Gucci’s Fall 2018 Ready To Wear collection has once again blown up on Instagram with its baby dragons, 3D replica of human heads, and balaclavas, but the concept the collection is rooted in is not as appalling as it appears.
Cyborg = Cybernetic + Organism
A being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts.
The concept is not as far as it sounds from our lives. As humanity’s reliance on technology deepens materially and intellectually, as wearable devices and artificial organs develop to be more sophisticated, we are already—to some extent—transhuman.
Creative Director Alessandro Michele explains: “There’s a clinical clarity about what I am doing. I was thinking of a space that represents the creative act. I wanted to represent the lab I have in my head. It’s physical work, like a surgeon’s.” The essence of what a designer does is poetically metaphorical to a surgeon’s practice: through cutting, stitching, reforming materials and fabric, new identity is created.
One of the ethical dilemmas in the discussion of post-humanism is the Theseus’s Paradox, also known as the Ship of Theseus. In the first century, Greek writer Plutarch asked the question: would the ship in Theseus remain the same if it were entirely replaced, piece by piece? Or how many pieces need to be replaced for us to determine it is no longer the same ship? Correspondingly, denture, prosthetics, botox, and plastic surgery are commonly accepted add-ons to the human body today, but when the same artificiality is applied to organs such as the heart, brain, and head, ethical controversy challenging the moral values of society emerge.
Michele worked with Makinarium, a Rome-based factory of tech-artisans, to produce the 3D printing replicas, and he is not the first designer who has chosen to incorporate 3D printing into fashion design. We can still see the familiar layering of flamboyant prints, reinvention of popular cultural symbols, and direct reference to diverse culture across the globe in Gucci’s new collection and they are continuing their charming effect of blurring the boundary between cheap and high fashion, between consumerism and art. However, when these elements, which we are now so used to seeing because of Michele’s proliferate output, intertwine with industrialized, highly technical 3D printing, we are presented with fashion design in the form of Cyborg. Mechanical in its technique, yet organic in its images.
The Gucci Cyborg is post-human: the third eye, half-human half-animal, baby dragon and replicas of models’ own heads tucked under their arms. All of these productions originate from the envisioned evolution beyond the human body’s physical and mental, biological and cultural limitations, and become the manifestation of an ever-changing identity, illuminating the possibility of liberation. “Now, we have to decide what we want to be,” said Michele.