If life is a video game, Usher Raymond not only has the cheat codes, he’s dressed for the part.
Fresh off of the announcement that he would headline the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show, and seemingly on a break from tearing up happy homes during his Las Vegas residency, the 44-year-old sat in the front row at Marni’s spring 2024 show in Milan, wearing what can best be described as his finest Sunday morning cartoons cosplay.
It was all Marni from head-to-toe: a fire-engine red button-down shirt paired with red polka-dot pants and a matching red polka-dot overcoat, red motorcycle gloves, and the label’s inflated BigFoot 2.0 sneakers.
Seated next to Usher was singer Erykah Badu, also in Marni, wearing a yellow large-windowpane suit with a long-sleeved T-shirt with smaller windowpanes underneath. A giant graphic print black and white scarf was perched on her shoulder and a huge mohair polka-dot top hat on her head (a mohair sweater in the same print is currently on Marni’s website for $1,250).
And next to her, rounding out Marni’s version of The Incredibles, was The Migos’ Quavo wearing an oversized mohair polka-dot sweater with an exaggerated color and flared mohair polka-dot pants to match.
These were versions of pieces from Marni’s latest runway collection, and even though they’re not currently available for purchase, the looks speak to a bigger shift. Fashion currently is dominated by the aesthetics of video games — everything is oversized, brightly colored, and inflated. This could be fashion for the foreseeable future, so get used to it.
In February, Brooklyn art collective MSCHF introduced a now-viral pair of bulbous red boots fit for Japanese manga’s Astro Boy, calling them “cartoon boots for a cool 3D world,” and writing on the product description page: “Cartoonishness is an abstraction that frees us from the constraints of reality. If you kick someone with these boots they go boing!”
For seasons now, designers have been turning to virtual reality for inspiration, and while brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Balenciaga all bought into the metaverse, designer and Loewe’s creative director Jonathan Anderson brought the virtual to real life.
A year ago, Anderson showed “MineCraft” clothes on Loewe’s spring 2023 runway. There was a hoodie, dress and pants designed to look like “a pixelated glitch.” He also showed inflated high heels not unlike the “stilettos” Minnie Mouse wears. (The Jacquemus fall 2019 collection and Balenciaga’s resort 2023 collection each featured a Minnie Mouse shoe.)
He took the aesthetic to JW Anderson, Anderson’s namesake brand, where he showed his spring 2023 collection in an arcade, showing pieces such as inflated-looking leather shorts, one-shoulder dresses fashioned like a plastic bag full of goldfish, and a halter top made of computer keys.
Anderson built on his own virtual world the following season, during Loewe’s fall 2023 runway show with 3D Polly Pocket-esque clothing created with molds to recreate the seamless look of the doll’s clothing. That same collection introduced the inflated cat-eye balloon sunglasses fans couldn’t get enough of.
It’s not just sunglasses. Pumped-up accessories are trendy. Like, Coach’s inflated, pillowlike Tabby bag, Loewe’s inflated puffer coat, even Prada has its own version of puffy, inflated shoes and accessories.
“Are we falling into our screens, becoming our phones? I think it’s really like an alternate universe, and there are layers and layers and layers to it,” Anderson told Vogue backstage at JW Anderson’s spring 2023 collection.
The video gamification of fashion is a reflection of the real world’s need for escapism (and maybe a hint of nostalgia). Like Usher, designers are urging us to dress the part of the superheroes we need to be right now.