On TikTok or Instagram, if you try to search for “burglarwear,” you should see a number of pictures from Mowalola’s most recent collection. These scenes specifically show models wearing dark color outfits with their hands up or behind their backs, seemingly simulating the act of being arrested.Why not untie the guarded bodies from everything that characterizes the genre rather than physically tying them into silhouettes wrapped in cut-out, low rise, veils, and balaclavas? According to fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi, “I adore the idea of using clothes as weapons, shoes, shoulders, and even elbows.” Putting criminals in a personal narrative and bringing them to the catwalk with all of their accessories—balaclavas, masks, and more-or-less adherent suits—could be an attempt to stage a political act or, more simply, to make connections with the present.On the other hand, it is evident that a fetish mood can meld with and incorporate a definitely more developed and nuanced imaginary.
In 2018, Raf Simons had already made the balaclava less ominous: a multi-wire plot-winked stratagem, the mask was a cover for talking about safety and protection. The idea of knitted headwear would soon be closely followed by Alexander Wang and Gucci. Before the balaclava became a sort of semantic reservoir full of aesthetic and societal dilemmas between 2021 and 2022, Givenchy FW21’s models were already discussing sensuality while Miu Miu’s models reflected on the move from lingerie to skiwear.Not that 2022 has made things easier: TikTok popularized it for Generation Z by bending the headpiece into an intriguing clothing experiment that found its expressive depth in knitwear. Y/Project first presented it by challenging the legendary legacy of Jean-Paul Gaultier.To reflect on a type of primitive masculinity, Rick Owens brought him to the catwalk with his FW22 collection, which included masks, male forms, and headwear that served as lighting. In contrast to the hyperfeminine necklines, Alyx had previously covered the men’s silhouettes for FW22 with balaclavas and layers of shorts on top of shorts. But with Loewe, the lines became blurrier and the balaclava was just one of several components of Jonathan Anderson’s hilarious brochure for FW22.
Perhaps, however, the subject taps on far more profound, unexplored nerves, as demonstrated, for instance, by Demna’s art and Lotta Volkova’s styling. Issues like privacy, personality worship, anonymity, and monitoring are all changing what it means to be intimate and collective. Even photographer Juergen Teller was photographed using his smartphone to aim to shoot other photographers in Balenciaga’s SS22 collection, which focused on the elements of an entertainment machine. More well-known celebrities, like Kanye West or Kim Kardashian, started (re)dressing from head to toe while still being instantly recognizable. The desire to reevaluate the role of the celebrity, questioning the practical notes related to the cult of personality, from stolen shots in the style of Y2K paparazzi to crowds of fans willing to do anything to get a photo with their idol, may be the cause of the need to completely conceal your face while donning the clothing of a thief or hacker.
Narrative that did not spare even the representation of the common imagination, so much so that for the SS23 show Demna worked on reading the uniforms leaving the faces of the models entirely covered by balaclava adherents to explore the habits and roles of New Yorkers struggling with coffee, work and commitments.Celebrities are now free of opaque masks because Couture 2022 experimented with looks totally coated in neoprene and polyurethane. Dressing like thieves has become a way of saying that, perhaps, stealing time can prove to be a real act of personal claim in a world that has gone to recover much of the Y2K imagery – overexposure media, gossip, and celebrity cultures were the main dishes of a rather varied menu, but it had not foreseen the impact of social media.