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Grimes’ stylist Turner reflects on her work and the stories she tells through her clients

By Kofi Wells

Nov 16, 2020

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Turner is the stylist and costume designer responsible for Grimes’ impressive looks that we had the pleasure to witness over the last few years. Speaking to the creative, Kofi Wells, editor at High Fashion Talk, wanted to know much more about how Turner works with the artists and celebrities that she counts as clients, and the stories she is trying to tell with them.

Your clients challenge gender norms and roles; you aid them with this in a visual way. How do you want your clients and models to be perceived in the work that you create?

I want my clients to be perceived as the best version of themselves—my job is to help them get there. They are powerful, independent thinkers doing what they can to make the world a better place.

When you dress women, they are powerful, yet still feminine. Does this come from a personal place? Do you share a bit of yourself when you put so much thought into the work that you do?

I don’t consciously think about gender, but rather human form in relation to fabric and materials. Sure, I have used a masculine shoe to contrast a feminine dress or vice versa. Personally, I try to find a balance in my own attire, so yes I do share a bit of myself, unconsciously. I find myself drawing on the principles of powerful image-making. I think about colour, silhouettes, shape, light, mobility, and fabrication.

 

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You present women as unbound from the patriarchy and with the same freedom men experience—it is great to see! I also noticed that you spent your birthday shooting guns in the desert, which must be an empowering thing. Do you agree that your contribution to feminism is important in the industry?

Spending my birthday shooting guns has become a pastime for me. I don’t condone violence—my interest is more of a sport, which I find oddly relaxing and meditative. Focusing on a target requires you to slow down your breathing, to focus on being in the moment. It would be cool if more people knew how to operate a gun so they can protect their family if an intruder broke into their home. The politics surrounding guns is a fine line and thus a controversial topic.

I’ve always been drawn to women who defy the odds. Joan of Arc, for example—if you look at her story, she defied all odds as a peasant girl who turned the tide in The Hundred Years’ War. When people say ‘you can do anything’ I always roll my eyes, but it’s true. One person’s actions can cause a ripple effect, and if I can inspire someone through my work, then I just feel that’s a massive blessing and honour, as corny as that may sound.

Sometimes you use personal pieces from your archive of vintage clothes for your work. When did you start collecting them, how many do you have now, and where are they from? Sustainability is, of course, at the forefront of everyone’s mind recently, but did you have those intentions when you started or did it come naturally to you?

About 11 years ago, I was invited to Stockholm and was introduced to the concept and practice of sustainability. They’ve been a sustainable country for decades and are very serious about their reputation. I read somewhere that Stockholm cancelled their fashion week to look for more sustainable methods of presenting, such as a ‘futuristic fashion week’, which sounds like they might opt for streaming, which is a no brainer. I have always been impressed by people who prioritise sustainability and I, too, have adopted the practice. I have been saving clothes for 14 years and it has been the bane of my existence. I’ve edited my collection, sold it, given it away, and have acquired more.

I usually find things at the local flea market, thrift stores or at estate sales. Nowadays, I do less hunting than when I was younger. I simply don’t have that energy, but when I come across something I love, I grab it. You shouldn’t have to question it. It feels like holy shit, I just won the lottery. The thing about styling is if you’re building a kit, be conscious of why. Don’t go out of pocket and make yourself poor. Maybe it’s something you can get many uses from or maybe you can wear it yourself. The idea that you’re buying for your ‘kit’ can be dangerous—avoid trendy fast fashion crap from Asos. Invest in a really sick pair of Comme Des Garçons something or another. You can sell it later when, or if, you decide you don’t want it.

Buy quality over quantity! I’d rather have one amazing outfit rather than 20 basic ones.

You moved to Los Angeles from New York to work and it features thematically in the style and locations of your shoots. Have you always had an affinity for the LA style and did it live up to your expectations when you moved? Lots of New Yorkers are East Coast for life.

Ha, wow! I love that question because people get so enraged about Los Angeles versus New York City. I think people should get outside their comfort zone. Leave your town, your city, your country. Personally, I was always drawn to the California sun. The landscape provides you with such abundance; from sea to mountains, desert to pine forests. You can go skiing and surfing on the same day. I don’t ski or surf but I’d like that option if I wanted to. I lived in New York City for 17 years and I loved and hated it at the same time. I was trying to create a career from nothing while living in a shoebox facing a brick wall.

The city taught me to be tough—but the city doesn’t prepare you for true survival. I believe true survival is living off the land in the woods somewhere. I don’t know how to do that but it’s definitely interesting to me. Living in Los Angeles affords me more access to nature than living in New York City. You need to find a balance with fashion, get into nature to see what real beauty is. My career didn’t take off until I left New York, even though I held respected titles at prestigious places like the New York Times. But I attribute that to my mental headspace—I felt freer in California.

 

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I saw that you learned to ride horses when you were young. Did that happen in New York? Was this also part of what brought you to the West Coast?

To be honest, I don’t ride very well. My cousin Bobbi Jo Van Kirk is a real cowgirl, she raises and breaks horses in Missouri. My father’s side of the family are true midwest settlers. I’m just a city slicker poser—I’m the black sheep. However, I love horses, their whole being is rather fascinating. Back in the gold rush, you were nothing without a horse. Did you know they can sleep while standing up? I have a fantasy of owning horses and riding them freely through the hills but then I think about how easy it would be to break your neck.

 

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Your work always has an element of collaboration with the client and you develop not only outfits but a complete visual package. How do you develop these ideas? It must be a pretty personal experience.

It’s a personal yet professional experience. I have to know who I am working with because that person is trying to express themselves visually, I need to know their source of inspiration and if they don’t know it, we find it together. My job is like therapy sometimes; you ask a bunch of personal questions until you have the answer. I do an obscene amount of research to find the designer who best represents the artist. Sometimes that ideal designer doesn’t even exist, so you have to make the clothing yourself or find someone to do it. There are also budget limitations as well: to ship something from Europe to Los Angeles could be over $200 for a roundtrip, so I’ll source locally at the movie prop houses or with Los Angeles designers and fabricators. There is a lot of texting and sharing images.

In a similar way, feature films and television require you to develop a full character when you’re dressing them with the actor and director. Is this development of an entire character something you get fulfilment from, and hope to do more of? What kind of character or feature are you interested in developing the wardrobe for?

Yes, movies are the next step for me, if and when things get back to normal. I love musicians, but I don’t want my world to be reliant on someone else’s record cycle. I need to branch out of what I’m comfortable doing and embrace the world of character building. It would be cool to do westerns, sci-fi, or even a modern-day coming-of-age film. I’d love the opportunity to work with innovative fabricators here in Los Angeles, like Ironhead Studios.

The special pieces you have commissioned for your work are beautiful. How do you start with the ideas and then develop it to getting made? Is it something that you’ve always been interested in? I saw that you visited the creator of Catwoman’s iconic costume. Perhaps you’ll get the opportunity to commission something similar for feature films in the future.

When the unanimous decision is made to create a custom piece, I will spend hours researching and mood boarding my ideas, and will share them with the client to ensure we are on the same page. Once we’ve narrowed down the look, I will find the appropriate fabricators or designers and present them to the client. Then we will reach out to the fabricator/designer to test their interest. Sometimes you run into scheduling or budget conflicts. The budget determines the quality of fabric and how intricate the design will be.

 

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Things can get very expensive very quickly, so you have to really think about whether this piece already exists somewhere else in the world before diving into the project. We will do anywhere from two to four fittings. Once you’ve committed to the design, fingers crossed the client still likes it on the day of the shoot. Obviously, you need to provide backup solutions on the day, in case shit hits the fan.

As for Catwoman’s iconic costume, if I could work with Jose Hernandez from Ironhead Studios that would be a real dream come true. I told Grimes about Jose—she’s not easily impressed, but when he gave us a tour of his studio, we both had wide eyes and our jaws dropped. In the end, we didn’t work with Ironhead because they were out of our price range.

Some of the directors that you often reference on your social media put their personal philosophies, beliefs, and social causes in their films in a similar way to how you present female empowerment, diversity and breaking the norm in your imagery. Can you see yourself in the future working on feature films or television shows that explore these themes that are important to you, impacting the industry and culture?

Yes, I would certainly be thrilled to be a part of any project with a powerful message, with a diverse cast and crew. I am particularly fond of topics surrounding injustice, I’ve always rooted for the underdog. I believe it’s important to be spiritually connected to the work you do. I have never been good at expressing myself through words, so I heavily rely on imagery to do that. However, I have learned recently that it’s important to speak up about what you believe in. Why be silent?

This interview was conducted by High Fashion Talk as part of our monthly content partnership.

Grimes’ stylist Turner reflects on her work and the stories she tells through her clients


By Kofi Wells

Nov 16, 2020

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Biodegradable materials are the sustainable future of the fashion industry

By Alma Fabiani

Sep 6, 2020

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The fashion industry is slowly becoming sustainable, or at least it’s aiming to—not truly because it wants to but because, like the rest of the world, it has to. And while fast fashion may not be completely up for it just yet, new gen fashion designers, which are the ones that will actually build the future of that industry, are pushing for change. First innovation on the never-ending list? A biodegradable fabric that decomposes within a day. What exactly is this new bio-fabric and what potential does it hold for a sustainable future for the fashion industry?

The Decomposition of Materiality is a project from Central Saint Martins graduate Scarlett Yang exploring biodegradable materials. Yang researched and developed a biodegradable textile made with algae extracts and silk cocoon protein. During the project’s showcase, the designer also added 3D simulations of the fabric’s decomposition process, documenting how the wearable objects gradually dissolve while environments change.

Alongside a 3D animation film and an augmented reality experience, Yang created a material archive for people to touch in order to understand the new possibilities this biodegradable fabric could bring the fashion industry. Highlighting four digital wearable pieces, the collection was displayed in a gallery floating above a virtual ocean.

The LVMH-awarded project offers fully biodegradable, glass-like garments that organically evolve as they’re worn, eventually decomposing. The garments can gradually biodegrade in rain, river, and seawater, while soaking them in 60-degrees Celsius water can speed up the degradation process to as little as 24 hours.

Yang’s approach to bio-fashion should not only be seen as a sustainable alternative that could potentially allow us to indulge in our consumerism but more as a first push towards consumers understanding the concept of a material’s life cycle. Yang’s resulting texture and lifespan of each piece is subject to temperature and humidity levels—seasonal changes from hot and humid to dry and cold can also make the garments appear more sculptural. The ephemeral nature of her fabrics echoes our fast-paced consumption of fast fashion.

Many of today’s garments are woven from plastic-based acrylic, nylon or polyester threads. Cut and sewn in factories, all these materials are non-biodegradable. To combat the ill effects of fast fashion, young designers are looking for more sustainable methods. One thing is for sure, the materials of tomorrow will be smarter and less ecologically damaging. What remains unsure is whether we are ready to change the impact of what we wear.

Biodegradable materials are the sustainable future of the fashion industry


By Alma Fabiani

Sep 6, 2020

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