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Skin Deep: Adventures in Designer “Genes”

Skin Deep: Adventures in Designer “Genes”

skin as an accessory

As I write this, we are experiencing a heat wave in most of Ontario. With temperatures hitting around 40°C (with humidex), it’s way too hot to even think about wearing something like leather!
 
But, if you do manage to bypass that particular mental block when considering this week’s topic, you may find another one waiting for you. Fashion student Tina Gorjanc has created a line of clothing and accessories – called “Pure Human” – that she presents as being made from the cloned skin of late designer Alexander McQueen.
 
The collection is inspired by McQueen’s own physical foray into his design work: when he graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, as Gorjanc is doing now, his first collection featured locks of his hair sewn into the garments’ labels.  Gorjanc’s collection is currently a thought experiment – the pieces are actually made out of pig skin, with freckles and McQueen’s tattoos carefully copied for verisimilitude. But, she remains committed to one day cloning “hide” out of the follicles of McQueen’s hair, having made contact with both a lab willing to culture the skin, and the owner of one of the hair-endowed pieces from McQueen’s first collection, which can provide the “seed”.
 
Gorjanc is including a political complication in this artistic endeavour as well, presenting Pure Human as
 
“An exploration of the intersection between luxury and biology. […] Skin related biotechnologies seem to have caught the interest of the luxury industry. Major fashion and cosmetic companies have already signed research collaboration agreement[s] with bioengineering institutes. Those collaborations are enabling the development of existing skin technologies that were firstly designed for specific medical problems into enhancement of normal human functions and the extension of one’s self beyond its body. […] The [Pure Human] project is projecting the shift that is happening in the field of ethics and security regarding the tissue engineering technologies.”
 
To me, the collection seems the right kind of creepy — the uncanny kind that allows us to have critical distance from something so “homelike” as human skin (after all, we’re all covered in it!) and lets us see the darker, societal repercussions underneath.  I look forward to the weather cooling, if only to see if it is just the heat weirding me out about this project!