Some artists use paint and a canvas to tell a story and portray their vision. Others use photographs, drawing, sculpture or theater. Senior Alex Martin uses fashion. What Martin makes is not simply clothing: Each piece is a work of art.
Martin admires the work of fashion designer Alexander McQueen because what he designs is more artistic than just clothes. She does not base her designs solely on composition or style, but rather to express a greater meaning. Her medium is fashion design, made up of the fabric, the design, the color and the wearer.
Martin first began pursuing her interest in fashion when when she was in sixth grade, sewing little projects here and there, starting with pajamas and moving on to more complicated dresses. Her first medium of choice for a dress was garbage bags, modeled after Ke$ha’s VMA infamous garbage bag dress. Last year, she even made her own prom dress. Martin found out she could use her interests and skills in fashion design to also convey a deeper message. She reached out on Facebook to anyone who was willing to share their stories in combating some kind of mental health issue.
“The series was first born when I turned to art to express what I couldn’t put into words. Severe anxiety and resulting depression were clouding and looming over me at the time, becoming the focus of my attention as I thought about designs, and why mental health wasn’t being talked about as much as it should be,” said Martin in her Facebook post about the project.
Holly Brettell, Lucy Peridot and Mark Young all volunteered to tell their stories of dealing with anxiety, family struggles and depression. Martin put together a video interview with each person, asking them to relate their stories and emotions to design, colors, textures and objects. What happened next is the truly amazing part – Martin took everything they said and transformed their words and stories into articles of beautiful clothing. She made dresses for Brettell and Peridot and a jacket for Young.
Each of these clothing pieces are tremendously well thought-out, touching on key details of how each person work to overcome their own struggles. Alex puts in very specific details into each fashion piece. Every element of the clothing is put there to represent a part of the wearer’s story. For example, the black piping on Peridot’s dress is placed to show how anxiety can sometimes enclose her body and mind. The golden collar on the inside of Young’s jacket is to represent the “light at the end of tunnel” and the triangular formation on the back of Brettell’s dress stands for the triangle of support that is herself, mother and and grandpa.
Martin had been wanting to do a project where she could combine her interests in fashion design and mental health awareness. The opportunity and incentive came along when she applied to a New York art school called “The New School”. As part of the application process she was asked to choose a specific theme and create three outfits that explore that theme. “I think it encompasses me as a person,” Martin said, and it most definitely does.
Martin is very reflective of her work, constantly looking for ways to make her creations meet her vision. But her biggest goal is for the pieces to be wearable art, to physically construct something that is conceptual.
“It’s still not what I would want it to be… I wanted the pictures to invoke more emotion and more what they were telling me in the interview because they were being very descriptive and talking about what they had gone through very naturally, so I wish I would have pushed them more in the shoot,” Martin said.
Her process begins with a design in her head, which she milks for a while before writing it down or sketching it out. After the initial inspiration has transpired, she gets stuck and things start getting more difficult. But then, ideas become more organized, materials are found and she creates a three-dimensional design on cheaper fabric to see how the design works out before making the final piece. Martin likes to make designs that are well-structured, intricate, and elegant, though the most important part is always to make someone feel the emotion and intentions behind the final product.
“If I’m critiquing myself, in the future it would be more artistic-based fashion, more about where you experience what’s going on in the picture [of the model with the design].”
“It’s not like I have any formal experience or teaching to back up what I’m doing. I just choose to do it on my own.” That’s right, she is entirely self-taught! Martin was very courageous to take on this project that addresses mental health issues. Holly Brettell, Lucy Peridot and Mark Young were also brave to share (and wear) their stories.
If you are on Facebook you can find Alex Martin’s project at https://www.facebook.com/alexandra.martin.1612147/posts/905972366184386 and the video interview on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWv0Y-U0pfk&feature=youtu.be
All photos by Mark Young Photography