The stuff of fashion

For the peripatetic style set, art fairs have become almost like fashion week outposts, and this week’s Art Basel Miami Beach will be the latest stop.

Little wonder, when so many designers have found inspiration in the work of artists. The latest additions to the trend is Mother of Pearl’s Maia Norman, who found a collaborator in an unlikely area of the art world: taxidermy.

Norman, the US surfer-turned-fashion designer (and ex-partner of Damien Hirst) tapped Polly Morgan, whose surreal yet whimsical take on dead animals has positioned her as a bona fide member of the Young British Artists club.

“We are discussing taking pictures of my taxidermy and cast moulds of animals and making them into prints, as well as creating interesting imagery out of my pieces,” says Morgan of the forthcoming autumn/winter 2013 collection, adding that she once stuffed little birds, then positioned them to appear as if they were pollinating on the suction cups of an octopus. “One nascent idea is to use that piece as a template for a cashmere jumper, with octopus tentacles coming down the shoulders, perhaps with some sequins spliced in,” she notes.

It’s not the first time taxidermy has found its way into fashion, however. English designer Emma Cook, who has featured large-scale digitised photos of animals and ornithological images used in a “mutant, surreal and unexpected way”, has previously looked to taxidermy artists Thomas Grunfeld and Walter Potter. “These artists had some very interesting fur and feathers in their work and so I made a digital fur print, then layered that print in a repeat pattern over the chiffon of an evening dress” she says.

Cook says, “It’s good to take the customer out of their comfort zone.” See, for example, her “mutant Bambi print” from last autumn, where Bambi is depicted as lost and terrified in a dark forest.

Morgan agrees that nature isn’t just sweetness and light: “The real animal world is not just bunnies in a meadow,” she says. “Mother of Pearl did a series of prints recently, which at first glance look very gentle. But when you look closely, something has seriously gone wrong, like birds being decapitated on a wire. Nature is a lot darker than people think and it’s good to have that represented in fashion and art.”

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