Fashion—as an industry, art form, and way of life, is built on the backs, and creative genius, of game-changing minds. Beyond the need to identify trends and knowing what’s in or out, it is an ever-fickle industry with trends that seem to emerge from a different planet—literally. So when a design-DJ duo like Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran, better known by their Instagram moniker, @matieresfecales (that’s French for Fecal Matter), emerge on the scene with designs that include, but are not limited to, $10,000 thigh-high skin heels, with prosthetic ankle horns and dildo bags—people pay attention. During Reference Berlin, a 24-hour interdisciplinary and futuristic festival covering art, fashion and design, Fecal Matter met Ruth Gruca, creative director of CALA, a forward thinking production platform working to make fashion production accessible for designers without connections and hefty budgets, during a panel about fashion and technology. Gruca is a seasoned fashion insider who’s held roles at brands like #BEENTRILL, VFILES, and MADE. She once pulled pieces from Calvin Klein, Versace, Margiela, and Moschino and lit them all on fire—for a launch party. It only makes sense that Fecal Matter and CALA have at last merged their creative forces. Dalton, Bhaskaran, and Gruca hopped on the phone with Interview to discuss bringing virtual fashion to life, breaking the rules, and the duo’s sick new Britney Spears mix.
ERNEST MACIAS: Why pick Fecal Matter to speak at Reference Berlin?
RUTH GRUCA: Who better than Hanna and Steven to have a really great opinion on technology and fashion? They’re so smart, and I love their outlook on fashion, and also just on life. They’re such an amazing couple. Plus you can’t just exactly come in and talk about software at a fashion festival, right? It doesn’t exactly excite fans. To see their skin shoes in person. Those shoes are nuts. They’re nuts!
MACIAS: They are insane. And so tall!
GRUCA: They look like they’re Photoshopped. It took them like an hour to get from the entrance of the festival all the way up to the sixth level, where we were going to speak.
HANNAH ROSE DALTON: This is, Fecal Matter, we were buying fabric and it was running long.
MACIAS: As independent designers, how does CALA fit into your understanding of fashion and technology?
GRUCA: I was thinking about your interest in sustainability. That was kind of a guiding force for you guys. And I know that’s something that’s super important to you—the way that you produce in your practice.
DALTON: Production is the hardest thing and, really, has always been the hardest thing for us as young designers. So having these tools is really helpful for us and many other creatives. In terms of our production, we’re really just starting with our introduction into CALA, and how it works, and how it will work for us.
STEVEN RAJ BHASKARAN: A lot of our clients buy our pieces because they know that it’s made by us, and it’s made by hand. That’s what we do as a brand. But recently, demand for our pieces has become a lot more than what we can handle. With CALA, we don’t really need to have a studio, and we have access to creatives like us, who are very young and starting up as well.
MACIAS: Fecal Matter really has two lines: the hand made pieces like the archival stuff and then you have the merch, so to speak, that included t-shirts and stuff that people can wear and identify with.
GRUCA: Someone can wear a Fecal Matter T-shirt and feel comfortable and know that they’re part of this progressive movement, in my opinion.
MACIAS: Young people are buying those pieces of merch to be part of a larger movement in the fashion world. All three of you have the skills and knowledge of the fashion industry, but are now pivoting to new territory, where technology sort of pushes fashion into a new area.
DALTON: When I first met Ruth, and learned about CALA I was shocked that the production side of the industry was not standardized. So that’s what’s happening here—and that is so genius, and definitely the way of the future. It makes me a bit furious that this hasn’t been the case in the past. Imagine if you’re a factory on the other side of the world, receiving a tech pack from somebody on the other side of the world. It creates a lot of confusion and, honestly, it is a waste of time. So yes: what CALA is offering is going to improve the fashion industry—the production team, the shipping team, the accounting—especially for young designers.
GRUCA: The information is all saved together, it’s very organized. So it’s easy for production to go in and see exactly what it is you’re trying to create. Factories, are not trying to be creative at all, they just want all the information. So, to Hannah’s point, no one’s wasting time.
MACIAS: Fecal Matter alters and manipulates the body in mystifying ways, to the point where it looks unreal or virtually enhanced. What’s the challenge with translating virtual fashion to real life?
BHASKARAN: We’re pushing the boundaries of what is a human body. Through Photoshop, and through anything virtual, you’re really able to manipulate the body and clothing even. Creativity can be free virtually. But for us specifically, that has kind of hindered our creativity in terms of real life, because it’s so much easier to just create something virtually, and then let it live virtually. It is really important to do the work in real life. We actually do kind of live our free life in real life. We dress up. We love to live the fantasy.
GRUCA: I think your designs, and the world of Fecal Matter, are born in the virtual world, but then you actually bring it to real life, in a way that I’ve never seen anybody else do, ever. We’re seeing this trend with designers where they’re doing these virtual fashion shows, they’re building these other worlds where their models live, and maybe that’s how they show off the clothes. You guys are starting there, but then bringing it to reality.
DALTON: A big reason why we do it is because it is really empty and disposable if you only do it virtually—there isn’t that impact if you do it in real life. We’re trying to give hope to a lot of people in the world that feel like reality is never going to be free enough or accepting of who they want to be.
BHASKARAN: So instead, those people just live this fantasy in their head, but they never actually live it in real life.There’s a lot of security from living virtually. We focus on brining these fantasies to life because, not only does it help us feel like we’re doing something that has more weight and something that is powerful, but we also can definitely notice that it has an impact on communities and the people around us.
MACIAS: The fact that CALA and Fecal Matter are sort of coming together at this time, it feels like an open door for so many other people to expand their imaginations beyond just a virtual world.
BHASKARAN: We like to do things our own way. As a brand we’ve always done things independently. The hardest part of doing things independently and doing things your own way, is that you kind of miss out on a lot of the resources that you can get if you did do things with everybody else. That’s something that I think is important for a lot of designers, having the opportunity to do things their own way.
GRUCA: We want to be democratic. It shouldn’t be the people with the money, connections, or investors that succeed. It should actually be the most talented. It should be the people that have the community, and know how to speak to it, and have designs. We just want to create something that allows fashion to become as easy as painting a painting. Then let the world decide who should be making the most money. It’s just been too hard and we need to give a level playing field to everybody, and equip them with the exact same tools.
MACIAS: That’s sort of a radical, but very timely outlook on fashion. So is Fecal Matter already working on having clothes made through CALA?
DALTON: We’re just starting and getting that jush together. [Laughs] It’s all very exciting.
MACIAS: One more thing guys, that Britney Spears mix. Insane.
GRUCA: Oh my God, the imagery too. Oh my God. I love her as Hannah.
DALTON: Glad you like it.