Long before Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat, and the popularity of terms like 'augmented reality,' Generation Y and older millennials had interactive platforms like Barbie, Gaia Online, and Angelfire. You would pick avatars resembling you—based on the most basic features—dress them, and engage with mystery users behind the screen. It was the original online happy place, and for many, marked the beginnings of ventures into the digital unknown. Now, the future of content creation comes full-circle with the digital fashion platform and magazine OKgrl.
Launched earlier this year, former POP magazine fashion editor Louby Mcloughlin teamed up with former Kenzo digital directors David Broner and Kim Boutin (now DVTK). The second edition of OKgrl features an ongoing collaboration with various creatives and forefront contemporary pop icons such as singer/songwriter Shamir; UK singer, artist, and photographer Hannah Diamond; artist and art director James Orlando; fashion designer Jeremy Scott; animators Reed + Rader; singer Liz Y2K; and more. OKgrl is a visually enticing platform that acts as interactive publication, new music source, VR shopping experience, and a creative outlet via mini-games that allow users to create their own content.
OKgrl gives you the option of seven characters and their individual narratives (two of which are still locked). Start a dance party with Shamir as he bounces around a Dance Dance Revolution-like inspired gridded dance floor, where every click produces a separate beat and verse. Clicking on every space possible and watching Shamir appear in various outfits, with a pop tune that you assembled, is strangely satisfying. The Jeremy Scott-styled "Hair Hotel" is an animated presentation of his AW16 collection featuring models donning surreal gargantuan hairstyles in bizarre motel rooms, shooting little green aliens, being photographed by giant cameras, and hanging out with Furby-like creatures.
In the James Orlando-designed and styled levels, you can resize and place the neon pink haired UK pop singer Milly Toomey, a.k.a., Girli in any environment you like—either game-generated or from your own photo. Using products in the sticker app developed by Hello Velocity, you can art direct a scene with objects such as Snapchat glasses, WowWee Chip Robot Toy Dogs, Wendell Castle Molar Couches, and more. Click on Cultura and get immersed in a stylish karaoke zone of the singer's first catchy single, "No Tengo Más." Instagram "It girl" Princess Gollum is your guide to Nicola Formichetti's fashion and lifestyle brand Nicopanda in a VR shopping level. By viewing on your laptop or through a Google Cardboard on your phone, you find yourself inside a 360-degree pop-up shop where everything is available to purchase from the comforts of wherever you are.
The Nicopanda level is an extension of James Orlando's Hyper.Zone project, a multi-level interactive platform in the format of a video game, where you can navigate various environments and purchase everything from designer clothes to contemporary art. Collaborating with a range of artists such as Sigrid Lauren, Brady Gunnell, Jeanette Hayes, Brooke Wise, Timo Seber, and more, the project is a way to amalgamate art, music, architecture, design, entertainment, and commerce, into one source where users from anywhere in the world can connect and share information. Similarly, OKgrl is a crossroads of art, fashion, design, content production, and above all, consumerism, all wrapped up in a culturally diverse, nostalgia-inducing, dreamy pop package.
As James Orlando tells Creators, "OKgrl is definitely for a younger millennial audience who is interested in more dynamic ways of experiencing content and shopping. We are interested in experimenting with consumer engagement and making content more fun to experience as trends imply reading less and a desire to interact more. Unfortunately journalistic integrity is becoming a thing of the past and memes are practically a source of news for today's youth culture. Interaction habits from Instagram and other social outlets have forced us to consume media at a much faster rate. I want to create digital experiences that invite the user to stop scrolling, actively engage and hopefully create their own content to take away and share."
Art no longer needs to be viewed or consumed in gallery spaces; it can now be navigated through virtually as seen in New Museum's Artist's VR exhibition app and the virtual gallery walls of Hyper.Zone. The question is, when does the line blur between fine art and commercial content? Will the screen eventually replace the viewership and appreciation of art with a strictly marketable purpose or will it become a mediator, allowing more access and freedom to creative sources?
James Orlando explains, "I wouldn't say that OKgrl is an art project, it's an experience for the music and the fans, pioneering its way as a digital publication of the future. Brands of course commission artists to make work and I depend on their support, but as long as I'm making experiences I believe in, that's art enough for me. Hyper.Zone is much more of a fine-art experience intentionally blurring lines between gaming experience and commercial showroom with its own world and narrative."
OKgrl plans to have an online launch party in 2017, so stay tuned and navigate through OKgrl's characters on their website here.