Podcast Ep. 7 MARINA DEBRIS, THE GROTESQUE BEAUTY OF TRASHION
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EPISODE 7 FEATURES MARINA DEBRIS
American visual artist Marina DeBris calls herself a TRASHION designer, as well as an environmental activist, and anti-plastics campaigner. She makes her "Beach Couture" collections from rubbish she finds washed up on the beaches of Los Angeles and Sydney.
There’s a history of fashion designers referencing rubbish. John Galliano's controversial Spring 2000 haute couture collection for Christian Dior featured newspaper prints inspired by the homeless people he used to jog past along the Seine river in Paris.
Vivienne Westwood has also dabbled in derelicte chic (as has Mugatu). These designers used luxurious fabrics to render garbage inspiration gorgeous. Jean Paul Gaultier went a step further with his famous Sac Poubelle dress from 1980 - made from bin liners, it was accessorised with bangles made from OLD TIN CANS. Fabulous, darling. More recently Jeremy Scott’s Autumn '17 ready-to-wear collection for Moschino was inspired by cardboard packaging.
But what Marina does comes from a very different place. She doesn’t want her work to be considered chic, or fabulous or fashionable. She wants it to SHOCK YOU.
Marina DeBris is not her real name of course. It’s the sort of name that you might hear in a drag queen bar in her adopted home of Sydney, and that’s not accidental. Marina’s work is a performance piece.
There’s a bustier embellished with so-called disposable utensils. A posh frock fashioned from the flimsy, floaty remnants of old white plastic carrier bags. Her design Takeaway Queen is made from polystyrene containers, and she’s made pieces from rescued fabric, bed springs, even dead bird’s wings.
In this Episode we talk about why she makes her work, how she does it, and what sort of reactions she gets.
Fashion can be a conduit for cultural conversation, so why no hijack it and use as a frame of reference for political art? That’s what Marina does , who once fancied being a jeweller, and studied metal smithy and graphic design, does with her provocative, confronting project trashion. Can you wear it? IF YOU DARE!
LINKS TO MAKE YOU THINK...
HEAL THE BAY is a non-profit environmental advocacy group based in Santa Monica, California, dedicated to protecting the local coastline and surrounding watershed.
Do you know about David Suzuki? He's a world leader in sustainable ecology. He is the recipient of more awards than you can poke a stick at including, in 2009, the Right Livelihood Award which is considered the alternative Nobel Prize. Read about his work here.
The LA-based Five Gyres Institute advocates for more ocean, less plastic through art and eduction outreach programs. As they explain, "A gyre is a large-scale system of wind-driven surface currents in the ocean. The gyres referred to in the name of our organisation are the five main subtropical gyres—located in the North and South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean—which are massive, circular current systems." Why is there plastic in the gyres? "The accumulation zones of plastic that form in the five subtropical gyres are a result of the diminished winds and currents occurring at latitudes synonymous with continental deserts. Basically, plastic is trapped within these currents, taking at least 10 years to cycle back out—if it doesn’t first get eaten by marine life or sink to the bottom."
Creepy chic? Controversially cool? Whatever you call it - it gets the message across: WE NEED TO KICK OUT PLASTICS HABIT! For more info on why, listen to Episode 3 of the podcast, with marine biologist Dr Jennifer Lavers.
Fun fact: Marina studied metalwork and jewellery design at college before transferring into graphic design...
“THE TRUE FUNCTION OF JEWELLERY IS TO DECORATE, TO ORNAMENT, AND THUS COMMAND ATTENTION AND ADMIRATION. IN THIS SENSE THE ORNAMENT MUST REVEAL FORM THAT IS WORTHY AND EXPRESSIVE OF ITS TIME." - ALMA EIKERMAN
I WAS FASCINATED to learn from Marina about the extraordinary Alma Eikerman. She taught at Indiana University in until 1978, having graduated from Columbia then worked in Denmark and Stockholm in the 1950s. Her modernist pieces were bold and daring. I'm excited to discover her work, examples of which are held by the Smithsonian.
Nancy Judd runs the Recycle Runway events in the US to educate about people about trash. In she designed this dapper coat made from waste paper from the 2008 Barack Obama election campaign. Leaflets were cut into two-inch strips and machine sewn to panels made from canvas scraps. The panels were hand stitched on the vintage man’s winter coat. It took 25 volunteers over 400 hours to complete - and it gets our vote. (Ha! - ed.)
LARA IRELAND'S high fashion graduate collection was made, beautifully, from plastic shopping bags. Read about it here.
MARINA'S DESIGNS, which are part of a continuous (seasonless!) collection called "Beach Couture, An Haute Mess" are delightfully grotesque. Made from all kinds of junk, from dummies to dog balls, single-use plastic containers, bags, cigarette lighters, bed spring and fabric scraps, basically anything - and everything - she finds beach combing. Here, some of our favourites:
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