With the technology of today quickly becoming the science fiction of yesterday, I wonder, should we be shocked to hear that a collection has been created using human DNA. Well the ‘Dr Frankenstein’ behind the idea is Central St Martins graduate Tina Gorjanc.
The Slovenian pioneer has come up with a way of using tissue engineered technology to create a niche in the luxury market. Unveiling ‘Pure Human’, she has introduced to the world a range of leather prototypes, that in theory, were grown from DNA extracted from hair samples of fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
With McQueen as her Frankenstein, Gorjanc’s collection is made up of flesh-toned pieces that bore freckles, sunburn and tattoo etchings that matched those once found on Mr. McQueen’s body. On the collection the 26 year old shared; “Pure Human is a critical design project that also highlights the major legal loopholes around the protection of biological information, particularly in Great Britain.”
Creepily, the strands of McQueen’s hair used, came from the locks that were part of the late designer’s 1992 Central St Martins graduate collection- “Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims”. In order to make her project come to life, Gorjanc applied to patent Mr. McQueen’s genetic information samples, because legally she cannot apply to patent McQueen’s DNA itself. By using McQueen’s hair sample she was able to grow in a laboratory leather that was made by transplanting it into stem cells which were then multiplied.
On the bold move Gorjanc said, “If a student like me was able to patent a material extracted from Alexander McQueen’s biological information, and there was no legislation to stop me, we can only imagine what big corporations with bigger funding are going to be capable of doing in the future.”
Kering, the French luxury group that owns the Alexander McQueen brand, is aware of the provocative project, but so far they have made no comment. Their silence has not deterred Gorjanc, instead she states, “I know many people have been made uncomfortable by the work I’ve been doing, calling it Frankenfashion, but I think I am prompting the right sort of questions for this industry in the 21st century.” She continues, “The demand for personalized and unique, rarefied product is only getting greater and greater. So is obsession with celebrity, not to mention advances in biotechnology, could change the way we manufacture garments and their fabrics forever.”
In genetic design work, Gorjanc does not stand alone in using technology to explore such eerie fashions. There is Brooklyn-based company Modern Meadow who design, grow and assemble collagen using biofabrication and British based company Human Leather who claim to create products from donated human skin “for a small but highly discerning clientele.”
As someone who is all about thinking outside the box, I was impressed with what she has achieved, but honestly, I find it hard to imagine owning ‘Frankenfashion’ piece made out of human DNA. My reluctance is not only based on morality grounds, but also on the fact that the whole idea can also be viewed as being a bit in poor taste. Luckily, for now, the Pure Human project is not for sale. At this stage, Gorjanc admits that she is purely trying to promote the possibility of the application of the technology. She wants to show off the fact that it is an idea that can be patented in the first place. On that note, I have been left thinking that Victor Frankenstein has nothing on Ms Tina ‘Frankenfashion’ Gorjanc!