Kill Your Boss and Look Good Doing It.

March 29, 2024

Photo by Thomas Cruz 

Opening the Void

The final boss approaches our heroes. Blood orange and smog coated clouds pollute the atmosphere as war brews inside the dystopian planet Lorem Ipsum.

This world presents itself as Austin, Texas’ emo cousin. Opposite the city’s sunny, optimistic growing metropolis, against the grain mindsets occupy this realm.

Crammed inside the 35th floor of the illustrious Block 185, the tallest office building in Austin, stand our heroes, Player One and Two, dressed to kill. Their villain, a corporate boss surrounded by business-attired zombies, stands across rows of cubicles.

Player One charges through the guard of corporate warriors, launches himself onto the cubicle where his opponent resides and swings his bag across the boss’s cheek, causing the sharp leather edge to lacerate his skin. His vigilante partner delivers a series of jabs to the boss’s henchmen, piercing them with his ring, which holds the essential ‘control’ key that adorns each of their computers. Once marked by clean cut steel edges, his ring now carries the blood of the capitalist’s sins.

With his guards annihilated, the boss falls vulnerable to the heroes. To finish him off, Player Two strips the fang-stitched incision tie from his neck, latches it to the boss’s neck and squeezes hard until he steals his opponent’s last breath.

The two have caught their prey and can now feast on their dinner.

The virtual void leading to planet Lorem Ipsum opened on January 31, 2023 at 7 p.m. Founded by the Orwellian minds of Alex Cao and Caleb Zhang, the fashion brand Lorem Ipsum reimagines fashion as a mechanism for storytelling through high quality, dystopian accessories. The first canvas, titled Corporate Cannibal, results from a fear of subjection to 9 to 5s.

The Cult Leaders

Then-freshmen Alex Cao (23) and Caleb Zhang (22) joined Spark Magazine, the leading fashion publication at the University of Texas at Austin, in an effort to gravitate towards like-minded individuals while fostering creative growth.

“Spark is built around telling stories, which is something that we wish we saw more of in luxury fashion,” Zhang said. “That storytelling element was missing. So, I wanted to bring that back in and use that with accessories.”

Working as stylists, the pair bonded over their similar fashion tastes, shared origin of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and their shared business majors. Cao’s style choices — clanking platform boots and dark clouds of black clothing — influenced his younger counterpart.

Their identities dissociate through the contrast between Cao’s intimidating presence, reinforced by his emotionless dark void of a face, and Zhang’s existence as a sanguine reincarnation of his senior.

As 2021 came to a close, Zhang phoned his friend with a nebulous business proposal. Blindly agreeing to meet for coffee, the two refined their idea.

The name came first: Lorem Ipsum. Though the Latin words lack a translation, the protagonists define the phrase by starting each collection on its own blank slate.

Photo by Thomas Cruz

Each collection makes a political statement, and attests to the beliefs of its creators. Both graduates descend from immigrant parents who expected them to pursue careers in the corporate world, thus inspiring Corporate Cannibal.

“We looked at our lives, and thought about the most poignant things that we were dealing with,” Cao said. “It was growing up, having to face a job and the prospect of us maybe not being able to do anything creative soon.”

Cao said the possibility of entering a career field shaped by corporate gossip, claustrophobic cubicles and indoctrination terrified him. To convey such feelings, he and his partner personify corporate America as a villain.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Some Wear Handbags

“Fashion functions as a mirror to our times, so it is inherently political,” Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, told Vogue.

Now more than ever, designers unify politics and their creations as one.

The UT seniors resuscitate Austin’s fashion scene from the fast fashion and trendy clothes they charge with murdering it.

“You're dressing up to fulfill this internet aesthetic rather than being yourself,” Cao said. Mirroring the action of fusing fashion and politics drives their delivery of high-quality pieces.

“I think we wanted to make something that was very narrative, and narratively different every season and very unique, so it didn't fit into anything. It has its own standalone story and does its own thing,” he said.

The Corporate Cannibal collection plays on the zombification of humans caused by corporate culture. Mystifying corporate America as a controlling machine fueled by greed, the pair turn everyday objects into accessories.

Photo via Lorem Ipsum

Meticulously crafted in the shape of a bow tie, the Vice Bag reflects the sharpness of the architecture featured on office buildings. Its tough black leather skin contrasts its soft suede flesh marked by its blood red color. The designers find it “a beguiling companion for all occasions: climbing the ladder, pursuing vendettas, or dining with the boss.

The Control Ring repositions power taken by corporations into the hands of its beholder. Its stainless steel provides a perfect base for the cap modeled after a computer’s control key.

Photo by Thomas Cruz

The Cavity Tie puts an anarchist twist on a traditional black tie. Its silver zipper resembles “teeth as vicious as the corporate world.” Again, the tie’s strong features of leather, teeth and snap closure redistribute power to its wearer. Its sister piece, the Incision Tie has fangs stitched onto it.

The World of Lorem Ipsum

Another opponent approaches our heroes, and he arms himself in fashion repellent.

Founding a brand in a city where fashion tarnishes comes with the need to wage battles against the evil of non-fashion. As this metropolis cosplays as Silicon Valley, the alumni’s enemy army approaches one million soldiers. Their only allies consist of the trendy inhabitants of South Congress, UT students, and the eight professors that make up UT’s textiles department.

Lorem Ipsum lies in an extraterrestrial realm.

Both creatives look to Junya Watanabe and Rick Owens as style icons. Watanabe’s clothing meets at the intersection of Edward Scissorhands and Harajuku. The Japanese designer’s patchwork and dramatic draping techniques expand avant-garde.

Rick Owens notoriously blurs gender lines through experimental punk styles. As “The Lord of Darkness”’ he confines styles to a pitch-black palette. Crafting clothing as armor, he marks his designs with structured shoulders and satanic pentagrams. Most known for his shoes, Owens endows power to the wearer through thick platforms that make their presence undeniable.

“If you look at their clothing, it does not look like it's from Earth,” Cao said. “It looks like either an alien is wearing it or some fucking sci-fi spaceman is wearing it.”

Under this inspiration, they decided to craft a world of their own. Lorem Ipsum lives as a dystopian orb inhabited by anarchists.

Caleb Zhang calls the brand “a season of Black Mirror where every episode is its own collection.”

The Void Continues

Both players wipe their mouths after finishing their plates. Only their lifeless boss remains, once vibrantly vile, but now stripped to a lifeless pile of flesh and bones.

Fashions continue diversifying on their home planet, but Austin’s facade of L.A. soon expires. If the next generation of UT students lack the drive to amplify the fashion competition here, Cao and Zhang’s work lies in vain. Changing the culture of a city takes decades, but ingraining the importance of a polished look forms the first step.

For now, the graduates desperately wait to grasp the holy grail of their college careers: their two Bachelor’s degrees, both earning awards in business administration and arts. After reminiscing on their glory years full of reckless ragers, immense stress from exams and leaving their imprint on Spark, their lifetime remains. Having no set post-graduation plans, the two advance one day at a time.

“The future's the future, you can't really predict it,” said Cao.

While the battle halts for now, their next opponent, who curses heat upon the world, approaches soon. ■

Models: Tasmuna Omar & Christine Nguyen
HMUA: Floriana Hool

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