Absolut’s debut Born to Mix project sees the collaborators create a spiky, expressive second skin that blurs the boundaries between IRL and URL

For decades, Absolut has collaborated with some of the biggest names in fashion – from Tom Ford, to Versace, to Gareth Pugh – alongside world-famous musicians and filmmakers such as Spike Jonze, and an impressive mix of artistic talents, including Andy Warhol and Louise Bourgeois. Today, the vodka brand continues to team up with a new vanguard of fashion talent, bringing the London-based knitwear designer Chet Lo together with drag icon (and Drag Race UK season two finalist) Tayce, and the duo behind the Institute of Digital Fashion (IoDF).

“The marriage between all collaborators in this project is so fulfilling,” Lo says of their debut creation as a collective. “We had so much fun creating together. Fun is an important part of my brand ethos, so it felt natural working with Absolut.”

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The project marks the first instalment of Absolut’s new series of collaborations, #BornToMix, which aims to foster creativity, challenge preconceptions, and pave the way for a more inclusive future, where what you wear isn’t tied down by seasonal trends, functionality, gender stereotypes, or religious expression. Accordingly, their works explore the future of the fashion industry, mixing physical and virtual designs to reflect the increasingly blurred lines between IRL and URL modes of self-expression.

“We want everyone to be able to show their true selves in whatever way they want,” says Tayce. “That’s why we’ve mixed things up this year with Absolut Vodka (delish!) to help design the new Second Skin Couture, hand knitted by Chet Lo himself.”

At the centre of the project is a garment that incorporates the Fashion East designer’s signature skin-like fabric, to symbolise how the next generation of designers are breaking the boundaries between the wearer’s inner truth and outward expression. Spiny textures also evoke the durian fruit in a nod to Lo’s Asian-American heritage, mixed with the boundary-breaking vision of Tayce: “I want cannibal, I want goddess, I want alien, I want… sexy lettuce.”

“Drawing from my own personal experience around identity, race, culture, and heritage,” Lo says, “I wanted this project to portray the inclusivity around my work, and create a beautiful piece.” Hand-knitted by Lo and modelled by Tayce, the physical dress will be showcased via an in-person Absolut catwalk at London’s Boxpark Shoreditch on May 11 (follow @AbsolutUK and sign up for a chance to win tickets here).

If you’re not going to make it to the catwalk debut in May, then not to worry. You can also take a closer look in the metaverse – that’s where the IoDF comes in. To coincide with the physical launch, the future-facing collective will showcase an elaborated version of the dress via its metacloset, moving beyond physical constraints and allowing fans to experience wearing a one-off garment themselves through a digital filter, shared across social media platforms.

“The future of fashion is virtual,” says Leanne-Elliot Young of the IoDF, adding that the metaverse opens up opportunities to democratise and diversify the fashion industry as a whole. Taking full advantage of these opportunities, however, requires “the IRL and URL working together in unison”.

“The #BornToMix project with Absolut is just that,” adds the institute’s Catty Tay. “Redefining fashion in both the physical and digital, a collaborative mix up! As voices of the metaverse and innovators in this digital arena, it was major working with the icons Tayce and Chet Lo to translate their visions into a digital experience.”

Obviously, the Second Skin Couture piece builds on the spiky, experimental aesthetic that Lo developed at Central Saint Martins, which has since caught the eye of celebs including Doja Cat, SZA, Michaela Coel, Bimini Bon Boulash, Willow Smith, and Kylie Jenner. However, Lo, Tayce, and the IoDF all pitched in for the design process, and the collaborative nature of the project yielded some surprises. Watch the designs evolve in the exclusive, Ben Cole-directed video above.

Keep an eye on Dazed and Absolut’s social channels (@AbsolutUK) for the chance to experience the digital edition of the Chet Lo dress worn by Tayce, and brought to you by the IoDF. Visit Absolut’s website for more information on its ongoing #BornToMix programme.