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Insight: NEO, a synthesis of the arts in menswear fashion

Text by Maren Häußermann

The presentation of fashion is never just about the clothes. In the eighties, the models danced to music on the runways. In recent years they themselves became important, and all the while, the set-up rounded up the fashion experience. Now, we are entering a new era in which technology takes over. It helps to design the clothes and present them. But technology also makes distance possible. This a crucial feature nowadays which we will have to implement further in our lives.

Maroš Baran took advantage of technology. This summer, the 30-year-old menswear fashion designer presented his project NEO in his hometown Bratislava in Slovakia. The showroom was divided into different parts. A wall of 100 drawings showed silhouettes of the designs. Two of them were stretched out on the floor, inspired by movie crime scenes.

Another T-shirt was duct-taped to the wall. The print on its front shows the mugshot of a person with a Batman mask above the caption Maroš Baran 2049, a reference to the movie Blade Runner. It is, in fact, Baran’s photo-booth picture that he took for his new metro card after moving to Paris, where he currently lives and works. NEO is a personal project, a playground for exploring what Baran is interested in. 

Baran’s collection consists of two parts, NEO1 and NEO2. While NEO1 was presented in the showroom with videos, lookbook and accessories, NEO2 was present only in the form of a pile of DVDs visitors were supposed to steal from the gallery: I had an idea of the sensation you get from stealing an art piece from the exhibition you love and by that extending the experience beyond the walls of the gallery, ideally into your home.

NEO is a research project about garment construction and aesthetics inspired by cyberpunk and retrofuturism. Baran researched these topics, drew looks, made clothes, and created his book. Then, he thought about how to include an object to be stolen. I have a bit of a weird hobby: I collect old sci-fi DVDs. I love DVDs because of their bonus material and the interactive interface.

The idea is to visit the exhibition NEO, which is impossible to “finish” at the gallery because it shows only NEO1. In order to see it completely, to complete the mission, one has to “steal” the DVD, which contains the exhibition’s second part – NEO2. 

The model enters from behind a corner. He is on the rooftop of a building covered by pebbles. He walks with decisive steps to the music of the new album of Nightcrawler, a DJ based in Spain whose work is influenced by horror and sci-fi movie soundtracks and therefore offers a musical universe of dark atmospheres. The camera spins around, following the man wearing Baran’s collection appearing and disappearing behind silver ventilation shafts and white walls. The camera moves in close, retraces, turns around itself, tilts up and down, and pans in the opposite direction of the model’s movements. 

I like to play with “control” and “out-of-control” a lot in my work, and this is one of the ways I do it, says Baran. He shot and edited the material himself. He used specific camera movements to make it seem like the camera went mad. I like to play around with the footage which is “officially” wrong material and incorporate it in the final video. This footage gives the viewer a slight sensation of nausea and makes the experience, therefore, so much more interesting. The fashion show can be felt. 

One friend told me that NEO2 looks like it is about a superhero, who is trapped on the roof, unable to escape to save the World, so he changes his outfits repeatedly, hoping that one of the “suits” will enable him to fly off the roof and complete the mission. I love this idea, although I did not intend to create a story with my lookbook. Baran dedicated NEO2 to Syd Mead, the designer for films like Blade Runner, Alien and Tron. He shot the video in only one day. The model changes the looks as the day goes by, presenting look 1 in broad daylight and 17 as the sun sets. In this last shot, the man stands at the edge of the roof, looking over the city. His coat slowly moves in the wind.

Baran likes the contrast between tailoring and tech materials. All garments are unique pieces, mostly made in small quantities which he finds in Parisian fabric shops in Montmartre. Some materials are “leftovers” from friends. I try to make the most of what I have, looking for interesting and unusual color/structure/style combinations in my work. For each collection, he also creates a few “recycled” pieces made from a cloth ready to be thrown away.

One of them is made of a destroyed tailored coat Baran used for draping. It had this amazing canvas interfacing and was so full of stitches, details and structure – almost like an abstract painting. He mixed it with yellow shoulder pads from a motorcycle jacket to give it this specific Dragonball vibe. It’s called “The God Look, because of a strange mixture of emotion in it. It is basically made of the soul of the garment – the interfacing, explains Baran.

He loves the idea of creators who are pushed to explore different disciplines. I remember I was deeply marked by the information that John Carpenter composed his own soundtrack for Halloween 1978 because he didn’t have the resources to hire anyone at the moment. He just had to do it himself and it turned out to be iconic music at the end.

The project, which combined all the disciplines he is occupied with, was his first performance in Paris called The Imperial Phase. A 19-hour performance during which he modelled his own collection, changing 19 looks (1 look per hour), drawing 222 self-portraits in front of the mirror, surrounded by screens with multiple videos he created for the presentation, including a 19-hour Facebook Live Video Call. 

(Media courtesy of the designer)
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