Awareness, freedom, affirmation of identity and inclusion of diversity are some of the values connected to the new standards of contemporary fashion. Fashion is a complex industry, made of great contradictions, but it is also a fundamental mediator of expression for pop culture, especially for the youngest. A powerful and fascinating evidence of what has happened so far and what will happen tomorrow. Regarding these considerations, what are your Higher Standards?
I think anyone who is ‘aware’ is at an advantage – this can refer to being ‘aware’ of someone’s feelings, ‘aware’ of political/social/environmental situations, ‘aware’ of the next trend etc. I constantly strive to be aware of what is going on around me. However, this awareness is only a result of curiosity – if one is not curious, what is the point of anything? Curiosity and awareness are my main propellers – If I am struggling for inspiration, I’ll go out and sit in a cafe and suddenly become aware of the different personalities, moods, elements around me. I then go home and see what happens if I make one thing interact with another. Eventually, it happens! The parallel universes I illustrate simply come out as a result of these ‘Higher Standards’.
“The true authenticity of photographs for me is that they usually manipulate and lie about what is in front of the camera, but never lie about the intentions behind the camera” – Wolfgang Tillmans
In an age where anything can be faked, we increasingly feel the urgency to find something to trust, something to invest our commitment and desire of sharing. How much does this affect your artistic practice?
If you look at my work, it is hardly the most realistic! But I think this is almost a coping mechanism – more and more we are asked to face the truth, or we have a responsibility to uncover that truth. In my personal life, I am very much interested in that. I always keep up to date with the news and read everything from The Economist to Business of Fashion. I went to a rather strict all-girls school, which always encouraged me to never stop learning, always delve deeper and question everything.
My work is almost a reaction to this – you have men rope climbing up trees that then jump into UFOs. You have beautiful models being cut up to look monster-eques, with garish background colors contrasting their beautiful skin. Things that perhaps made sense before are now suddenly nonsensical. However in this case I don’t think it needs to be. I am not lying about anything, just projecting a very small version of the world that I see in my head. It is a truthful representation of my imagination!
Desire of inclusion and curiosity towards different cultures are certainly a useful tool for a deeper understanding of the contemporary world. Which role, or responsibility, does the creative world play in the discussion about inclusion?
Creative industries have a huge responsibility! Most creative industries have elements that are a reflection of society at that moment, be it models, sculptures, comics etc. To me, it doesn’t make sense to not include or ignore examples of all walks of life. Globalization may have blurred borders, however people are increasingly proud of their heritage and background, as they should be. I think this amalgamation of people, minds and outlooks has in turn increased creativity, so it is actually a great advantage to the industries.
What I don’t agree with is simply using different types of people to hit a ‘quota’. If we take the fashion industry as an example, we now see advertisements of straight female models kissing girls just to promote the idea that that brand is ‘ok’ with queerness. The concept of acceptance isn’t a trend, so don’t use the most followed model of that moment to push the idea.
We live in the age of the obsessive self-promotion in the social media, particularly on Instagram. How do you feel about participating in this world of cyber identity?
I think for artists, having a cyber-identity can be an extremely positive thing. Think of all the artists who have been discovered because they’ve been pushing their work via online platforms; all the collage creators, Soundcloud producers, makeup artists etc. Social media is an intrinsic tool for self-promotion, one that has seriously changed the game. Artists with talent that wouldn’t have had a chance before are suddenly pushed into the mainstream.
Having said that, obviously there is a darker side; there are consequences to living through a screen. We live in a world of visual clutter, where we are consuming imagery and information at an incredible rate. Therefore, there is a constant feeling of having to keep up with the pace. What is going to make someone stop scrolling, what are people going to comment on? I see people putting up content on Instagram that is pretty gruesome, just for the likes. Would your mother be proud?! You meet someone and then you see their Instagram and the comparison between their two personas is quite funny – I think the Internet can create this false layer of protection and it can be a vicious cycle of looking for validation in the wrong places.