Those who grew up in the later part of the 20th century had astounding films related to science Fiction and or fantasy which allowed them to dream about the future, including how its people dressed and what this new fashion reflected about human psychological progress. What do you think clothing and its evolution tell us about our desires as a species?
We want to believe that humanity’s greatest desires are to have enough to survive, to be able to afford to raise a family, to be loved and have a decent life, as to continue and laugh and grow old, that people don’t strive for excess, nor pure greed, such being things that lead to division and war. I have to believe that humanity, or most people, do dream or hope for and work towards a better world, a more understanding world that’s filled with peace, love, and respect for others – so we may have a future. This being said, what we appear to see is the opposite for the moment.
Be it led by divisive control systems or even social circles, the majority want to fit in without standing apart. Not many have confidence enough to shine a light within their surroundings as this brings attention which not all can cope with. This fitting in gives people comfort, a support that they’re with their people. This is seen all over with every sub genre around the world, it has always been from tribes of old developing a distinct look so to stand distinctive and recognizable.
As a designer, I see that the majority need to be a part of one or a few of these sub groups for comfort or rebellion. This effects the outwardly visual. Technology and peer pressure now have of course effected garment construction, materials… from so called sporty intelligent fabrics which arose through the popularity of associating with sport as if all were athletes, but really this is dealing with the body and form and a true need to allow for protection and comfort for the individual; to now recycling fibers and the natural organic movement so we may protect our world. Then the randoms that are brave enough to believe that the world can survive and move forward and be reimagined. This gives hope, this makes us dream, this allows us to pull away from what is being pumped at us to manipulate and scare us into submission.
You have just completed a remarkable presentation of both physical and digital pieces for London fashion week. Please tell us about this collection, and the production processes behind a project implementing mixed realities.
Wow, something I have been dreaming about for so long, I guess from way before it was even possible. I mean, when computers arrived this was the dream right? The movies showed us these as kids, you enter a virtual world, you act and do as you dream, you create your perfect partner and there is no one there to restrict you.
When I finally found the right team to help me achieve this I was ecstatic, as much as I have embraced digital photography + film manipulations, creating the 3D rendering of ideas is still new to me, as such it’s both difficult to explain a vision, and without experience with the software difficult to design for it as I don’t know what is possible, but this I’m quickly learning. Design happens in the doing. I was offered the opportunity to create this collection which would be shown at fashion week in an exhibition arranged by AVATA and Mad Global on the East London W1 Curates wrap around screens venue.
I was introduced to the amazing Marina Gryzdova, a 3D fashion designer and creator who had to interpret my designs and digitize them. As it was difficult to explain both my signature and vision, I chose to breakdown and re-pattern cut my pieces physically into panels, this would keep my approach pure and allow for the team to visualize how they were made. From there, we played with exaggerated proportions which are not possible in the physical due to weight of material. I didn’t want to go too far away from my signature which is pure and recognizable. With Jenn Leung, a visual artist director and animator, we brought the designs to life. This was in a way a little more intuitive to me, as an environment I could imagine, which Jenn would create and redesign and customize, a future world not too far in our future I hope.
The Warriors meets Blade Runner just made sense, in a way going back to the tribes idea from earlier, but really I wanted my avatars – my tribe – to be purely individual but fully embracing my world and the beauty within it. Gender is something I rarely consider, these garments are for everyone, you could say the avatars are a reflection of me as they’re hairless, yet this is more to do with beauty, the speed of rendering, playback based on where technology is at at moment, but also I worked in the hair world a lot as a stylist in the early days and I know unless hair is perfect that it does not explain the look fully which is still difficult with current technology.
My pure favorite thing was the way we were able to embed my visual art NFT into the skin as a form of tattoo which I love. It tells a story but really it brought out so much individuality and fought further with societies constant manipulation and segregation of humans based on color. So working closely with Jenn we made this possible bringing to life the outfits on our avatars and making them act irrational in a way. I wanted them to run a lot as in fashion shows no-one runs, but in real life people do, and it looks visually great. I even wanted to recreate the famous Naomi moment for the Westwood show where she fell in the incredibly high shoes, but we ran out of time.
The show will be of an evolving project where digital clothes are meant to last eternally (on servers first), and they will be ever evolving allowing for endless recreation by me, be these as avatar skins first then real world digital wearables second, new technologies permitting.
You hold an affinity for vintage Italian automobile design, but your wearable sculptures if placed in an artistic continuum also reflect Chamberlains beautifully contorted master works, or also converse with the Muglerian, Kawakubo, Rabanne and Chalayan senses of aesthetic rule breaking. A knowledge of not only symmetry and its opposite is required but intuitions about human form. From your private thoughts as a de- signer, what do you prioritize? Can elaboration comfortably coexist with wearability? What are the rules?
I think the balance I strive for needs to feel right to my mind, this can happen instantly, or after days of endless adjustments. I have a revolving platform in my atelier where I look from every angle, from even an instant glance balance must exist to me, my mind flips endlessly throughout the day from the need for pure symmetry to asymmetry. They say the brain is divided into sections, I must flip constantly. I find it very interesting as some of my peers only allow for one of the other.
Ironically, when I’m happy with a piece I then want it to be put on its head, worn differently to its intended, even upside down and still work, and have a life as part of something or as an individual piece. Often I redress my mannequins regularly in the atelier to re-see new things, often turning things inside out or upside down or simply throwing over existing garments to achieve an almost algorithmic/anomalous beauty to my work. I encourage my collectors to do the same and explore.
Going back to inspiration the work of the greats has inspired me. They were the dreamers that came before, the fearless, the ones that saw least restriction, were in an emptier world, but really the thinking of early Margiela I would like to say is nearest to my philosophy of taking something and re-imagining it, not necessarily the finished silhouette. Also, if I were a bigger brand I think the ever changing collections of early Mugler would also be more me. In my play days before I became a brand, I would experiment more with idea, just feelings that came and inspired collections, collections that could not be recognizable to me now, collections that now others have materialized. I believe as designers we tap into a consciousness, a feeling that when you touch it it shows you what is coming, in a way predicting the future. As a child I would draw cars endlessly and now cars look like that, one day when I have a full team I will delve into my early sketchbooks.
I think for now as I strive to be as pure to myself as a brand I’m able to re-evolve a silhouette that’s instantly recognizable, to drawn out the endless imitators. As for comfort, my cloths are surprisingly comfortable, this is if you’re okay with standing out in a crowed and being stared at.
Many creatives have a dialectical love/hate relationship with social media. Now a demand for participation with public’s through numerous channels are expected (from Meta, to discord, to Twitter, to TikTok etc). There are now so many social media spheres that one requires teams, or bots, to update new content everywhere, or to answer fans: a model that is unsupportable. Not only this, but there are also the algorithm-wars were all people (but especially creative types) are judged based on subjective popularity metrics that don’t reflect quality, levels of mastery nor anything unrelated to money. In your view, what would an ideal social media climate resemble, and how do you address these shifting conditions of technological demand?
I cannot help it, I will admit I am engulfed and controlled by social media. With soo soo much I want to express, and my endless creation, I strive for a way to show it. I keep thinking if anything were to happen to me would my family really find a way to extract my endless files form my hard drives and find a way to show them to the world? Or would all that passion simply be lost due to the bias algorithms that control our lives?
My work is out there to inspire and hopefully push culture and allow people to dream, not just as a, “look at me, I’m the greatest bull…”. I’m always searching and craving for a platform that will allow this without manipulation. If I have followers I assume they want to see what I’m creating, then simply put, they should be able to. I have great hope for web 3. I like to think that platforms there will achieve this and not just succumb the a pure greed manipulation god complex.
Also bearing in mind, I create in many mediums, I design physical clothes, I do fashion photography, moving image, digital garments, all these need to live in one. I have the need to and want and love to communicate with my loved ones and incredible friends around the world. This of course doesn’t need to be on one platform, but it does need to allow for freedom of expression within moderation. Not all algorithms show us what we want to see.
Your designs have adorned the most lauded female musical talents of our age, and by consequence have made a shift in our collective mind’s idea about futurism as today. Do you feel we are living in the future that Hollywood and pulp fictions of yesterday dreamed we would? One thing that was certainly not considered in many of their forecasts were the remaining prevalence of tradition, be this sartorially or in cultural expectation. What does the future look like for you? And in response, what would its future resemble?
Thank you. I didn’t start with that in mind but achieving this has lifted confidence in my work, this acceptance to some degree we all need, it’s near impossible to create and fight restriction endlessly without any likes. The world is just too big and complex and diverse for that now. Also, I would like to believe that I’ve added to the world as a whole to the collective culture by showing that one can dream, this also seemed to be the easiest way to touch the most people. I’m still in disbelief really, I turn down projects in the music world.
I’m super proud to have created with many of the female vocalists I looked up to the most throughout my life, they being people brave enough to speak there minds. brilliant brilliant minds. Shirley Manson, Skin and Peaches….so much love for them. I like to dream, I think films like Blade Runner show us what is coming, the good and the bad, I think my clothes may even skip that to a world where garments are more like digital skin then traditional wearing, maybe that’s what my signature is. But perhaps if society realizes that nature and love are most important a simplification, a harmony, will arrive after most we have created is destroyed. I’m not sure how to put this into words, but I think my designs show answers to this question. As soon as my 3D modeling skills improve I’m intending to design vehicles of sorts exploring my early automotive design obsessions… perhaps also into digital architecture. Maybe this will explain my vision of tomorrow.
With the digital art takeover of late, artistic expression has been unleashed in a way that hasn’t been seen since the 1980s in America. The avant-garde side of experimentalism shared across social media is then reappropriated by the mainstream and exploited even though it (the mainstream) does little to aid in the processes of artistic struggles that inspire the best novel ideas. What are your views on this cultural process? Is it healthy?
Any time anyone feels strong enough to create beautiful art is a good moment. It is wonderful that so many are doing that again even if lately for the wrong reasons… as we know so much lately (art) (Nft art) is designed solely for financial gain. As much as we all need to eat that’s not my driving force. Yes, I too have to fight to survive and try to make rent endlessly which is something most go through and can hamper creation but we must go on.
Perhaps putting my archives on the blockchain will mean others can re-discover it over time. As to this moments health. I don’t know, we should be spending more time with our loved ones then on this hamster wheel. Maybe when I grow my team interns will have greater financial success and less survival stress. Maybe then health will be considered, but the idea that more are creating I love. As many have said, every one has genius ideas within, ideas that can change the world, they only come out with time and experimentation and a belief which only comes from doing.
You have a unique relationship with digital media. May I ask when you first learned how to create digitally, and which software or processes you prefer? Your videos as well as images are striking and ever original. Where might your appreciators find digital pieces of yours to own?
I was a fashion stylist for a long time working with endless photographers and from the beginning I had my visions/ideas and always pushed images further, but was always under a photographer with all that entails. Also, my ex-wife is an amazing photographer, I grew up and was surrounded by image, and really in the early days all my work was about helping create beautiful images: that was my payoff. Now I can do the whole process myself just me and subject. When phone apps developed enough to experiment I started playing with moving image, this gave me something to do in the quiet times or on a plane. I had experimented with Photoshop earlier but had been put down creatively by others who lived with different principals. I shouldn’t have listened but that’s the past.
In moving image/fashion film I found signature an approach to showing my beauty aesthetic, art expressed differently to all the others out there using the same basic technologies. Due to time constrains as a designer I eventually ended up photographing one of my collections myself, I had a choice of photographers but the retouch and finishing of images would take too long so I did it myself. No one works as hard as you on your own projects. Whenever I had time using different techniques, whatever felt right at the time is why my work is quite eclectic though signature. This endless playing is exciting, that’s why my main NFT collection is ongoing, it’s like a blog of where I’m at creatively.
I have a lot of people visit my atelier and I often take pictures of them in my work, then in spare time manipulate these images and create artworks from them. Many are surprised by the minimal approach when they visit to the final outcomes. We must create. As the technology develops I am fully open to experimentation. I wish I had a technological sponsor – just putting it out there. I have launched a limited edition run of metal prints so people can enjoy them within their environment, I think when something is in your environment and you see it over and over again you grow to love it. This is not possible with the endless absorbing of images we are engulfed with daily.
NFT backed visual media has become an appreciated part of culture, and you were one of the first fashion houses to release 1 of 1’s for public consumption in an environmentally aware way. Do you collect art yourself? And, what do you think about the trajectory of the million dollar NFT mania that has – on some blockchain forks – had a large harmful impact on the global environment?
It took me a while to understand the relationship of the environment with blockchain. I saw it as a way to finally catch up with something I felt I was late on. My strength is to see things differently by looking at the same object as others and visualizing something that is unique to me. I do collect photographs. I used to collect them in the form of magazines, but now as prints. My design work lends itself to great images and as such it has helped create lots of beautiful pictures, and I have collected these too. I still love my prints from photographers I have bought. I still dream some of the truly great photographers who have captured my work that I will one day have a print from, people like Nick Knight and Steven Klein… just putting it out there 😉
In a way I am downsizing right now trying to get rid of clutter, making way for more of what I create; it is strange like removing old dreams to make space for new. I sadly don’t have a lot of space, that’s what I crave for, like those dream ateliers everyone before seamed to have the freedom to create endlessly in. The clearing process is helping me breath. Lastly, I’m actually really enjoying surrounding myself with works I have created from my sculpture fashion on mannequins as an ongoing exhibition to some of my prints of digital art. Being surrounded by beauty gives me more strength to dream.