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30 Mar

Warts and all: the story behind Ashnikko’s alienoid BRIT

HYDRA (agf), the London-based designer and artistic director, explains the inspirations behind the polarising creation

Inflatable jumpsuits, full-body ruffles, and bubonic latex gowns, this 12 months’s BRIT Awards saw celebrities swap their usual boring red carpet style for the kind of outfits that fall somewhere between a B-horror and people tiny organisms you see under a microscope.

For an artist who once described herself as “Hatsune Miku on crack”, Ashnikko looked every part strange and otherworldly, like alien royalty plucked out of a HR Giger sketch. Repelling any normie within the immediate vicinity, the musician emerged from her fleshy membrane mothership and landed on the red carpet wearing a warts-and-all latex gown. “It was extremely polarising. Those that loved it really did and who hated it did so with equal intensity,” says London-based founder and artistic director HYDRA (agf).

Anti-fashion meets body horror, the nude latex design featured alien egg-like prosthetic augmentations running down the star’s back. “Ash wanted numerous skin showing and a really abstract component to her fleshy augmentations,” explains HYDRA. “I wanted all the things (the robe, her body, and the prosthetics) to seem like there was no separation between the one elements, as they might all osmotically grow out of one another.”

Flores previously collaborated with Ashnikko and photographer Vasso Vu on the artwork behind the pop star’s upcoming album and the music video for ragey recent single “You Make Me Sick”, which saw Ashnikko because the mother cell feeding her dancer offspring via an elaborate tube network. “On the early stages of development of Ashnikko’s recent album imagery, I used to be approached by Vasso Vu, who was creative directing and photographing her album campaign,” explains HYDRA. “He told me concerning the concept that he and Ash had created, and that as soon as they began mood boarding the actual physical shoot, it was really hard not to think about my work immediately.”

Described as a “wearable artefact”, Ashnikko’s BRITS Award dress was inspired by a hydra, a freshwater organism that regenerates by developing tiny offspring that detach from the parent body to form independent hydroids. “We had long conversations about our shared visions on recent ecosystems, transpersonal intimacy and infinite rebirth,” she elaborates. Georgia Olive, the prosthetics artist, began placing and glueing the fleshy alien eggs on the artist’s body in a process that took about seven hours to finish. The latex dress was then fitted across the prosthetics: “painting and shining and lubing happened concurrently.” 

“I used to be given complete creative freedom and trust, however the work was carried forward collaboratively with the entire team,“ says HYDRA. “I feel the baseline to that is that there was an ideal level of understanding and dialogue built up and carried forward easily from project to project, a transparent knowledge , understanding and respect for our individual practices and sensibilities.”

Attracting comments on social media like “recent phobia unlocked” and “the used condom on the road”, HYDRA’s creation does all the things a subversive design should, which is to challenge beauty standards, while repelling closed-minded normies nearby. Just like the video for “You Make Me Sick”, you possibly can practically imagine Ashnikko because the alien mother feeding her fans through her bulging boils, before they fall off and an ecosystem of infinite selves springs of their wake.

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