This project is based on the premise that fashion is art. Fashion is a powerful medium for expressing identities. One of the strongest identity connections are fashion and gender through meanings that are attached to femininity and masculinity. Fashion, also known as the second skin, is intimately connected to bodies to which we belong. This work will look into the meanings that are deeply embedded into fashion as second skins to provide shelter and protect our vulnerabilities. This project will also explore what lies beneath the second layer once the vulnerabilities, especially as women, are revealed.
I will work with women from Australia, Namibia and Finnish Lapland, who have experienced different margins, to co-design and create garments that resemble their strength, accomplishments, capabilities and vividness, or other identities they wish to celebrate. The fashion art will materialise into coats, although the participants will identify their garments of choice. In a photographic series these women will discard their second skin to deal with their vulnerabilities that also belong to their bodies just as they do. Themes such as sensitivities, belonging, eroticizing women for male gaze, apart from fluid identities will be explored through storytelling and fashion art.
This project will follow on, yet depart from a series of fashion art collections I have produced between 2003 and 2009. These photos represent the fashion art project Five Seasons in which I used a variety of coats and garments to express the seasons of a woman’s life as it unfolds from youth into womanhood and, finally, death. The photos show the colourful youthfulness of Spring through to the warm maturity of Autumn, to finally step into the irrevocable, perhaps dark Hereafter.
Dr Melanie Sarantou is a Post-Doctorate Researcher at the University of Lapland and a fashion, textile, community and environmental artist.
Fashion modelled by Anneke.