Neo-Baroque: Drag Meets Speculative Fiction

Modelled by Ru Paul Drag Race UK's Crystal, this is a fashion shoot like no other.

Drag meets the next technological frontier in this mixed reality fashion editorial from Creative Director George Oxby, Digital Director Anastasia Niedinger and a whole team of talented creatives. Starring the one and only Crystal from Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, the shoot reimagines Baroque extravagance for the digital age with augmented reality, 3-D printed accessories and much more. 

Speaking about the shoot’s concept, Crystal told HUNGER: ”Drag is often about excess and opulence, so this project was exciting because it took those concepts and modernised them – from anti-facial recognition masquerade masks to AR avatars, to 3-D printed sound sculptures accessories.” For Crystal, the editorial represents a not-too-distant future of digitally-enhanced glamour. “The creative brains behind this shoot took ideas of luxury and utility, history and modernity, and mashed them all together into something fit for purpose as we enter ‘new normal’. I’m ready.”

See the full editorial below and read on for an interview with Creative Director George Oxby and Digital and Art Director Anastasia Niedinger to explain more about the creative process behind the shoot. 


What does Neo-Baroque mean to you?

Anastasia & George: We’re all searching for escapism, especially through extravagance and aesthetics, while simultaneously embracing this concept of utility as we prepare for a strange future and uncertain times. Neo-Baroque, for us, is about roleplaying ― maybe even normalising ― our need to express boldly, but doing so in an intelligent and inventive way.

Dress and Leg harness // George Oxby

What’s special about the project? 

Anastasia: I’m obsessed with narrative and universe building, so everything in this shoot goes conceptually full circle. 18th-century women would express status with gregarious hairstyles and accessories — our character is peacocking with three-dimensional sculptures of voice and sound, or ‘sound jewels’. It’s the literal expression of being loud. Crystal also wears a silk scarf titled AUTOMATE, manufactured by AI. The design is bordered with speculative systems and terminology (such as machine learning and designer-DNA principles). 

Not only is its production significant, but for me, the scarf represents a possible future where ultramodern, high-tech principles are appropriated and commercialised for the luxury buyer, which is deeply fascinating. Next, the corporate-Baroque logotype ‘ DAUFA ’ belongs to our fictional corporation. It’s a kind of utilitarian bastardisation of the French word “Dauphin”, a term for the king’s eldest heir. Then you’ve got an anti-facial recognition Masquerade mask, which blocks the AR filter made especially for the shoot. Finally, Crystal has a post-human avatar reflected inside of an augmented mirror. This is a mixed reality project where all the components work together. 

George: Drag’s power extends beyond itself, converging with many art forms, for example, fashion, fiction and so on. And there are new ways to do it without losing the principles at its core. For example, the technology which created Crystal’s hairpieces can turn her voice into a 3D-printed accessory, making her persona stand out above other queens in a completely unique way. She represents a generation of drag performers breaking new creative and experimental grounds. We’re excited to facilitate that. 

Dress / Brenda Kuoh // Gloves and boots / Crystal's own // 3D-print accessories / Caroline Barrueco, Harriet Davey, Yifan Pu

What inspired you to explore Neo-Baroque as a concept? 

Anastasia: We joke and say that George is a Renaissance man, while I’m the resident Futurist. As a trained artist I think George bucks a lot of our generation’s habits by honouring artistic greats from the past and celebrating the idiosyncrasies of periods before us. I’m interested in reinterpreting lessons from history within the framework of what’s to come. 

George: I’ve always been a bit of a history nerd, particularly those periods of tension between high society, mass consumption and social reform. Increasingly I feel like the time we live in is at the cusp of something similar. We initially drew on my knowledge of the French Court and began thinking about how to place that Baroque opulence inside of a unique framework.


What else can we take away from “Neo-Baroque”?

George: In the French Court opulence was a way of expressing status. Now some people are peacocking with utility wear. There’s a bit of poking fun at this, while also embracing it. Drag also enabled us to throw in a bit of absurdism, and pay homage to great hyperbolic works like Brazil. But overall I think we should take away more of an analytical approach to the concept of excess itself, especially given the times that we are living in at the moment.


See the rest of the images from the shoot via the gallery below and keep your eyes on HUNGER’s social media accounts later today for a special surprise. 

Dress / Brenda Kuoh // 3D-Print Accessories / Caroline Barrueco, Harriet Davey, Yifan Pu // 3D render / Harriet Davey
L: Dress / Princess of China Town // 3D-Print Accessories / Caroline Barrueco, Harriet Davey, Yifan Pu // R: Anti-facial Recognition Mask / Caroline Barrueco, Yifan Pu, Jutta Babak // 3D-Print Accessories / Caroline Barrueco, Harriet Davey, Yifan Pu
L: Dress / Brenda Kuoh // Gloves / Crystal’s own // R: Body / Crystal’s own
AR Facial Jewellery / Wes Viz // Anti-facial Recognition Mask / Caroline Barrueco, Yifan Pu, Jutta Babak // 3D-Print Accessories / Caroline Buerreco, Harriet Davey, Yifan Pu
Coat / Brenda Kuoh // Scarf / Archie Hicklin
Talent and MUACrystal (Drag Race UK)
Photography Dan Medhurst
Creative DirectorGeorge Oxby
Art Director, Digital Director and Set DesignAnastasia Niedinger
AnimationWes Viz
StylingGeorge Oxby
Hair and wig designSophie Yeff
MUA and hairChloe Rose
Support fromDigi-Gxl and Factory Berlin x Sonar+D Artist Residency