Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Michele first came across Unskilled Worker in 2015 on her Instagram account. He then asked her to participate in the fashion house’s “No Longer / Not Yet” exhibition in Shanghai at the Minsheng Art Museum. Whitewall spoke with the artist about how her relationship with Michele and the brand evolved from there.
WHITEWALL: How would you describe the creative connection you feel with Alessandro Michele?
HELEN DOWNIE: The Gucci paintings are an instinctive response to Alessandro’s work. It’s been a lot like a creative conversation. I’ve really enjoyed finding the references in his work and melding them into my paintings.
WW: What has it been like seeing your work on clothing, accessories, and more?
HD: To see my work transformed into a Gucci collection has been an amazing experience; like a walking, moving exhibition. It’s also given me the opportunity me to see my work from a detached point of view and accept the way it is, and not (as I usually do) want to change everything.
WW: You’ve said you like to include hidden elements in your work. Are there any secrets in this collection we should try and find?
HD: I think we both like hidden elements in our work. The silk shirt with “family” printed on to the back was made as a response to homophobic comments left on Instagram. I wished to express that for me, family is a feeling and not an absolute. The shirt is particularly special to me as it has the name Jeanie drawn into it. She was someone who made a huge impact on my life and I will love wearing it.
WW: You created an exclusive work that can be downloaded online. Can you tell us about this piece?
HD: I found it quite challenging as many of the paintings in the collaboration were painted a year ago and my work has changed over that time. It felt as if I were painting a mirror in a mirror. Primarily though, it was really exciting to be painting a gift and so I tried to incorporate the elements in my work that I know people like. It’s probably the first time I’ve painted thinking about pleasing others.
WW: How would you describe the intersection of art and design?
HD: I think we all like to construct these imaginary worlds in which we use a different language to define the times in which we live and to challenge the traditional ideas and approaches.
WW: You’ve always been interested in how people invent themselves in their appearance. How would you describe your personal style?
HD: I’ve always been a bit boyish and since I started painting I’ve become less interested in my own appearance. So most of the time is spent wearing clothes splattered in paint. If I need to get smart I wear a mixture of Gucci, vintage and land girl jeans.