Tina Gorjanc Makes Biotechnology Meet Fashion!
Tina Gorjanc Makes Biotechnology Meet Fashion!
Human leather is completely a possibility now and not just that, think about wearing leather that requires no killing at all. Yes, there exist designers who take inspiration from the most bizarre aspects and details of life, but this one has gotten under the skin and tried to embrace the beauty of ‘biotechnology’ in the fashion world!
Tina Gorjanc utilized genetic material, in her work —The Pure Human Project— to develop leather, and the person she took the genes from is the great design mughal, Alexander McQueen.When the news about ‘Alexander Mc Queen’s skin-leather’ was out , there were a range of reactions upon it, from ‘oh gross’ to ‘crazy and ground breaking’.
Some reacted without reading the whole idea behind it, while some (like me) got excited on the wonder of ‘utilizing human genetic material to such potency with proficiency’ and oh! It is simply brilliant.
Coming from a ‘leather designing’ background, I was extremely inquisitive about the whole idea of generating leather from genetic material, which apparently might not even bother the PETA people because it is all laboratory spawned. And finally, I got the chance to get into the details of this project in an exclusive conversation with Tina herself! Excerpt from the conversation.
FFT– WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WORK ON THIS PROJECT?
TG– The course of material futures that I took up inspired me to undertake this approach of design. My background is in fashion and textiles, but the course allowed me to mix my expertise with different mediums and base my work on research.
Besides, I choose to study fashion mainly because of my passion for drawing and discovering the human anatomy. I started to express myself with putting the human body in different contexts and by doing so I discovered different mediums that have the ability to change our perception of the body.
FFT– WHAT WAS THE PROCESS BEHIND THE PURE HUMAN PROJECT?
TG– I based the procedure on a process called de-extinction, where you can extract the genetic informations from a source (usually preserved hair, skin or bone) and use these information to biologically programme an already existing skin draft (as human species are pretty similar in their biological characteristics the draft is easier to find, which is not the case with other species). After that the skin grows using the mentioned genetic information, which means that the growing tissue then mimics the tissue of the original source. The accuracy of it is dependent on how much genetic info you can extract.
The tests made in the laboratory helped me understand the technology better and see how far I can use them. However, those test were not carried out on McQueen’s genetic information. This technology is still developing and big corporations with better equipped laboratory have a better chance of developing it further.
FFT– HOW CAN A GENETIC MATERIAL EXPLOITATION HAPPEN? HAS IT HAPPENED BEFORE?
TG– That kind of exploitation first took place in the medical field in 1950, the Henrietta Lacks case and later in the case of John Moore, where doctors extracted biological material from patients and copyrighted it, and used the material for product developments (cures). However, the patients never gave their consent for it and had no benefits.
FFT– WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BASE YOUR PROJECT ON ALEXANDER MCQUEEN?
TG– This is not just an Alexander McQueen project (although because of his extraordinary work he does deserve one!). The project is speculating how big corporations can exploit genetic information as a new source of luxury. It also addresses the problems of defining the ownership issues of the information and its inheritance. The same process can be applied to multiple sources. The reasons why I choose McQueen are two:
Firstly, because I wanted to show the lack of legislation surrounding the protection of genetic materials, besides I also wanted to project how someone can get hold of biological material from sources you would usually think extremely protected. McQueen’s genetic information was interesting from the perspective that he died living behind an enormous brand empire that is protected with numerous copyrights and still has relatives who have inherited his possessions – however, his genetic info are still not protected well.
Secondly, the more practical reason is the possibility of authentication and access to his genetic info through his hair labels from his collections.
FFT– IS THIS LABORATORY GENERATED LEATHER BETTER THAN THE USUAL?
TG– I believe that laboratory grown leather will result in not just a more ethical but also more sustainable alternative. I think that control of quality and quantity of such material could reduce the amount of unusable off-cuts and maybe even allow a production that better follows the demands of the society.
FFT– DO YOU PLAN TO SELL OR COMMERCIALIZE THIS PROJECT?
TG– The project from the beginning was conceived as a critical and speculative design provocation that would not have a commercial agenda in mind. I believe that the message that the project is conveying is way stronger than any commercial application of such a technology.
FFT– WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU THINK IS UP NEXT FOR YOU?
TG– I am passionate about research and really interested in speculating future application of developing technologies. This is why I believe that my future work will still revolve around this subject. As I mentioned earlier, I am thinking of expanding the project, which will allow me to explore in depth, what I have already touched upon.
FFT– WHAT KIND OF FUTURE EXPLOITATIONS YOU PREDICT?
TG– I am currently in the process of expanding the concept of the project and looking at the inheritance and ownership issues of genetic information. I believe that interesting concepts could be applied in this section as it is a pretty unprotected field. I also believe that there are variuos ways to exploit this area, which is what I am currently researching.
All these insights from the brilliance of Tina’s project shows that there is great scope in exploring genetic material and has the potential to come up with exquisite results.