Hiroto Ikeuchi is a Japanese artist and designer globally renowned for his high-tech futuristic designs, which recently featured in Balenciaga’s stark Spring 2022 campaign. The designer constructed a number of robotic accessories which covered the model’s bodies and faces, situating the luxury brand’s newest collection in an avant-garde dystopian future.
Inventions included over-sized mouth coverings reminiscent of gas masks, headsets which restricted the wearer’s view to the iPhone screen held in front of them, and one huge exoskeleton which covered the models entire torso, complete with robotic arms.
The campaign elaborates on a theme already extensively explored by Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga: the imagery of augmented bodies and technology having the apocalyptic upper hand over humans. Hiroto Ikeuchi’s contribution embraces the same sci-fi futurism that defined Balenciaga’s previous Fall/Winter 2021 collection, which was turned into a video game set in a New York populated by drones and flying buses.
Ikeuchi’s work, made from broken motherboards, plastic, metal and electrical wiring, investigates the relationship between humans and technology, using anime, technological engineering and the cyberpunk era as key inspirations. The apocalyptic aesthetic is not the only quality to his work though; all of his pieces are also made to function. Whilst they raise important questions and play with notions of fashion and wearable tech, they also serve and operate as practical contraptions for everyday use.
Already firmly situated within the speculative design world, Hiroto Ikeuchi has been increasingly brought in to inject his futuristic vision into the fashion campaigns of the industry’s largest brands. A collaborative project with Gentle Monster saw the creation of Ikeuchi-style head and eyewear earlier this year. His work has been featured in a Prada campaign printed in Purple Magazine. Ikeuchi was also involved in the rollout of A$AP Rocky’s 2018 album, Testing – constructing more of his trademark cyborg masks in black and yellow colourways to match the crash-dummy aesthetic of the Harlem rapper’s third studio album.
Wearable technology is an aspect of fashion that is constantly growing. Smart watches are rapidly progression in capability and style, and headphones are beginning to become a focus of fashion aficionados as well (think Kanye’s recent love of Apple AirPod Max’s or the newest Beats collaboration with A-Cold-Wall*). Ikeuchi’s work with Balenciaga emphasises the direction of wearable tech by boldly bringing it to the forefront of the campaign.
His futuristic designs, within the wider world of dystopian, cyberpunk fashion, paint a stark picture of our world. They comment on the era of surveillance as well as online and offline privacy. They comment on society’s obsession with personal technology and social media as well as the whole ‘metaverse’ phenomenon. And in a similar vein, they comment on the future of fashion. While it feels pessimistic, his thought-provoking work aims to remind us that the future is only as dark as we make it.