When cinemagoers turn out later this week to watch the latest instalment of Ridley Scottâs Alien franchise, they will be treated not just to the thrills of the extra-terrestrial predators but to costumes made by the hottest name in British menâs fashion.
Craig Green, who was crowned British menswear designer of the year at the London fashion awards in December, created Alien Covenantâs post-apocalyptic look, which is part of a wider trend embraced by the likes of Madonna and model Bella Hadid.
Tony Glenville, creative director of the school of media and communication at London College of Fashion, says that clothes that look post-apocalyptic are not just utilitarian in shape and fabric but are also âabout assemblageâ.
âIt could be a biker jacket where itâs almost been reversed and the zips have been put in all sorts of odd places,â he says. âAs you start to put it all together, it reads as more of a collage of clothing elements than a single thing.â
Greenâs clothes are known for having multiple straps, clasps, cords, belts and buckles â all things you might imagine would come in handy during an alien invasion. The men on his autumn/winter 2017 catwalk wore macs, hats and tubular belts that he described as looking âlike oxygen tubesâ â an aesthetic inspired by the âterror of the seaâ.
Designer Rick Owensâs aesthetic is very much in line with the post-apocalyptic look. At his most recent show, his models were dressed as if they were carrying all their earthly possessions on their backs â their hair was matted over their ashen faces while coats that looked like bulging sleeping bags were strapped to their narrow frames.
Kim Kardashianâs husband, the rapper Kanye West, can be credited for bringing the look into the mainstream. He has added streetwear and sweatshirts to the mix to make the look a little more accessible. For his autumn/winter 2017 show, models wore head-to-toe camouflage â a look replicated by Hadid when she was spotted out walking in Kingâs Cross, London, last month, and by Madonna when she appeared on the Met Gala red carpet last weekend.
The combat boot has also been a staple of many of the autumn/winter catwalks and is now set to withstand many a muddy field. Vogue last month argued the case for âdystopian desertâready boots to take you through festival seasonâ. Even McDonaldâs has been accused of employing Armageddon chic; new uniforms unveiled last month were criticised for being more fitting for post-apocalyptic film The Hunger Games than a dayâs work next to the deep-fat fryer.
Like most trends, this is not new â the post-apocalyptic look was last big in the 90s when Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela was at the vanguard. In the 80s, Commes des GarÃ§ons introduced a similar idea. Rei Kawakuboâs 1982 catwalk show, for a collection called Destroy, was described in an article in the New Yorker as âa cadre of dishevelled vestals in livid war paint who stomped down the catwalk to the beating of a drum, wearing the bleak and ragged uniforms of a new orderâ.
Some detractors of the look at the time gave it the tasteless epithet: âHiroshima chicâ, a name that hits at the heart of what can make this trend so problematic in the eyes of some observers. It raises the question why clothes and films that remind us of the end of the world could be ever marketed as cool?
For Glenville it is about âplaying with the idea of fantasy, and semi-confronting it. Itâs sort of saying: this is how weâd survive, fashion would still keep on going but weâd make it from the leftovers.â
It is tempting to draw a clear line between the unsettled times we are living in and the most recent incarnation of end-of-days dressing. But Glenville dismisses the propensity to see the world situation reflected in clothes âIt doesnât quite work like that,â he says.
Many of the recent films depicting the end of days, or dystopias living on the brink of them â from Alien Covenant to Mad Max: Fury Road to the new instalment of Blade Runner, slated for later this year â are, according to the Guardianâs film editor Andrew Pulver, âessentially retro exercises, successfully appealing to people who loved the originalsâ.
These films will have been in development for years â long before Trump and Brexit â which would have given fashion designers keen to capitalise upon their release a chance to plan, too.
âTheyâll look at the zeitgeist,â says Glenville. âYou can get the release dates for films now up to two years in advance.â
For Pulver, the influence of politics on culture is often contradictory: âOur troubled times are more likely to produce utopian art; a vision of a world we might wish for rather than fear.â
Which is perhaps why, while some fashion designers and films are revelling in the aesthetics of the apocalypse, other catwalks have instead been full of bright colours, glitter and heart cutouts, with rainbows hailed as the style symbol of the season. In that version of a wished-for-world, at least, the dystopian visions of Green, Margiela and Owens would be left out in the cold.