Let’s be real: Even in a post-apocalyptic world in which 80% of the population has been decimated by a pandemic, people are still going to want to look good. People may be mortal, but true style never dies.
At least, that’s the concept behind “Survival Is An Art: The Last Ship Experience,” a fashion show curated by TNT with the help of entertainment branding agency loyalkaspar, in order to promote the post-apocalyptic drama The Last Ship, which premieres June 22 on the network. Michael Bay carries an executive producer credit on the series, which involves a U.S. naval ship that is trying to solve–and resist–a pandemic that’s wiped out much of the earth’s population. Say what you will about Bay’s frenetic approach to filmmaking, but his work has never lacked in style, which makes a curated fashion show full of post-apocalyptic threads a surprisingly germane concept.
The bulk of the collection includes 20 pieces created by Munich designer Irene Luft, who worked up a series of dresses intended for a fashion-forward approach to one of the obvious post-apocalyptic necessities: The gas mask.
“The collection depicts a kind of post-apocalyptic haute couture fashion future,” Luft explains. “The masks were created in dialogue with the dresses, always with an eye for thinking about how to ‘break’ their beauty, but just in the right way. The audience needs to be thrown off a bit, but also intrigued by the interplay between the mask and the dress. The hand beading and detailed lace and stitch work stands in striking contrast to the industrial nature of the gas mask itself.”
Those industrial gas masks range from things from various designers that it’s feasible to imagine people in a post-apocalyptic world fighting over to, er, less practical pieces by Luft. (Diamond studs and fake mohawk spikes are more likely to provide incentive and convenient handles to roving gangs of marauders, after all.) The crocheted gas masks from artist Nathan Vincent, meanwhile, avoid the industrial look altogether in favor of a softer, more friendly piece of pandemic protection.
“Gas masks are a direct response to threat of catastrophe, and we don them as a way of protecting ourselves while projecting a sense of safety,” Vincent says. “These crocheted gas masks reference the persona we project to the world and the sense of confidence and power we portray, which offers no actual protection from harm.”
The gallery exhibition this week will take place at a pop-up gallery in Manhattan, and guests will be able to photograph themselves in gas mask couture. It’s a neat concept that considers some of the weirder, but more intriguing, questions that surround post-apocalyptic fiction–what would Kanye West wear to protect himself from a pandemic?
“This activation was inspired by what we saw out in the world of pop culture: a real fascination with gas masks as a symbol of both threat and empowerment,” explains Anna Minkkinen, Creative Director of loyalkaspar. “We reached out to artists with styles ranging from steampunk to hip-hop who have built fan followings with their custom gas mask art. One theme that interested us was the wild personality in the masks — as if these artists were asserting a need for beauty amid the chaos of modern life’s dangers; an assertion that uniqueness and personality must reign until the end.”
Perhaps 2004 Kanye would have walked around in the dope Gary Lockwood mask based around a pair of Jordans, while the 2014 version would probably be more drawn to Luft’s beaded masks, or the animal-inspired designs of Bob Basset. Regardless, style as an aspect of survival is an interesting concept, and the fact that TNT and The Last Ship are embracing it speaks to the potential for the series to comment not just on the need to survive, but the way we do it.
Tricia Melton, the network’s senior vice president of marketing, is keyed into this notion as well. “Viewers are fascinated with the idea of apocalyptic events, and a viral pandemic is riveting because there is a strong element of realism,” she says. “The gas mask is both a sign of a deadly, horrific situation and a symbol of survival. In the course of developing the marketing for The Last Ship, we discovered artists who are embracing the gas mask as an icon of humanity’s drive to survive. We felt that this was a uniquely interesting way to bring to life an important component of the show–which is ultimately about the art of survival.”