25 Sep 2022 By May Ng

Backstage, Atmosphere, Finale photos of SS23 SPORTMAX FASHION SHOW


Which of these two shapes is “bouba” and which one is “kiki”? The Sportmax Spring/Summer 2023 collection unfurls to the sound of Bouba and Kiki, two words that have no real meaning but represent complementary forces. This duality of elements at play is an exercise in rescuing a long-lost sense of innocence; a declaration of freedom from oppressive ideas, conformity, and monolithic truths. Do shapes have a sound?

Bouba/Kiki effect is the result of a study that investigates the relationship between speech sounds and visual shapes and objects. First documented in 1929 by German psychologist Wolfgang Köhler, the first experiments were conducted on the island of Tenerife where participants were asked to identify which abstract shapes were called “takete” and which were called “baluba.”

The latter was commonly associated with rounded edges, the former was associated with spikier ones. In 2001, Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard repeated Köhler’s experiment, asking American college undergraduates and Tamil speakers in India to identify which shapes were “bouba” and which ones were “kiki”. In both groups, most people selected the curvy shape as “bouba” and the jagged one as “kiki”, supporting the original thesis that the human brain indeed attaches abstract meanings to shapes. Other studies would follow, investigating the relationship between shapes and senses like taste, as well as how the brain perceives human appearances.

Based on synesthesia, an instinctual, free-associative response to sensorial stimuli through shapes, colors, textures, movements, and sounds, Sportmax constructs its own experiment in the form of an alchemical collage of elements that discover their own balance whilst transcending the confines of any logical explanation. Instinctively, silhouettes, colors, textures, movements, and the sounds of daily life are interpreted through a mature lens yet filtered through the innocence of a child’s eyes and zest for wonderment. Bouba and Kiki is an invitation to embrace dualisms, mixing the alien with the familiar. It’s a fashion-driven celebration of brazen creativity and the concept of CAMP, an aesthetic style and sensibility based on excess, irony and disruption of social norms. The geometric and organic, the natural and artificial and the ultra-casual and extravagant are the dueling contrasts at constant play. Minimal looks are also born from this contrast and turned into a second skin. Patterns that cloak the body with a hypnotic and luminescent energy, alternate with the heightened volumes of techno-couture skirts, matched with ultra-cropped tops. Streetwear materializes, reinterpreted ironically under the guise of evening wear, with “longer-than-life” sleeves and hems mimicking the sweeping trains of the 21st century red carpet. A vivid palette alternates between acid tones, pastels, deep colors, and touches of optical white and pure black are interspersed throughout. Prints underscore the theme of sensorial stimulation through psychedelic motifs and tactile padding-effect textures.

Accessories are dominated by footwear such as moulded, second-skin boots and anti-stress pneumatic bags. The shapes, inspired by different eras, are disassembled and reassembled, polarizing the dresscodes of the past. A-lines, narrow shoulders, low waists and the large flare silhouettes of the 1950s are positioned alongside the futuristic space age styles of the 60s and counterculture looks of the 90s, which was made up of cyberpunk suggestions that emerged from the technomusic and the clandestine rave scenes.

The collection thus transforms into an incessant experimentation, one that oscillates between the Sugarpunk, Psycho-chic and Techno-couture universes. These influences intermingle in an affirmation of otherness, resistant to conformism, whilst on a continuous quest for the extreme.The soundtrack for the Spring Summer 2023 collection was composed by Teho Teardo.