By Anna Vo
Inspired by disturbed faces and the amplified lucid dreams of its creator, B.F.A. fashion design student Kenneth Brody McCasland created an avant-garde collection driven by imagery drawn from his subconscious. Conceptualized and constructed to portray the effects of sleep paralysis, he explained how it feels to be trapped in between dreams and wakefulness. “[It’s when] the body is left behind and taken over,” he said. “[You’re] free to explore feelings [you] can’t recall when awake.”
Taking inspiration from an otherworldly reality, McCasland often transported his designs to whichever obscure world best fits his vision. In this collection, he summoned an in-between world, a sphere where dream and reality meet. To visualize this, a black vinyl pleated skirt is belted at the waist like body armor, so the body is compressed but protected. It reminds us that something lurks in the night, and we’re given the power to feel it, much like the smoldering creatures in sketches by illustrator Tony Viramontes.
To further distort reality, he incorporated obscure silhouettes, shaped by hollow circles and semicircles, fitted at the wrists, necks, thighs, and ankles that restrict movement around different body parts. “It’s not that I’m being dishonest,” said McCasland, quoting his perpetual inspiration, Stefani Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga), “It’s just that I loathe reality.”
The collection’s color palette has been narrowed down to earthy mustards, deep maroons, and stark blacks. The woman wearing these clothes is bold, feminine, and sensual, and she walks into the night with a moonlit, blank face. The holes represent the mystery of our minds, the things that are there that we can’t see, and the memories that are lost forever.
With meticulous attention to detail, McCasland built the skeleton for his garments before assembling them. Semicircular rings are made out of corsetry bones and backed with fusible horsehair and buckram to strengthen the structure. Mega-sized three-dimensional shapes are seamlessly incorporated into the collection to give an impression of restricted movements, a primary effect of sleep paralysis.
His silhouettes are overwhelming, exaggerating the body’s form, and feminine lines are juxtaposed with sharp shoulders and draped fabrics. This is a collection brought up from the depths of the psyche; a subliminal concept, born from the idea of impracticality and formed into garments that are fully realized. Look hard enough and you’ll find the half and full circles start to creep into your mind, pushing you slowly into another state of being.