The thirst for horror is nothing new, we have experienced it for decades through cinema and literature with movies like The Omen, The Shining and more recently Zombieland. Jordan Peele’s latest film ‘Us’ has reportedly left viewers 'seeing demons' such is its graphic content. Fashion has now taken up the mantle with Moschino’s SS2020 Halloween collection and the statement bullet wounds on some Mowalola Ogunlesi’s new garments. There is a peculiar intention behind the rise of horror in popular culture; and that is to depict the world as it is.
Most recently, designer Mowalola Ogunlesi crafted her clothes to reflect a dark reality of America with her latest SS20 Menswear collection ‘Coming For Blood’. Naomi Campbell took the internet by fire during London Fashion Week when she was spotted wearing one of the pieces—a long white dress with a striking bullet wound right in the middle. A risky move which, in light of the 22 school shootings that occurred in America this year, sparked negative comments accusing the model of glorifying gun crime. The controversial outfit was defended by the designer who explained that the bullet hole is a symbol of "her lived experience as a black person".
When correctly contextualised with the rest of Ogunlesi’s collection ‘Coming For Blood’ the dress makes sense. Playing with bloody and ghostly colours, the Nigerian designer portrays the "horrific feeling of falling in love". From bloodied hands to red contacts and gothic make-up, the male models sport bleak but stylish outfits; aptly embodying the intertwining feelings of joy and fear that come with loving someone. With this concept, Campbell’s dress then has a dual meaning. It signifies two types of dangers felt by the designer: trusting another person with your heart, and also living in a racist system as a black individual. Literally, the bullet injury reflects police brutality towards African Americans, and therefore the real horror that this subjects the black community to. Figuratively, the wound design signifies the pain of love.
Fashion Designer Jeremy Scott displayed a ‘horror collection’ of his own earlier this year, however with a rather different intent and tone than Ogunlesi. With Dracula tops, Scream-inspired outfits and even a dress mirroring a scene from King Kong, the Moschino SS20 collection is full of cinematic references; rendering the work modern and reflective of today’s pop culture. With the growing political statements being made through fashion, Scott appears keen to spread much-needed humour and positivity amid all the horror.
Undoubtedly, Scott’s choice to take inspiration from horror films for his collection stems from the undeniable fact that cinema was the first field to explore the genre, and exploit it to tell fictional stories most commonly based on real events.
After the Oscar-winning director of ‘Get Out’, Jordan Peele, surprised us all once again with ‘Us’; a thrilling story symbolising the consequences of systemic racism. Based on the idea of doppelgängers, the film follows an American family getting attacked by their doubles—known as the ‘Tethered.’ In their angry and frustrated nature, the Tethered embody the trauma of African Americans upon enduring discrimination and violence for so long. They come from an ‘underground’ version of the world—a dark and sinister environment which represents the strong oppression that the black community is subjected to in America. What is unexpected is the way in which Peele confuses us not only through an ambiguous ending, but also by merging pure horror and comedy throughout the entire film. This creates numerous layers of meaning; a literal one where a family tries to survive a nightmarish night, and several figurative interpretations regarding the horror of America which fans continue to try and dissect—and this is a clear example of Peele’s genius.
Slowly but surely, horror is also making its way into music as well. Just like in cinema, musical artists are often using their platform to draw their audience’s attention towards specific social or political issues, and that is exactly what pop musician Grimes is planning for her forthcoming project. Reportedly interested in the horrors of climate change, the singer is going to personify global warming as an evil villain in the album. This take on climate change is unique and perfectly symbolises how dangerous and threatening the situation only grows to be. Grimes’ music is known for incorporating different genres; pop, r&b, electronic and hip hop, and touching on multiple subjects such as love, feminism and now global warming. In line with the originality and bold variety of her craft, her new album will undoubtedly also be filled with upbeat melodies, or colourful music videos and lyrics to contrast the dark aspect of the villain.
Horror is present in the arts because, more frighteningly so, it is all around us. It is on the streets, in the governments and in the ocean. Individuals like Ogunlesi, Peele and Grimes imitate life in their art, conveying powerful messages about the gravity of the respective subjects that they present. And they do so by evoking horror in unique and distinguishable ways which aptly reveal the talent behind their artistry.
Words by Carla Pelosoff
Graphics by Fiona Campbell
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