Where Fashion Meets Madness: The World’s Most Extreme Clothes

What is the point of unwearable clothing? A new book from Gestalten helps explain.

“There have always been icons who lived their lives dressed like apparitions from another world,” writes Greg French in the forward to Otherwordly, a new collection from Gestalten of the most outrageous, surreal, and futuristic of avant-garde fashion. There’s the Milanese aristocrat Marchesa Luisa Casati, for example, who during the Belle Epoque era “would roam the canals of Venice on a gondola with whitened skin, kohl black eyes, and fiery red hair alongside her bejeweled pet cheetahs and white peacocks.”


As truly awesome as that sounds, ghostly gondola priestesses with bejeweled pet cheetahs were only a precursor of what was to come. Fast forward to the 21st century, where digital technology and meticulous handiwork allow mere terrestrial beings to transform clothing into otherworldly wonders. There’s London-based fashion laboratory Studio XO, for example, and its ethereal Bubelle dress that senses the wearer’s mood and changes color to match. On the other end of the spectrum is Bea Szenfeld who creates glamorous and geometric suits of armor from colored sheets of paper–folded and stitched completely by hand.

“The idea of otherworldly in fashion provides us with a passage through which we can transport ourselves into partial or even complete fantasy,” French writes. Fashion imagery also helps that fantasy along: photographers like Paco Peregrin challenges preconceptions of identity and beauty by conjuring up mesmerizing, mythical beings in his subjects with the use of face paint, eccentric accessories and electric colored garments. There’s also Heyniek, an Amsterdam-based studio that specializes in visual design, and its Block Bustes sculptures, a beautiful and distorted reinterpretation of the traditional mannequin.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of subversive fashion is how it can give life to an entirely new character altogether. That’s what happened with artist Alexis Themistocleous decided to follow queen of reinvention Grace Jones’ lead and recreate himself in “an entirely new dimension.” Donning black face paint, diamond-encrusted masks, and opulent headpieces, Themistocleous first put his character on the internet and then down the runway before adopting his new identity entirely. Now known as Theo-Mass Lexiectous, an anagram of his real name, it’s this character who (appropriately) edited the book.

Buy Otherworldly from Gestalten here, and click through the gallery above for a selection of the fabulous images within.

All Images: courtesy Gestalten

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.