether more twisted and surreal. The Spanish clothing brand, headed up by artist and designer Rafa Bodgar, follows a strict diet of anti-aestheticism, distorting anything that is considered a social norm.
Visitors would be forgiven for getting lost in the sea of post-internet graphics, waggling genitalia, and clothes-wearing animals that make up Chromosome Residence’s website – and presumably Bodgar’s subconscious. But it’s the brand’s conceptual madness that has inspired a dedicated following of local and international fans alike: with Arca, Brooke Candy, and Yung Beef, to name but a few, among them.
The line is made up of wedding dresses that don’t just fit the model wearing them, they encompass an entire car, bio-leather suits made to look like human bodies, and latex boots that resemble giant condoms. Other pieces include ripped and slashed t-shirts with ready-made ‘sweat-patches’, as well as oversized shirts with human hair ponytails attached to their collars. Wearability, however, isn’t particularly high up on Bodgar’s list of requirements, given he maintains his products are objet d’art as opposed to fashion. “Every piece is a one-off,” he explains. “That is what turns something into a piece of art – the relationship is that of an artist-collector.”
Not only are the garments entirely unique, each one is delivered with a corresponding photograph (as seen on Instagram) which adds to idea that it is, in fact, a collector’s item: when the piece is worn for the first time, it is immediately imbued with new value. “It’s a bit like how Marilyn Monroe’s white dress becomes art the moment she wears it in Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch,” Bodgar says.
It’s not just the idea of clothing that Chromosome Residence is exploring, though: Bodgar is intent on revolutionising the consumer experience from start to finish. Each piece comes with two separate pricing options (“two people with different purchasing powers spending the same amount is unfair”), and is displayed in the style of a faux Airbnb ad, complete with jarring flashing banners reminiscent of 90s shopping channels.
“The more something is rejected by society, the more I want to shove it down society’s throat” – Rafa Bodgar
A straightforward e-commerce experience this is not, but like those who blazed the trail for ‘anti-fashion’ before him, the designer has no interest in or intention of playing by the rules. “The more something is rejected by society, the more I want to shove it down society’s throat,” he says. Having established himself in a small corner of the internet, where meme-worthy images are fused with a desire to champion weirdness and virality reigns, Bodgar’s idea of fashion as a form of meta-commentary on the industry as it is, or perhaps as it isn’t – is a product of its time. “Our aesthetic is non-aesthetic and we really want to question what is seen as not beautiful,” he explains. “That’s the formula – we’re taking reality to its logical end point,” he explains.
Bodgar, quite clearly, doesn’t want his clothing to be seen as beautiful. And, let’s be honest: scrolling through images of impaled creatures and mutilated bodies doesn’t exactly spark first-hand joy. Neither is his choice of models – a bizarre selection of nudists, old people, performance artists, and drag queens – particularly conventional: “It is a way of giving more reality to the taboos of society, to body consciousness, fear of poverty and death – everything society has taught us is inappropriate.”
In much the same way as that moment in Alexander McQueen’s SS01 show Voss, when the glass box breaks to reveal the voluptuous, reclined figure of fetish writer Michelle Olley, whose naked body is covered in moths and her face covered by a mask, Chromosome Residence too attempts to flip the dialectical coin on its head, making the audience covet the un-covetable. Which leaves you thinking: “A bag that looks like an incubator? Yes please”.