Language has always been an integral part of Aria Noir, the Toronto-based label known for its sumptuous fabrics, geometric patterns, and gold-embossed eyewear. After all, Canada is a bilingual country, and Aria Noir’s name was inspired by the grand solos sung at Italy’s famed La Scala. But according to the label’s spokesperson, Vivian Ramírez, words in any language can only go so far in their ability to tell a story.
“Because we are a fashion house, we ‘speak’ through our clothing and accessories,” Ramírez says. “Clothing can tell a story that words simply cannot. If a picture tells a thousand words, then touch must tell at least a million.”
Recently, Aria Noir released an ethereal music video featuring Russian and Ukrainian artists that became something of an international sensation (having pre-dated the war, the words were sung in Russian). The video was a somewhat ironic gesture, since Aria Noir’s brand ambassador has urged its customers to turn off their TV’s in order to explore the real world as much as possible. Indeed, Aria Noir has long separated itself from popular culture — fast fashion, in particular — which the same spokesman has dismissed as “McFashion.”
While music and lyrics are both interlaced in Aria Noir’s DNA, Ramírez notes that the geometries, textures, and even the scents of its clothes — largely crafted from single-source alpaca wool — add layers of complexity and reflexivity that words simply cannot describe. “How do you explain feeling luxurious, or self-confident?” she asks rhetorically. “When you wear art, you become part of it, and words no longer suffice.”
But Aria Noir is also known as a tech-forward brand that loves to surprise its youthful clientele. This year, the label decided to mint non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, of both its apparel and eyewear. Plans for virtual fashion shows, concerts, and other gatherings in the Metaverse are planned, with the NFTs providing clients access to this entirely new dimension of fashion.
“Do we know exactly where it is all going?” Ramírez says. “No, but uncertainty is no excuse to stop exploring and evolving.” After all, she adds, the Aria Noir was founded not on conformity, but on creativity and a healthy dose of fearlessness.
Digital assets did not even exist until several years ago, and only entered the mainstream in March of 2021, when a digital college of Beeple’s art auctioned for over $69 million. Since then, NFTs have had their ups and downs. Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has been forced to abandon a cryptocurrency and adapt its bold entry into alternate reality (AR) that began with its purchase of headset maker Oculus eight years ago, though the company says it remains committed to the Metaverse conceptually.
Ramírez says that the draw for Aria Noir is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create unique (i.e., non-fungible) fashion within an entirely new context. Earlier this year, the label’s spokesman described its virtual presence as a dance between its creative team and its clients. “When someone else acknowledges the beauty of something we put out there,” he said, “we will be inspired to explore that much further.”
For now, Aria Noir’s self-titled music video offers a hint at the stories that it intends to tell. The five-minute vignette is at once visceral and ethereal, with themes of power and longing contrasting with a whimsical ballet. The end of the video strikes a hopeful note — a child clutching a heart-shaped red balloon, which critics have interpreted as a nod to the German anti-nuclear war pop classic, “99 Luftballons.” Ramírez says that the video is not a statement on geopolitics, but rather a reflection of Aria Noir’s self-authenticating, intrinsic value. “When we run out of words, we grasp for other tools with which to tell our stories, whether those tools are images or video or music or even NFTs,” she observes. “Ultimately, however, the Aria Noir story begins by putting on a piece of our clothing or one of our frames, and letting them take you from there.”