Artist and self-described feminist K8 Hardy doesn’t take fashion lightly. This past weekend, she held a fashion show — though she says she “approached it more as performance art [or] experimental theater” — featuring models wearing face paint as they walked backwards or in slow motion down a runway. Like many real fashion shows (and adding to the drama), two girls tumbled down the stairs of a ten-foot “catwalk” at the end of the runway during the performance and seemed genuinely injured. Which was sadly appropriate, considering the ominous final words echoing through the gallery at the show’s conclusion: “All in the name of fashion.” Click through our slideshow to see the highly attended spectacle.
The outfits were all made by K8 from repurposed clothing, featuring paint splatters and drips, underwear as outerwear, assless pants, and an America’s Next Top Model–cropped sweatshirt. “I went to a lot of thrift stores,” she says of her design process. “It was a weird process because I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted it to look like, or an aesthetic that I was trying to present. I just knew what kind of materials I wanted to use, and that I wanted to choose a combination of garments that were cultural commentary. I started styling them together in my studio and then began to cut things apart and sew them back together.”
This aesthetic stems from her serious opposition to many of the fashion industry’s practices. “I think a lot about production and labor and the environmental harm that comes from the excessive fabrication of clothing,” K8 said of her inspiration. “I approach fashion as an opportunity to express oneself and to challenge what is considered appropriate or attractive.” The Texas native holds an MFA from Bard and has worked with performance artists like Miranda July, Le Tigre, and Fischerspooner, among others. Her recent series of photographs in the Whitney Biennial layers stills, props, and clothing in playfully dark tableaux that subvert expectations of fashion and advertising imagery.