By recycling visuals from 90s websites, Rajeev Basu brings second-hand clothing to digital fashion
The artist and freelance creative director defines the Second Hand Internet project as “tomorrow’s fashion made with yesterday’s internet”.
- 23 May 2023
- Olivia Hingley
Digital fashion has fast become one of the hottest disciplines in the online sphere, with whole capsules, collections and lines of futuristic clothes being created and sometimes even “worn” in real life. But one area that that newly formed online medium had failed to explore was the potential of second-hand clothing, according to artist and creative director Rajeev Basu.
Seeing as you can’t quite literally recycle and reuse any virtual clothing item, Rajeev thought of ways the concept could be emulated in a digital form. Leading from the tendency for fashion brands to “wade through their archives to rustle up inspiration for new collections”, Rajeev decided to scour his way through old and now defunct websites, harvesting their unique visual aspect. Through such an approach, Rajeev’s overall aim was to bring a sense of “warmth, nostalgia, and reuse” to digital fashion.
For Rajeev, the project also highlights just how “homogenous” the internet has become – a digital space once filled with unique visual signifiers and humour. “It pays tribute to a time when the internet was just getting started,” he says. “When it was more personal and weird; when everyone had their own Gif-covered ‘under construction’ corner of the internet.”
Rajeev is no stranger to abstract, experimental and absurd projects. In fact, he describes himself as an “advocate of idiocy”. In 2013, we first met the designer after he created a game where you punched yourself to stay awake, and in 2020 we covered his collection of “high-fashion helmets” for sleepy dogs. Meanwhile, Rajeev has also worked at Wieden+Kennedy, Spotify and most recently at Maximum Effort as Creative Director of Wrexham AFC – the recently English Football League promoted team owned by Ryan Renolds and Rob McElhenney. He also wrote and directed a film about a Wrexham AFC Cookbook, which alone features 20 ways to make Welsh rarebit.
To uncover the visuals for this project, Rajeev spent a long time scouring the archive records of the internet, looking for visuals that could become “materials” for digital fabrics. “I went through digital torrents that have preserved thousands of (now deleted) sites from the 90s,” Rajeev details, “finding sites that still exist but have remained untouched for over 30 years.” Rajeev utilised a whole host of visual aspects and then transformed them – web design graphics, background image titles, horizontal rules, buttons and animation Gifs, for example. He used Clo3d to create the garments, and Cinema 4D and Redshirt to add textures and render, all the while trying to preserve the “lo-fi ‘aliased look’ we associate with the 90s internet”, the artist adds.
The collection has the feeling of a collection you’d likely see in typical trendy digital fashion capsules, and even those in real life (not going to lie, we wish a few of these pieces could be brought to life). But look a little closer and immerse yourself in the finer details and you’ll see just how the internet has seeped its way in. There’s a trench coat made from an animated Gif explosion, a jersey featuring a pop-up scam, and a novelty ‘bleeding’ “Click Here” button emblazoned polo shirt.
But for Rajeev, the stand out piece in the collection is a pair of sunglasses named Internet Explorer. Featuring the flashing words ‘HERE!’ on each lens, Rajeev says that they “reframe early internet artefacts like web buttons, horizontal rules and scam ads from the 90s into a modern design object”. Moreover, with a neon yellow colour palette, bright pink strap and purple text, the glasses are certainly ones that would get a second look on the street. “In a way the materials unashamedly embrace their original intention – which is to get attention,” Rajeev says.
GalleryRajeev Basu: Second Hand Internet (Copyright © Rajeev Basu, 2023)
Rajeev Basu: Second Hand Internet (Copyright © Rajeev Basu, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.