From NASA to LV, let’s talk about pixel print

From NASA to LV, let’s talk about pixel print

by Robyn Pullen
4 min

No, your vision hasn’t gone blurry and our website isn’t playing up. The reason this page is looking kind of pixelated is because we’re delving into the history of the pixel print in fashion. From Louis Vuitton to LOEWE, pixel print has been making its way back into fashion lately, bit by (8-)bit. But why is the pixel such an iconic motif?

If you’re an archival fashion fan or retro gamer you probably know the history behind pixels, but for those who don’t, let’s have a recap. Pixels as we recognise them today were first invented in the 1960s by NASA, which used the term to define the details in early images of outer space. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s, when the term was adopted by the gaming community, that the “pixel” went mainstream.

Whilst 8-bit gaming styles are largely to thank for the pixel’s rise to iconicity, Apple is also behind its status in pop culture. In fact, one person in particular actually inspired much of the pixel art we see in fashion and culture today, and that’s Susan Kare, the graphic designer behind the typefaces for the Apple Macintosh. You might not recognise her name, but you’ve definitely seen her icons, from the “save” icon on a Word Document to the “trash” icon in the corner of your screen.

Whilst many of Kare’s graphic designs have been phased out since the 80s, making way for sleeker, more modern iterations, her impact on fashion is still evident today. For one, NIGO – founder of A Bathing Ape and current Creative Director at KENZO – has taken direct inspiration from Kare’s Apple icons in his past few collections, seen in the pixelated icons of KENZO’s recent drops.

Back in the early 2000s, it was a wave of Japanese designers that adapted the pixel print into clothing. In 1998, Takao Yamashita’s brand Beauty:Beast showed its F/W ‘Dark Knight’ collection which utilised a bruised purple pixel print on jackets and trousers, before its SS98 show saw leopard print pixelated. Then, Japanese designer Kunihiko Morinaga showcased an 8-bit collection for ANREALAGE’s FW11-12 show, with pixelated tartan, paisley, and even camouflage prints.

@aka.beautybeast ©

Pixelated camo is a print that’s been revived recently by Pharrell at Louis Vuitton Menswear, dubbing the print “Damoflage” at his debut SS24 show. A transformation of LV’s signature Damier chequerboard into a “digital camo,” the print has a touch of nostalgia whilst still remaining elevated and appropriate for the brand. Another luxury house that’s featured in pixels in recent years is LOEWE, which dropped an entire pixel collection for SS24. With 8-bit style hoodies, jeans, and tees, the collection was giving “Minecraft but make it wearable.”

Although the original function of pixel icons is pretty much redundant in 2024, given that we’ve reduced the size of them to be practically miniscule in most forms of tech, they’re still insanely popular in fashion and pop culture today because of their nostalgia. The appearance of pixelated clothing transports us back to a simpler time, when pixels were bigger and better. Whether they’re on Louis Vuitton’s leather bags or KENZO’s pixelated hoodies, we don’t think we’ll ever get over pixels.

Featured image via @louisvuitton ©

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