During my final year of university I was hit with a sudden urge to go back to my fashion design roots (I had studied fashion design under Shane Gabier, Creatures of the Wind, throughout my high school career at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's early college program) and design textiles for garments. At the time, a lot of fashion companies were advertising the idea of the perfect "nude" shade for your skin tone, the perfect relaxed, body embracing look. This concept in fashion has been around for ages, but seeing it at the forefront of trends for the year made me realize how much of an issue I had with the concept.
In my mind, no one is one shade. Whether you are as dark as night or as light as snow, no one has one skin tone. It just doesn't exist. Personally, I am a light skinned redhead and my skin varies from yellowy-beige to pink, to tan in tone. And that's during the winter. I set out to create garments that could exemplify the same concept of "nude" shades in a realistic way. I wondered; if you really wanted a true "nude" shade why not take a photograph of your actual skin and use these photos as textiles for garments. If anything, wearing your actual skin as a pattern would feel more empowering than donning a shirt the shade of which has been predetermined by a fashion house. The idea sounded slightly "Silence of the Lambs" ish when I said it out loud to my professor but what I envisioned as the final product was far from.
First, I wanted to take pictures of people's skin. I collected friends, mentors, colleagues and rented out a professional photography studio for two weeks, taking pictures of my friends and enjoying the intimacy of an individual trusting you with their body to create a piece of art. It had been a long time that I had been producing mainly illustrations for my degree so getting behind the camera again was liberating. After taking a million photos of people's elbows, knees, tattoos, scars, I set out to find the best, truest-to-form way to print these photographs on fabric.
The best method I could find to print these images as perfectly as possible in the highest definition was via sublimation printing, a technique used to print photographs directly onto fabric. Then, I designed each garment to fit the individual, choosing the photograph I thought best embodied each model. In the end, the printing for some of the skin tones was not as true to form as I would've hoped, some of the colors turning out a bit pinker than I would've hoped. However, each model was so thrilled with the outcome and I even ended up selling pieces for individual use (ex. the 'Giselle' skirt, seen below).
Eventually, I created a book (seen above) to wrap up the project and to showcase along with the garments. The images in the book are pictures of projections. These projections were created by using a projector to screen the photos of skin that I had taken throughout the project and allowing the models to interact with their own body.
After all, some things are only skin deep.