Twin catches up with fashion designer and artist Claire Barrow to talk about her new exhibition, and how fashion can help to fight prejudice during these uncertain times.
How did the collaboration between yourself and Galeria Melissa come about?
I was approached from them a while ago but the installation idea started to take shape towards the end of last year. Melissa‘s shoes are completely recycled, waste free and 100% animal free so I’m really into that. It’s been on my wishlist for a long time to work with larger company with great ethics like theirs and I’m also really into what they do with collaborations. Ow, and the smell of the PVC is really good (all the shoes smell like rubber and strawberries.)
What was your starting point for the project, and what were you inspired by?
I wanted to combine performance and sculpture that also used digital in some way, so I think it started there then the idea grew and it become human size sculptures and digital projections of people performing next to them. I just wanted to do everything at once. So we have digital, music, film, performance, costume, movement.
So, the piece addresses the ‘judging’ of people, and the initial ideas you have of someone before they even speak. So, these ‘people’ (sculptures) will never get the chance to communicate but how can the performers work with them to make them feel animated. Then the fact that the ‘real’ people aren’t really there, but digital also signifies our online communication with friends, feeling less lonely but not seeing them IRL. We are all on our phones and computers too much now that I don’t want to miss that out in my work. I try to use the everyday and this is our new reality.
What were your design references for this piece? Was there particular reason that you were drawn to use pearls and a muted palette?
I’ve been trying to not use references in my work to much unless I have to explain my idea’s to someone else in the team as I would like the ideas to come from somewhere inside my head or from a drawing I have done. My subconscious will have maybe seen references in the past, or that day on Instagram, but then it will be a distorted version that sticks. I took a lot from my own life and childhood for this project.
I took a train ride over Christmas time past the old British Steel in Teeside, (a steel works that closed a few years ago leading to the loss of thousands of jobs, which is just stood rotting), and the light was so beautiful and metal so glittery I sort of took it from an imagined version of that then also the idea of ‘high glamour’ too, so jewellery and make-up and sparkle. So I chose the pearls and muted palette and crystals in like, ‘powdered’ down version of primary or secondary colours. Different types of camouflage feature heavily too.
What are your hopes for the exhibition, and what are you most excited about?
It was brilliant to work with the team on the video. I cast Sameena who was in the Daniel Wolfe film ‘Catch Me Daddy’ a few years ago and hasn’t acted since. So it was an honour she actually said yes to me!
It’s the first time I’d worked with Joseph Bird to who’s a reasonably new film director and also Taigen and Ken (Bo Ningen) on the music. I’ve been meaning to work with them for years we were just looking for the right project.
The five characters all take on different roles but very much improvise and added their own ideas to each part. I had designed the costumes and given anecdotes from my own experiences to show them which helped form the characters.
And finally, in such uncertain times, what role do you think fashion has in challenging assumptions and prejudices more widely?
Design wise I think the most interesting work is coming from people who don’t limit themselves to being creative within the fashion system. I don’t see anything particularly progressive happening with bigger brands currently but maybe this will change during times of extreme political unrest if they feel it necessary.
It’s like, they need to stand up for injustice but also to fix problems within their own companies such as material wastage and paying workers fairly. That’s why it’s brilliant to be associated with a large brand like Melissa whom are dedicated to keeping everything recycled and looking after their staff in Brazil.