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Credible, Sophisticated, Unexpected: The Fashion of Deus Ex

Posted by Valerie Bourdeau

The stylistic choices in Deus Ex were not (well, not only) based on the whims of the Art Director. They were educated speculation informed by a whole lot of research into contemporary advances in architecture, industrial design, urban planning and fashion. The art team aimed to create environments, props and characters that look and feel like they belong in a fully realized universe. Clothing is a small but omnipresent part of that work, as it allows us to show rather than tell all kinds of physical and symbolic information about the game world.

To contribute effectively to the immersive experience, the fashion first had to be credible. One of the strategies employed to make things in the game look real was to show evidence of how they were made. The clothes worn by every character look like they're made of realistic materials, with visible seams, zippers and closures, and signs of wear and tear. If you have some experience sewing, you should be able to see how each garment was constructed.

Instead of putting everyone in shiny jumpsuits and calling it futuristic, the artists took inspiration from real contemporary fashion designers like Andreia Chaves, Iris Van Herpen, Gareth Pugh and Issey Miyake. When we look at modern runway shows, the urge to snark is often irresistible. Who would want to wear that insane stuff? People of the future, of course! The purpose of avant-garde haute couture is to introduce new ideas about materials, textures, silhouettes, even the function served by clothing, so it's the perfect inspiration for street fashion in a realistic near-future universe. Using real-life references lends a credible, but also very sophisticated, look to our characters.

Sophistication is an important keyword in the artistic direction of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Fashion in games is often utilitarian armor, fantastic robes and wizard hats, or post-apocalyptic greys and khakis. Looking for something a little different, we brought in touches of refinement from the Renaissance period. By looking to the past, we created a future nobody expected. And it isn't just cool looking, it also makes sense thematically speaking. The main philosophical anchor of DXHR is transhumanism; the Renaissance, which was the birth of humanism, provides the perfect visual metaphor for the idea of humanity improving itself through science. We call it Cyber-Renaissance, a hardcore mix of futuristic high fashion with touches of the Renaissance esthetics.

Those touches are more or less present in the game depending on how close the settings or characters are to the pro-augmentation side of the debate. Compare Bill Taggart in his 60s suit and tie with David Sarif's sharp tailored vest, ascot and scrolled metal arm.

Purity First radicals wear really plain clothes, cargo pants, hoodies, things that would look right at home on the streets right now and therefore would be hopelessly old-fashioned in 2027. Look at Zeke Sanders brown hooded shirt with the rope... Doesn't he look a bit like a medieval monk?

At the other end of the scale, just look at the ladies: Zhao Yun Ru's Elizabethan collar, Eliza Cassan's fabulous outfits, Fedorova's corset-like armor or Megan's embroidered white coat...

All that baroque ornamentation is Cyber-Renaissance getting right up in your face.


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