Embracing what Liam Hodges terms the 'Lockdown Aesthetic', the designer teamed up with photographer and filmmaker Thomas Alexander on a fashion film shot via Zoom. Transmission captures the schizophrenic nature of modern identity which lies at the core of the Liam Hodges S/S 20 'Fifth Generation' collection.
Having explored the creation of the self extensively in his eponymous label, Transmission is an extension of Liam Hodges' graphic, playful and utilitarian design language. Directly informed by the restrictions of communicating virtually, with the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerating how much of our lives we live in the digital sphere, the film encapsulates the Zoom era of pixelated computer screens. Rebooting the 'Fifth Generation' show which looked to primitive-futurism and cyberpunk, where models fashioned spiked hair straight out of The Sims and warped, cellotaped faces, Transmission builds upon what Hodges laid out in the S/S 20 show notes as 'the gamification of the self.'
Model Dom Loomes is caught via video-call back home in Brighton-his housemates helped to operate the camera. To start with he's inside, as glass lets in a suffocating heat, before venturing out to gulp on a carton of orange juice whilst decked out in the Alfie Kungu 'Clubman Knit' and Boardies collab shorts. Shots of Loomes glitch and blur like digital paintings, shaking him between IRL and URL identities. Music by SILV-O features the sound of buzzing flies and is like a watery-echo chamber. Spliced together with text taken from Reddit forum users on how they're coping with lockdown, the film also looks to the fear of what a new normal might look like. As one user aptly summarises: 'Reality is only slightly more tangible than a fever dream- this feels like a fever dream'.
As Hodges and Alexander create a fever dream of their own, here Hetty Mahlich talks to the duo about making the film and what the future looks like.
Hetty Mahlich: How did working together on the film come about?
Liam Hodges: Being in lockdown saw us reach out to a few people, seeing how we could use the time on various projects. We really felt that there was going to be a 'Lockdown Aesthetic' so wanted to try and capture that. We began talking with Thomas and from that conversation, the concept grew into the full campaign.
HM: What was the process like for making a film in lockdown?
LH: It took a lot more organisation, preparation and being adaptive to working in new ways. There's a lot less control which is something I think we all find equal parts exciting and terrifying!
Thomas Alexander: Due to the fractured, layered nature of the film I spent a huge amount of time in post-production continually reworking the footage, from reshooting it to altering the code on the files to purposefully corrupt and glitch it. I basically spent a month straight in a blacked out room in my flat, which is probably slightly more socially acceptable during a government sanctioned lockdown!
HM: How did these new working conditions affect the outcome?
TA: We were certain from the very conception of this project that we really wanted to embrace any perceived ‘restrictions’ and amplify them to inform the visual language of the film, I loved how open and creative Liam and his team were. The model, Dom, and his house full of different creatives down in Brighton really informed the freedom that comes across in the film.
LH: Working with a great team to help get what we wanted from the model, set, styling etc whilst allowing the changes in controllable parameters to define the images and mood created, was interesting.
TA: It was definitely a new way of working, I suppose I'm probably a bit of a control freak so it was difficult at times! I'm really glad that we did it the way we did - I've actually never met Liam in person, and hadn't even seen the clothes in person until about two weeks after the shoot. It's quite a bizarre thing but it suddenly feels very natural.
HM: Why fashion film?
TA: Since the U.K and much of the world has gone into lockdown, our only real interaction with other people has been through video conferencing forums. So it felt really exciting to commodify this medium and turn it into an energetic fashion film.
LH: Again creating something that feels very current and of a moment. 'LIKE REMEMBER WHEN WE COULDN'T JUST GO TO A STUDIO AND TAKE PICTURES...'
HM: In terms of colour, there's this really over saturated, intense acid trip-like aesthetic to the film which feels such a part of the Liam Hodges world. Was this intended, and how was it achieved?
TA: The digital medium is really exciting in the massive breadth of opportunities it offers and provides a chance for a rawness that we’re not used to seeing so much at the moment. I really wanted to convey this digital chaos. So these slightly unusual colours came quite naturally out of that.
HM: There's also this sense of the glitch, of mutation and the possibility for multiple identities in the space between IRL and URL. With the onset of lockdown, it feels like our identities are slipping even further into URL space, almost losing our grip on reality. Is this something you both had in mind when making the film?
LH: Ideas of reality and a sense of the self are very much topics that we touch on regularly. The Fifth Generation collection was made exploring retro futures and splicing prints and textiles together. I guess today's identity, how we define ourselves and the spaces in which we do this have changed so much; online persona, real world, business call, Zoom quizzes with friends. All of these spaces lead us to conjure a different version of ourselves from within. Sometimes subtly different and other times far more obvious. I think this time during isolation has elevated this for sure and can be felt in the film.
TA: When we were first talking about this project I had read this quote from Liam about the collection: 'As we overcome hurdles, the gamification of the self becomes more and more apparent as our sense of who we are becomes fractured through the kaleidoscope of online media.' This really stuck with me throughout the whole project, this kaleidoscopic digital world swirling in front of me. It felt really important to transmit this to our audience.
HM: Tell me about the title Transmission- it feels very fitting in terms of either transmitting information via broadcast- the pixelated, computerised aspect of the film- but also in terms of disease, whether that be an addiction to social media and editing ourselves, or literally from one person to another- like COVID-19. I'm interested to know what Transmission means to you both in the context of this film, and how it came to inform the project.
LH: Thomas actually came up with the title and it was always a clear choice. As humans we constantly transmit. Our reality is based on our transmissions going out and the ones received by other people. Lockdown has merely amplified these and also cut through the noise a little. We've had such an opportunity to re-set and see the faults with the status quo of normality. The government implemented lockdown to protect us, but it feels like as we are paying more attention to what's going on, they are quickly bringing back all the distractions. It's becoming very saturated again.
TA: The name actually didn't come until the end of the project, so it didn't so much 'inform the project' as much as the project informed the title. For all the reasons you mentioned, it just seemed to fit. The word 'Transmission' also feels slightly dystopian in itself, almost as though we are sat in our bunker trying to make contact with any remaining life on earth through the medium of fashion film.
HM: The fashion industry is in a real state of flux- what are you taking away from lockdown for your work in the future?
LH: We're hoping to use the coming months to experiment with how collections are built, and what the brand is. The merry-go-round stopped, we all got off and took some time to think. I'm not ready to jump back on it just yet.