(CNN) — Fashion is all about the silhouette. And no one took that sartorial maxim more literally than Sam Smith at the 2023 Brit Awards in London on Saturday.
Dressed in a custom look by HARRI — the emerging label helmed by British Indian designer Harikrishnan Keezhathil Surendran Pillai — Smith’s supersized curves resembled a Rorschach test, a balloon animal, or to some, a charred roast chicken. The high-shine latex jumpsuit flared sharply at the singer’s thighs, creating an exaggerated curvature that mirrored the dramatically squared shoulders. It was the boldest, and most contentious, look of the night.
Surrealist silhouettes have already become a HARRI trademark, with air used to inflate circus-like designs and create a cartoonish, ballooning sense of volume. Striking as they are stationary, the pieces are made for movement. At the label’s Spring-Summer 2023 London Fashion Week presentation, Pillai enlisted dancers and mini-trampolines to demonstrate the clothes in motion. Smith, teetering on a pair of custom Valentino platforms, strutted across the red carpet in similarly mesmeric form.
The musician’s look took 4 days for Pillai to make, and it was one of his most ambitious garments to date. (In previous collections, the designer had stuck to only inflating the lower body). The undulating shapes were originally inspired by Pillai’s dog, Kai. “I started thinking about (it) from my dog’s point of view,” he said in an interview with the British talk show Good Morning Britain. “How we saw me from such a small, short angle. (Like a) distorted body image.”
While Smith may not have taken home a Brit Award, they certainly still left an impact. To many fashion fans, the outfit resembled that of another powerful gender-defying dresser. In 1973, David Bowie wore a wide-leg vinyl jumpsuit designed by the late Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto during his international Ziggy Stardust tour. Titled “Tokyo Pop,” the flamboyant garment acted like an optical illusion — causing the artist to look preposterously bow-legged whenever he crouched. Yamamoto’s larger-than-life geometric creations were paramount in building Bowie’s renowned stage presence, and his characters Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane.
Similarly, Pillai’s designs are a hypnotic reminder that subversion isn’t the only path to gender-fluid fashion. Beyond current trends seeing some cis-men in pink crop tops and skirts, androgyny can be as simple as shapes.
Top image: Sam Smith attends the Brit Awards 2023 in London wearing a custom HARRI latex jumpsuit.
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