The late Alexander McQueen could live on in an experimental fashion show conceived by a graduating student at his alma mater, Central Saint Martins. For her final graduation show, fashion design student Tina Gorjanc created a collection of leather goods prototyping designs intended for human skin grown from McQueen's DNA. Enrolled in the London-based CSM's Material Futures program, Gorjanc has been encouraged to incorporate scientific research into her design process. The Pure Human collection is an assortment of prototypes—leather accessories made from pigskin that Gorjanc designed to test whether her technology is functional, and further, critique “the lack of legislation surrounding the protection of genetic materials,” according to a statement writen by the Slovenian designer.
Gorjanc's story starts 1992 during McQueen’s final year at CSM. His time in fashion school culminated in a show entitled, Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims, where the designer famously put locks of his own hair in the labels of each piece in the collection. Nearly 25 years later, Gorjanc reached out the McQueen collection's owners to obtain the hair for her research, but they never reached an agreement. Her project was a conceptual critique of the legislation that lets organisations exploit human tissue and the ownership of DNA sequence for commercial use. The petri dishs on display illustrate the process she would use to grow cells.
In a detailed interview with the Telegraph, Gorjanc describes the process as "de-extinction," a process in which a liquid “biological agent” is introduced to a hair sample, allowing the experimenter, or in this case the designer, to extract certain genetic information from the DNA in the hair. The information gathered from this interaction could then be used to biologically “reprogram already existing skin,” and grow a pallet of leather material with the, “exact texture and colour and everything of the original source,” depending on how big the sample is. Gorjanc created a series of backpacks and leather jackets using pig skin, in order to give us a visual representation of what accessories made from McQueen’s human leather, might look like.
The artist/designer expresses frustration over the response to the project. Gorjanc tells The Creators Project, “I am aware I can’t control the media but at the same time I think it is fair for me to make sure the project receives the attention for the right reasons and not be diminished to just a ‘creepy fashion collection made of human skin from a known personality.’”
The prototypes in her collection are made from an animal, and the samples she made in the lab with McQueen’s DNA are are still in the experimental phase. Gorjanc reminds us that the science in this field is undeveloped and there is still much more to learn about skin-related biotechnology. However, she does encourage readers to watch out for big money bio-engineering organisations who may exploit this technology for commercial gain.
For a closer work at Tina Gorjanc’s research, head over to her website.