Chic clown suits? Futuristic X-ray bibs? David Byrne’s Big Suit gone candy-colored? This collection of awesomely impractical garments by Valeska Jasso Collado, a fashion design student at the University of Westminster in London, was assembled over several months from chunks of foam, brightly colored latex, and metal. By pleating, folding, and layering these unlikely materials, Collado alters the human silhouette into bizarre shapes inspired by the Memphis Group.
At the moment, the pieces are more wearable sculpture than clothing—try sitting down in that gigantic hoop skirt/shiny life-preserver getup—but Collado plans to streamline her absurdist aesthetic into a line of accessories, including oversized bags. Similar to the way futuristic but impossible concept cars often influence the design of more drivable ones, avant-garde fashion tends to trickle down into mainstream style over time.
The collection’s bold graphic style and geometric shapes nod to the resurgence of Memphis Group-inspired design. Spearheaded by Ettore Sottsass in Milan in 1981, the Memphis Group's postmodern style was characterized by asymmetrical shapes, plastic laminate, and eye-popping colors. Designers like Alessandro Mendini, Michael Graves, George Sowden and Nathalie Du Pasquier played with the idea that form didn’t necessarily have to follow function. Pop art, art deco, Bauhaus, and futuristic-kitsch influences converged in interior and furniture design that was loved by some critics, loathed by many. (The Memphis Group were never Tennessee-based, as their name might suggest—they took their label from Bob Dylan’s "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again," a song on heavy rotation during their initial meetings.)
Thirty-three years later, their playful, eye-popping aesthetic is rearing its head again in designs seen at the Salone de Mobile in Milan. Collado isn't the first fashion designer of late to draw on this '80s scene's love of futuristic-kitsch. Christian Dior's 2011-12 haute couture collection translated individual pieces by Memphis designers into clothing, and American Apparel even tapped Du Pasquier for a line with colorful patterns. So if you want to get in on the trend before everyone else does, maybe start carving your foam mattress pad into a jacket, or fashioning your yellow slicker into a dress. All the cool kids are doing it!