“My dream fashion show is on a fucking different planet, and these are my characters.” Willie Norris
Designed in Brooklyn, NYC, Outlier is mostly clothing, menswear but also bags, accessories and anything else you wish to experiment with. Guided by the otherworldly design direction of Willie Norris, this Fall 2023, Outlier lands again on planet Fashion with the fifth installment of the IDEAS series, a sequence of collections created by Willie and launched in Fall 2020.
The IDEAS series explores the overlap of hyper-utility and hyper-fantasy, the link between faraway universes and universal necessities. IDEAS 5 named“PROOF” finds Willie’s innate playfulness paired with Outlier’s utility-minded fabrications and legacy of functionality which create a visual and visceral tension best described as “alien electricity." Rather than operating strictly as a seasonal product offering, each IDEAS iteration is a container for the incubation and visual documentation of exploration, a tenet that the title of the collection, “PROOF,” nods to.
To visually enhance the alien electricity behind IDEAS 5 is Zak Krevitt, an artist and collaborator of Willie who explores the realms of expansive identity with the prodigy of photography, AI, and coding. We caught up with the artist for a couple of questions that shines a light on the infinite possibilities of co-creation between AI and Fashion inside IDEAS.
Can you tell us about your background as an artist and how you became such a prestige with AI?
I have been an artist all my life. I started mostly as a photographer by making photographs of my friends at events just being themselves and being unique. From there I moved into fashion and fine art. Then, I did a lot of photojournalism work. I worked with the likes of New York Times, Vice and Wired and a bunch of other publications. I enjoyed the opportunities that brought me. But I still just didn't love executing other people's ideas in a lot of ways.
So, I decided to focus more on fine art in that kind of path. I've just always been someone who is very much excited about technology, who's interested in technology. From a young age, I was very much on computers, and how I got into AI is actually because a lot of my photography work centered around large groups of people. It was conventions, it was meetups, it was nightlife. And when COVID happened, all that got really interrupted. Therefore, for almost a couple of years, I wasn't making artwork and I was just like, super stuck. Then, when I finally got my hands on AI, it was like a huge unlock. All of a sudden, all my creative ideas could just flow out of me really fast and I was making art again. From there, I got deeper and deeper into AI.
How did AI co-creation came to life in the development of IDEAS 5?
I wanted to get out of some of the standard tools that were being given and get into a lot more custom work. And that's how I found myself in stable diffusion into creating custom models. And Willie is a friend of mine from Brooklyn, and there was a period where I was asking my friends in fashion…I was like: 'hey, there's a huge opportunity here for a whole new world to emerge out of your work, creating new work together. Let's do something.' And so many designers were just like, no, I don't want any part of this.
But Willie is someone who embraces the bizarre and the interesting and the complex, and she's just like, yeah, let's do it! The way that me and Willie co-created was a lot of just back and forth around talking about our interests. Willie is a big Sci-Fi fan and had a few different authors that were just dealing with subjects she really liked, and I asked about the books she had been describing and about the creatures in the books. Because in the books, there's a whole race of alien creatures, I found out descriptions of those aliens and for me, that was really an exciting point because I was already exploring the ability of AI to deal with this concept of expansive identity in my own artwork. I deal a lot with this concept of expansive identity. Using AI was a way for me to explore my representation as a human, my representation as a gendered person or not so gendered person. So aliens kind of became the stand in for me that was, like, existing outside of the kind of binary that we exist here on Earth.
IDEAS 5 began with the images from IDEAS 4 — “NEW MATH,” a set of runway looks you transformed with. Could you tell us a little bit about the AI's BTS process?
Willie and Outlier held their shoot, their campaign shoot for IDEAS 4. Then I was able to run those images through my software, so I was able to kind to process the images. Then, I created the images and I turned the models into aliens. The next season, Willie took those drawings of aliens and used that as the basis of a character to create prosthetics for IDEAS 5.
In other words, using two aliens from my renderings as a starting point, Willie designed a cast of creature groups for IDEAS 5 using handmade masks, makeup and foam latex prosthetic elements masterfully applied by three different SFX artists, to build them.
The result was a virtual show set in a place lovingly dubbed “WILLIE WORLD”: the realm of a runway cast with AI-generated aliens who delivered new DNA to the Outlier lore. For IDEAS 5, Willie extruded the digital alien cast of WILLIE WORLD and dressed them for a runway in the physical world.
What was your overall outtake on the project and what from IDEAS 5 collection is already in your dream wardrobe?
The overall project for me was honestly it's honestly one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of. I've been a part of a lot of projects, but I've never seen my creation brought to life in this way. I've never seen a character that I designed, literally brought to life and created into a living, breathing thing. So that already, for me, was just so outstanding. And then the clothing I am obsessed with. I really love a lot of the pieces. I love the distressing. I love the acid washing. I love how Willie plays with text and continues to grab and subvert text that's in the world and use that to really accelerate points she's trying to make. I want the whole collection in my wardrobe.
I just love that a brand like Outlier is working with someone as bold as Willie to create these kinds of looks, because I think that as a culture, we need shaking up a little bit. We need being put out of our comfort zone. And I think Willie does a really amazing job of creating pieces that can fit into a lot of different types of wardrobes. And as we saw in the styling, can become totally unique and avantgarde, or they can be kind of dressed down and brought into, like, a beautiful, simple staple. I think the diversity of the clothing itself is just so incredible, and I love seeing it on my little alien friends.