Issue #2: Fashion and Art Collectives

issue2coverPublished January 2007

The second issue of Fashion Projects covers fashion and art collectives, as well as collaborative projects between artists and fashion designers. It’s meant as a reminder of the inherently collaborative nature of fashion which is often forgotten as, particularly at the higher ends of the industry, so much rides on the “individual” designer.

Of course, it’s hard to resist the temptation of trumpeting “the individual,” and we couldn’t help but give in to such a temptation when the individuals in question turned out to be so interesting and down to earth—as is the case with Cat Chow and Susan Cianciolo, who skillfully combine and confound the categories of art, craft and fashion. Both artists forge collaborations in their music careers: Each artist formed a band, which relies on fashion and costumes as an integral ingredient. Continuing on this theme, the British artist Simon Periton describes his collaborations with a number of fashion designers from Raf Simons to Junya Watanabe to the milliner Philip Treacy. Meanwhile, the New York–based designer Despina Papadopoulos(founding member of the design collective Studio 5050) tells of her electronic garments and her collaborations with the fashion design collective As Four.

Examining the inherent political dimension of collaboration and collectives, Lidia Ravviso looks at the use of clothes by European protest movements from the now defunct Tute Bianche to the more recent “pink” movements. It is with these movements that the Situationist-inspired Italian collective Serpica Naro aligns itself, developing an elaborate identity for a fake designer with non-existent press offices and made-up fashion spreads. In fact, Serpica Naro’s spoof was so successful that the imaginary designer gained entrance to the official Milanese fashion calendar, surprising the audience with ironic and politically charged garments tailored to the needs of disenfranchised laborers.

Elsewhere in the issue are interviews with a number of art and fashion collaboratives of various sizes and scopes, from the well-known British website Show Studio to the Austrian fashion organizations Unit F (responsible for instituting and organizing Austrian fashion week) to Elsewhere, an art collaborative housed in a century-old thrift store in Greensboro, North Carolina. Also of a collaborative nature is the performance piece organized for this issue by Flâneuse, which revives “the ghetto blaster” via the unlikely transformation of a 1970s Fendi bag to provocative and ironic effects.

Francesca Granata

Issue #2: Fashion and Art Collectives, Table of Contents


Elsewhere: Between Art Collaborative and House of Wonder

Ephemeral Conversations: Simon Periton’s Collaborations with Raf Simons, Philip Treacy and Junya Watanabe

Elegant Subversions: An Interview with Cat Chow

Show Me Your Reality and I’ll Show You Mine: An Interview with Penny Martin, editor-in-chief of

Studio 5050’s Fuzzy Fashion

Boundless Practice: An Interview with Susan Cianciolo

At the Forefront of Austrian Fashion: An Interview with UNIT F

Serpica Naro: The Great Fashion Swindle

Clashing Hues: European Protests Movements and Costume

Pierre Bourdieu Goes to Town

Elsewhere: Between Art Collaborative and House of Wonder


by Francesca Granata Interior View

In 2004 George Scheer, Stephanie Sherman and Josh Fox started an art collaborative in Greensboro, North Carolina in what used to be Scheer’s grandmother’s thrift store. Aptly called Elsewhere, the three story building appears as a hybrid between haunted house and cabinet of curiosities: It is filled with garments, toys, furniture and fabric accrued by Scheer’s grandmother throughout the best part of the last century. An amorphous and ever-changing repository of twentieth century American history, it has proved a great raw material for the array of artists in residence, who have visited and altered the space in the past two years. The strangeness of the locale, coupled with its geographical distance from the epicenters of contemporary art, have allowed Elsewhere and the artists to follow unusual routes both in terms of their relation to traditional notions of art and to the “individual” nature of their practice.

How did you come up with the idea for Elsewhere? You were both literature majors at U Penn, so why an art space?

In March of 2003, Steph, our friend Josh Boyette and I took a road trip down south and stopped in Greensboro, where my family lives. The morning before we left, we went downtown to my Grandmother’s old thrift store, which had been locked up for six years after her death. You have to imagine an enormous warehouse space with a small aisleway about a foot wide leading back and piles on top of piles of objects, toys, furniture, fabric and clothing. After poking around for an hour, we filled a box with stuff and drove back to Philly. The box remained in my apartment, and whenever people would come over, they would play with the objects, dress up, or carry something around with them for the night.

We began to see how the objects changed the way people interacted and played together. How exactly this transitioned into actually going to Greensboro and starting an art space is a little unclear. But during the final semester, with the haze of post-graduate life before me, I contacted a good friend Josh Fox, who was graduating from the University of Michigan, and persuaded him to join me in Greensboro. I was, in fact, a political communications major at Penn, and was interested in developing new formats for writers and artists across media to work within community. It was Steph, with a background in literature and theory, that understood how objects could function as a medium of interaction between artists, and how the organization of these objects could simultaneously manifest abstract concepts while providing functional spaces within which artists could explore the boundaries of their practice.

Can you describe the space a little bit, as well as its history?

The 606 and 608 South Elm Street [Elsewhere’s current address] opened in 1939 as a used furniture store, selling repossessed furniture bought from Depression stock houses in New York. In the 50’s, my grandparents—Sylvia and her husband Joe—began a catalog sale of army surplus for Boy Scout troupes throughout America. Slowly, the store transitioned into work clothes, shoes, imported lighters and other such things. In 1955, Joe died, leaving Sylvia to raise her three children. Never remarrying, she alone sent her children to college on the back of this store. She sold fabric, purchasing thousands of surplus fabric bolts from local factories. As early as the 1960’s, she would visit the local Salvation Army daily, picking with impeccable taste clothing and objects. The collecting continued throughout her life, though as she grew older the selling off of objects seemed to stop. It is often said that if she liked you, the price was almost nothing, but if she didn’t like you—if she thought you were trying to steal—she would lay on you an outrageous price before chasing you out the front door. Sylvia passed away in 1997 and the immense collection of things remained locked inside until we arrived in May of 2003.

As I said, when we arrived there were boxes to the ceiling. Everything seemed chaotic, but it was clear that my grandmother had spent much of her life organizing these objects in a simultaneously eccentric, meticulous, and haphazard manner. She was an extreme meta-bagger. She saved everything from broken lamp parts to chair legs. She would tie strings to strings, to create enormous fishing lines of shoes and action figures. We spent the first nine months undoing, sorting, and re-organizing her organization, but with three floors filled with stuff, we are nowhere near seeing everything or finding a spot for it and we find new things almost every day.

The notion of collaboration seems intrinsic to the projects, as artists build on what preceding artists did in the space. They also build on the array of objects that made up your grandmother’s thrift-store. I read in one of your statements that you consider the building “an installation onto itself,” because nothing really leaves the space.

At Elsewhere, nothing is for sale, and nothing permanently leaves. Elsewhere, ultimately, is an artwork to be viewed over time, in a gradual progression where the experience of the artistic process is referenced in succeeding reflections and arrangements. You can read it like a narrative; you experience it like an indoor amusement park. The dynamics of work and play are central to this project; everything you do, you play with, becomes part of your piece. Works created by Elsewhere artists introduce new concepts into the dialogue between community and object, and though each piece is site specific, the demands of space and changing conceptions often require the creators to re-curate works in the space. Not only do artists re-envision particular pieces, but in the re-design of artworks, new meanings are brought to the works and the environment. Often, meanings, neither intended nor imagined, are discovered in a re-contextualization of artworks, formulating an environment that simultaneously speaks to Elsewhere’s past and its future.When we saw the store as it had been left, it was an installation to begin with, an installation performed by history and one woman’s selection within that history-the jumble, decay, disjuncture and sense of infinite treasure and cultural neglect were so moving. It was the artistry of the combination of the visual instant, preserved, but deteriorating.

Garments seem to be a popular raw material for a number of resident artists, perhaps because used clothes are such powerful memory traces. They seem to keep the imprint of the body that once wore them, so that unworn they can easily read as morbid. Can you talk about the collection of fabric and garments at Elsewhere, and the way artists have interacted with it?

It can be terrifyingly intimate, considering just how much material there is. Steph once reached into the pocket of a worn, navy cotton school dress and found a half-eaten bubble gum ball wrapped back up in the clear plastic. These instances trigger an intense cultural nostalgia that gets interpreted on a personal and emotional level, as garments demonstrate their history, stains upon stains, or fading from light, or moth holes. It’s also amazing how the plethora of fabrics demonstrate the over-production within our society, an almost endless resource of surplus-Steph and I used to sleep on a twin bed in the middle of 1500 bolts of vintage fabric, a room made of fabric rolls. Angela Zammarelli, an artist in residence, got lost in the fabric world itself. She only brought one pair of jeans with her, instead. She wore the dresses, she wore the fabric in all sorts of ways, and it almost seemed as if she was always peering her head from above her medium. At the end of her residency, she had constructed a tent in which a tea party was taking place, the walls made of fabric panel narratives expressing the history of her stay at the space

The place seems packed with histories and memories-I assume that not all of them are positive. At one point, it was even a military surplus store. Do the artists you have in residence ever bring out the disturbing or potentially controversial histories which are buried there? How does the community of Greensboro respond?

The best example in regard to questions of community response was an installation we did in the front window space to celebrate our first birthday. It was a bathroom installation scene, and the floor was covered in baby dolls with a rug made of baby clothing…That installation received a spectrum of responses, amazement to horror. In this way, we don’t directly address the histories as having particular political ramifications for the work, but instead try to jar people by using cultural artifacts on such scope or scale, or in a particular arrangement so as to play on the strangeness or uncanniness of “stuff” and their particular place of containment. There is one room with boarded windows upstairs that contains a massive pile of army surplus, mostly from WWII and the Korean War. This room has remained relatively untouched as an installation made by history-the emotional impact is enormous, reminiscent of Holocaust imagery of shoe piles.

Elsewhere is structured as a small non-profit and its aims seem steeped in a tradition of collectivism and non-commercial creative activities. Yet art, and contemporary art in particular, has become such a commercially successful product. There are hedge funds that invest in contemporary art these days. Do you ever feel that what you do might be anachronistic?

The point isn’t to be directly anachronistic, but to explore art-making without the sacred isolation that most art is relegated to once it leaves a creator’s hands and the creator deems it complete. Fundamentally, most art seems to attempt to capture a time in space through the object that is art. Elsewhere is capturing a space in time through the object and their subjects as art. In some ways, it’s a response to a condition or situation where art is only offered in a commercial way, and this seems a theoretical mistake for art to only address the product, and at best capture the production within the product. The notion that a museum is a place for preservation is important, but it’s equally important for a museum to represent a public space that incites interaction. It’s a call for history to be placed in the present, as opposed to the past or future; it’s a comment on peripheries and centrality, and displacing process and product in order to generate art that thinks about and responds to the way institutions develop, implement, and negotiate controlling discourses.Elsewhere is a call to think about living within time as an artistic process itself, drawing into clarity that perhaps people are collaborating on art pieces all of the time by chance or accident, and that theoretically these moments or instances are as valid as a piece in a museum. We’re deconstructing these notions as much as the collection itself, and restructuring it ad infinitum. We also are interested in art that is used not just as a medium to communicate about a particular social or cultural situation, but to offer solutions or models to these scenarios. We can only demand so much from art when it must be a product, but when we start to think about it as a way of life, as a medium itself, then it might produce results, restructure or reconfigure a cultural understanding of human cognition and social practice. But then, most people just think we are kids playing with toys-it’s easy to brush it off that way.For more information on Elsewhere’s residency program visit Elsewhere has recently built an archive of vintage fabric pattern. To inquiry about purchasing the archive on CD-Rom contact George Scheer ( The profit from the sale will help support Elsewhere’s operational costs.

Ephemeral Conversations: Simon Periton's Collaborations with Raf Simons, Philip Treacy and Junya Watanabe


by Sonya Mooney Junya Watanabe Autumn/Winter 2003-2004; Raf Simons Autumn/Winter 2002-2003

Simon Periton is a British artist who attended Central St. Martin's School of Art in London in the late 1980s. He has been exhibiting his work internationally since the early 1990s and is currently represented by Sadie Coles Gallery in London.

It is hard to categorize Periton's work as solely painting, sculpture or graphic design, as it incorporates elements from each of these disciplines. He works primarily in two dimensions, using a scalpel to precisely cut away at large multiple pieces of paper leaving behind delicate filigrees which are then layered one on top of the other and pinned to the wall. His work simultaneously references the fragile paper art of the nineteenth century and the graphic nature of advertising imagery while retaining an almost Netherlandish painterly precision. Themes range from the organic (floral garland motifs) to the anatomical (the human heart) to the subversive (evidenced in his use of the Anarchy A symbol, missiles and barbed wire).

In 1999, Periton collaborated with the British milliner Philip Treacy on several hats for Treacy's Autumn/Winter collection. Periton's fashion collaborations continued in 2002 with his work for the Belgian designer Raf Simons. The British artist applied his precise cut out techniques to actual garments for Simons' Autumn/Winter 2002-2003 collection. Most recently Periton's Anarchy A imagery was used as a print in Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garçons' Autumn/Winter 2003-2004 collection.

Isabella Blow in a hat by Simon Periton and Philip Treacy

Where did your interest in fashion stem from? Did attending Central St. Martin's and being in close proximity to fashion design students influence you?St. Martin's in the eighties was very interesting. The art and fashion students were in the same building and everyone hung out in the coffee bar during the day and often in the same pubs and clubs at night. The art students often went to (or were in) the fashion shows and the fashion students came to the art shows. Many friendships and collaborations were formed that have continued. I have a lot of friends who work in fashion and some of that stems from being at St. Martin's at that time. However, a lot of people ended up working in art when they had started out as fashion students and vice versa, so I think generally, in London, there is a lot of crossover between these two worlds. In many respects, I don't view an interesting fashion designer any differently than an interesting artist. There are, however, plenty of designers and artists whose work doesn't move me.

Do you follow fashion shows or trends with any regularity?

I wouldn't say that I go to as many fashion shows these days, but I do like to keep half an eye on what's going on in the same way as I might in, say, music.

Has fashion ever explicitly influenced your work? Do you think you'd ever be interested in designing a complete garment on your own?

I don't think that fashion has influenced my work directly, although I sometimes use fashion images as source material for a piece of work. I'm not really interested in making full garments but it might be fun to help art direct a show.

How did your fashion collaborations begin? Could you explain the process in which you and the fashion designers worked? Was it collaborative every step of the way?

The first collaboration was with Philip Treacy. I was already a fan of his sculptural eyelash hats etc., but it was as a result of a conversation with Isabella Blow that we worked together. She suggested that Philip and I meet and the possibility of making something for his next show arose. We'd both wanted to work with neoprene foam and so I cut some designs of mine out of sheets of colored foam and Philip crafted them into these fantastic head sculptures. I also cut gothic thorns from some paper-backed linen, which we stiffened and made into a veil. There were only about five pieces, but the most successful was a giant Anarchy Hat we made for Isabella to wear to the show.

The collaboration with Comme des Garçons was with Junya Watanabe. He came to London and we met as a result of him seeing some of my work through the gallery [Sadie Coles]. We talked about the concept of the show and we decided we could work with the print and some flocking. In this case, there wasn't much time for me to work on new pieces-I was working on a big show in Scotland-so I sent him some files on a CD and we had minimal contact after that. I knew roughly how I thought it would look but really didn't know until I arrived in Paris for the show!

You and Raf Simons seem to be particularly well suited as a collaborative pair. You've completed works that are tinged with subversive and violent visual elements which also seem to be themes in Raf's collections. Imagery such as the Anarchy A's, missiles and barbed wire might appeal to the same disaffected and petulant youths of which Raf is so enamored. Raf also seems to have a great interest in art, having published his book of photographs, The Fourth Sex, and having curated several art exhibits in Europe which have included some of your pieces.

The collaboration with Raf Simons was different. As you have mentioned, Raf was already involved in the art world so I think he knew what I was doing already. He contacted me through the gallery Sadie Coles in London. He'd seen an exhibition I'd done and wanted to know if we could collaborate. He often works with different artists on his shows. I went to meet him in Antwerp and we talked a lot about all sorts of stuff…art, films, music youth culture etc. It was strange, as there were already a lot of crossovers between us. The source images on his studio walls were similar to some of the things I'd been looking at in London. There wasn't anything made for his show yet, so we had to talk abstractly about how it might look. One of the things I initially liked about Raf was that he'd just closed down his large studio and was working with only a couple of assistants. He was worried that things had gotten too big and that maybe it was getting away from his original ideals. This impressed me. He seemed to have a lot of integrity. I went back to the studio in London and we remained in touch via e-mail and phone conversations and we developed a kind of trust. In the end we decided he would send me some of the finished garments and I would work directly with them. I set about cutting holes in all these garments made in modern fabrics: rubber and polythene and waxed cotton. I arrived in Paris the night before the show with two large bags with shredded clothes and rather nervously, showed them to Raf. I think they liked them and then we spent a few hours working out which pieces should go with other garments from the show. We ended up with cut-out polythene t-shirts with machine knit jumpers showing through and waxed cotton veils on oversized capes. The show was a parade of boys walking through a lit woodland scene with a snow and rain machine. The audience watched from behind glass and the whole thing looked rather like one of those shaker snow globes.

Do you view the mixing of art and fashion as a natural combination, one that cleverly merges the creativity and craftsmanship of both disciplines? How do you feel about the way your work is circulated within the fashion realm? As an artist is it better for you to work with independent or less "accessible" designers? And now that Raf Simons has been appointed as the head of design at Jil Sander, would you like to do another collaboration with him to reach a larger audience?

The work I usually make is all handmade by me. They are individual pieces. I've often wondered whether my interest in the fragile and the beautiful appeals to a fashion sensibility. In many respects there is a similar interest in the delicate surface (something that also exists within contemporary art at the moment) and also the ephemeral. The pieces I made with Philip and Raf were like artworks in as much as they were one off pieces designed to punctuate a collection as a whole. The work with Junya, whilst mass-produced by my previous standards, is still only produced in a limited edition. Art and fashion aren't necessarily inaccessible; it's more that they're specialized in some ways. It's not that I think mass produced unlimited editions can't be art but that I haven't really explored the possibility of working with fashion in that mainstream way. It might prove interesting….

What is your idea of a good collaboration? Is there anyone you would love to work with?

My idea of a good collaboration is when two or more people come together and a strange new thing or situation is born. Ideally, it should work like a conversation that travels back and forth until you end up with something nobody envisaged. That way, a collaboration can help what I do afterwards.If I think it's not an interesting concept then I'm reluctant to get involved. That way I can protect what I do and how it is seen. I have worked on projects and pulled out after a while if it doesn't seem as if it's going anywhere. Obviously, one needs to have a respect for what the other person does and I've been fortunate that I've had that with Philip, Raf and Junya.

Elegant Subversions: An Interview with Cat Chow

by Francesca Granata

Undress, 2005

The doorbell to Cat Chow’s apartment is marked through a pictorial language of sort, as her name is spelled out by a sticker of a cat and one of sushi; the Chicago artist’s studio is taken over by stunning garments and objects made of disparate materials: plastic nipples, zippers, chain mail…. Her doorbell presages Chow’s quirky sensibility and subtle humor, which often comes through in her work, despite the fact that her pieces often tackle weighty socio-political issues. They do so in a painfully elegant and at times quiet aesthetic attained through a painstaking and skillful mastery of crafts.

Some of her pieces veer towards the ironic, as is the case with her Power-Ranger Kimono, which seeks to subvert stereotypical representations of Asian women by constructing a kimono out of power-ranger cards, or with Measure for Measure, a 1950s house dress woven out of measuring tapes of different colors. Other pieces are characterized by a certain lyrical sadness embodying a painful and contradictory beauty, which comes across as symbolic of female beauty.Ultimately, her garments speak of empowerment but also of constraint, as with the Heavy Metal dress-an all-metal dress, which appears deceitfully soft and fluid despite its weight-or maybe even more so with her zipper garments (for which she is best known), which more explicitly bring up questions of pain and beauty: Their potential to be completely zipped or unzipped posits a dangerous scenario, which reminds the viewer of the vulnerability of the unclothed body.

Her work has been shown internationally within various contexts which vary from Fashion museums, (the Met’s Costume Institute and the Museum at FIT) to contemporary arts museums (the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston) to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. This doesn’t prevent her from holding on to her inherent unpretentiousness and her punk-rock spirit which lives on in the band she recently started with her boyfriend: Fashion Show.Measure for Measure, a 1950s housedress woven out of measuring tapeBefore moving to Wicker Park you were at Northwestern studying costume design.

How did you get started doing what you do now?

I kind of fell into it. I worked in a jewelry factory growing up, and was quite good at putting things together with my hands. I was also very interested in chain mail, which consists of putting together metal rings to make a mesh. When I was in college, I worked at a chain mail store. Then in a costume design class, we were given a project for which we had to use alternative materials….

How did you enter the art realm? And how did people become aware of what you did?

For my first fashion show, I made four chain mail dresses and showed them in Chicago. Then someone told me about a wearable art exhibition that was happening out in Barrington, Illinois, and I ended up showing work in a gallery there. I think a big turning point was showing the zipper dress at the Gen Art fashion show. It was a big deal for me, because I got a lot of press and it led to a lot of different opportunities. There, I met someone who helped me get a window installation at the New Museum when they were back in Soho. The exhibition at the New Museum made me stand up more in Chicago and led to other opportunities. Valerie Cassel, one of the Whitney Museum Biennial curators, wore one of my zipper dresses to the opening. Also it is at the New Museum that Harold Koda, the curator at the Met, saw my work and later asked me to be in the “Goddess Show.”

I saw your pieces at the Museum at FIT within an “avant-garde” fashion context, and then at the “Artwear” show at the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, which had a more craft focus. As of late, your work seems to be exhibited primarily within what is considered a more traditionally “high art” context. How do you reconcile showing in such different contexts? Do you find it confusing or do you enjoy occupying this space “in-between”?

I like to be able to reach different audiences, from the fashion people to the crafts and fiber arts communities to a more “high-art” realm. It has always been very enticing, though it was the craft part that got me into it in the first place-the urge to create this material out of different objects. And I had always been very interested in clothing.

A doorbell rings. A rich lady enters Cat Chow’s studio for a fitting. She tries on a purple zipper skirt with a very small ruffle at the back which she would like to be taken in a bit…

Rich Lady: As long as we have become a bit thinner then let’s go ahead and accentuate it. It is a gorgeous outfit whoa…

FP: It’s so pretty.

RL: So April and Nora and I are going to go to New York in July. We are going to fit in the Chanel exhibit, which actually has not received great reviews. I think it was almost a slapdash type of show, so there would be something wonderful for their yearly gala where they raise all their million of dollars for the Met. And I think Coco would be rolling over in her grave if she saw the plastic cubes that they are using to display the work.

FP: I haven’t gone yet. I guess The New York Times was really critical of it, because they didn’t mention her history, especially during the war years.RL: Exactly. I get The New York Times, and the criticism was pretty harsh.

FP: But I have heard that the Costume Institute doesn’t really receive any money from the Met. Actually they give part of the money they raise through the Gala to the Met. Maybe that is why they have to please their donors, particularly the design houses. Or so they say….

RL: Yes, and it is because of the Gala show that we found you…(to Cat)

CC: I kind of pinned it on the side.

RL: I don’t want to destroy what you are doing,

CC: Could you try walking in it, and see how it feels…

RL: Good good good. Thank you so much for reworking it, because I really want it to be something I wear all the time.

Rich Lady exits…

Cat Chow wearing her Measure for Measure Dress.

I think it’s quite brave that you make your pieces wearable. Most of them are, at least to some extent, right?

CC: Yes, I think the zipper ones are really the most wearable. And that’s my thing with the fashion and the art world. I have worked with some clothing designers and I know that people want clothing that is comfortable and here I am making material that’s not practical….

To me that is the side that’s more in keeping with avant-garde fashion. But now that your work has entered art museums and is being written up within a more traditional “high art” context, do you ever feel that to keep making garments for people to actually wear, which means adjusting some pieces to individual bodies could “devalue” your work on a financial level? Or that doesn’t concern you…?

Well, sometimes people tell me you have to start thinking about your future. If you want to make a t-shirt with a zipper on it and than mass-produce it, you can easily do it. But I am not interested in doing something like that…. I’d rather make one-of-a kind pieces. Also, the pieces, which are in gallery shows, sell as sculpture work, even when they are wearable.

I found it a bit funny to see the woman who was just here trying on a zipper skirt. When I saw the zipper dress at the museum at FIT, I thought it was really beautiful, but I also couldn’t help thinking that the fact that it unzips all the way really highlighted the possibility of skin getting caught. And obviously with the chain mail dress there is a reference to S & M and fetishwear. Your work looks so stunning yet it’s also subtly disturbing.

There is a lot you can read into the work. I think there is that juxtaposition. I like using hard industrial materials and make them soft and elegant, so it makes you think about the contradiction of it. I made one all-metal dress, which is called heavy metal and is probably my heaviest dress, yet it looks so elegant and fluid and so easy on the body.

As you mentioned contradictions, I was thinking about the Not for Sale dress-the one which involved shredding dollar bills, which, as has been pointed out, is a felony. And it is painstakingly handmade, using what’s really a couture technique, but it also has a punk-rockish subversive element to it.

Yes, that dress was very painstakingly constructed. It was made exclusively of paper rings, which were connected in a chain mail pattern, and it’s cut on the bias. The paper rings are made of dollar bills. Each bill was shredded into about 25 strips and connected into rings…and they are connected in a pattern and that’s how it stays together.

Obviously, your work has a close relation to the body. Take the Measure for Measure dress. It’s so pleasant and cute yet it’s made of seamstress tape measures of different colors, which is a bit unsettling, as they seem to relate to fashion policing the body and thinness, but the dress is also really pretty and colorful.

Well, I had done this other tape measure dress and I really wanted to empower women with their bodies and their sizes. I wanted to address my own experience of having worked in fashion and dressed models and being a woman myself. With the Measure for Measure dress, I really wanted to address that for other women. Yet, of course, someone sees it and tells me they love the cut or the closure. And this is the Power-Rangers kimono to empower Asian women.

What you are doing really taps into “women’s work,” even though it’s presented as sculpture which has a more masculine lineage. I was wondering whether you find the work you do to be a bit isolating or whether, you have found there is a community around art/fashion makers?

I think in relation to art wear and wearable art, I have come out at a really good time, as there have been a lot of exhibitions of that sort. And you are seeing that in what they are teaching in fashion design schools now, too. It’s just what’s going on with boundaries with architecture and fashion and sculpture. Everything seems to be crossing over and there aren’t these set limits of what art or what fashion is….

Do you ever feel that living in Chicago is sort of difficult for the kind of work you do? Or again, perhaps, a bit isolating?

It’s funny you ask me that because, as I said, I lived here a while and it has been a really nurturing environment. I have made so many connections and met some really great people here. Yet I am going to move to New York soon. I am excited because I got an artist residency through Artists Alliance in the Lower East Side, which means I’ll have a free studio for six months this Winter and Spring. My boyfriend is an artist too, so we are both really excited.

Are you moving together?

Yes. We are in a band together called Fashion Show. I was in another band called Plastic Crimewave Sound but because I had to move I started a band with my boyfriend. We alternate singing, keyboard, guitar drums, and in the performance there is some fashion: costume changes and things like that. On stage we wear these outrageous outfits, which I design.

Do you still have fashion shows? Or do you mainly show on dress forms in gallery?

I mainly don’t show the pieces on models. I don’t usually like doing fashion shows, and people kept asking me about it. So now if they really want a show there is the band Fashion Show, and that’s sort of how I want to do it.