Originally spotted by Kotaku, New School student Kara Quinteros’ fashion line Start a New Thread pulls common phrases and acronyms off of 4chan and constructs them for the real world.
Some of the designs — especially a transparent “normie” purse and plastic “anon” visor — look pretty wearable. The clothes are made exclusively from synthetic materials, and they all incorporate common 4chan and general forum lingo that would likely make no sense at all to someone who doesn’t spend the bulk of their day online.
4chan, of course, has a reputation as a haven for trolls whose strategy for making themselves heard offline has become increasingly adept over the last few years — resulting in some truly horrifying real-life consequences. But Quinteros told The Verge that she spends time mostly on 4chan’s anime and flash animation boards, and isn’t as interested in politics. From a “w2c” necklace to a dress covered in internet-specific hostilities like “KYS,” the line devotes as much time to the harmless as the sinister. Sort of like the internet!
To understand why Quinteros wanted to bring 4chan into the real world in the form of fashion, I chatted with her briefly about the inspiration, intent, and impact of Start a New Thread.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
Do you use 4chan? What's your impression of it as a social platform?
I usually browse /a/ and /f/. [Boards that cater to anime fans and old-school Adobe Flash hobbyists.] Although I don't currently watch a lot of anime I still like it, and I love old flash animations. In terms of a social platform, I think, because of what it is, it has the potential to make incredible societal change (though what kind of change remains to be seen). A good portion of the users on there are incredibly smart and talented, and as has been previously shown, they definitely have the power to do something big!
Would you call your fashion line politically charged? What do you hope it communicates about life online?
I wouldn't say that it's politically charged, but I will say that I do want to make a statement about anonymity (one of, if not the prime feature of 4chan). Anonymity is something that until recently ("recently" in the grand scheme of humanity) wasn't entirely possible. Because of the internet, though, it is something that is being harnessed to do and say things that in real life wouldn't be possible without some sort of personal backlash.
The idea that you can be your true self, speak your own thoughts, and yet at the same time not be you is an amazing concept. I was thinking about this when I was starting to seriously consider designing this (as initially it was a joke between my boyfriend and I), and ultimately decided to do it, as clothing embodies parts of a person that we cannot see from their solely human appearance. I figured it would be a great medium to convey this concept of anonymity.
The most striking thing to me about these clothes is how well they embody the look of 4chan and the seedier parts of the internet, while also being sleek. How did you land on the aesthetic — did you play with any other versions?
The look itself I tried to keep very minimal. I noted a few things when I was originally planning this: only synthetic materials, minimal silhouette elements (due to 4chan's very simple layout), and materials which cover but also don't cover at the same time (ex. transparent vinyl). I wanted to create a look like something an android or robot would wear, perhaps various uniforms for "anons.”
How do you feel about women wearing words taken from a place that's notorious for horrible dudes? Is there a statement there?
Honestly the initial idea of it being all womenswear comes from something I see on 4chan a lot — mainly on /a/ — the saying that all anons are actually little girls. Obviously they're not, but I thought it would be interesting to have it mainly be womenswear, where the actual identity of the woman is mostly obscured (ex. the ANON visors). As to whether there's a statement there, I would say to an extent, yes.
The type of language that's used on 4chan is slowly making its way into the mainstream, and putting it on the outside of someone rather than in their brains elicits the question of whether it's okay to use that type of language when you're in reality. I also think that it points to the fact that really anyone could be writing these things, not just a specific group or type of person. No one knows what really goes on in your head until you say it, and if you post it anonymously, you don’t have to worry about the consequences of doing that.
Are you worried at all that people will interpret this as a glorification of a pretty icky online culture? What do you want viewers to take from it?
I don't think it's glorification as much as it is recognition that it exists. Personally, I haven't seen anyone acknowledge 4chan as an entity in real life other than in passing, which is insane to me considering the impact it has on our reality. I think it needs to be recognized that this type of culture and mentality is very real, and is slowly becoming more of an influence on the real world.
You can read more about Quinteros’ work and see more designs from Start a New Thread on her website.