Fashion, from a social and cultural point of view speaks to us, it raises awareness of different issues and it makes us reflect on certain aspects of the present and the future. This world of fashion that we love so much, apart from the practical aspects, is created by brilliant minds that blend fashion and other disciplines with mastery, showing us, time and again, that creativity can come from any field, as long as it is fertile.
Today we bring you the digital artist Rob Elford whose most well-known project, “The Vacanti Man”, turned heads with the symbolic and esthetic strength of the pieces. Based on the famous Vacanti mouse from back in 1995, the work makes viewers reflect on our proclivity for repeating our history, and our errors, over and over in an almost unending and unstoppable circle.
Rob Elford (Watford, Hertforshire, 35) received his degree in Fashion and Master’s in Digital Fashion from the London College of Fashion. His 3-D printed sculptures are allegorical and unsettling, and his way of approaching the world of digital creation has taken his work around the world, including the Korean Museum of Modern Art. Magazines like Love and Vogue have also mentioned his work more than a few times.
Monolithic Smile – Photo by Jayden Tang
His previous work has been dedicated to exploring the world of cultural and religious identity with pieces focusing on voodoo and the legacy of colonialism.
At So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins we spoke with Rob Elford to see what he’s been up to lately and to talk about the future of jewelry.
SO CATCHY!: How would you describe your work?
ROB ELFORD: My work fuses classic sculptural art forms with futurist fashion jewellery. The pieces exist as both as fashion accessories and exhibitional conceptual art.
Exhaling Glory & The Linden Mute – photos by Roxane Grant
SC!: Why did you focus on sculptural pieces of jewelry? What´s the main difference between Sculptural Pieces of Jewelry and Fashion Artefacts?
RE: I think there is a lot of cross pollination between the two, my recent work definitely blurs that line. I do however think that a main point of difference is that many of my works directly reference conventional jewellery tropes, such as: torques, ear cuffs and rings.
SC!: What have you learned during while doing your MA in Digital Fashion?
RE: My MA was a hugely cathartic experience. Without it, I would have never started working with 3d printing and 3d scanning technologies. The Digital Lab at London College of Fashion gave me a brilliant springboard for the rest of my career.
SC!: Could you describe your creative process?
RE: My creative process is about 50% research and 50% design and production. I spend much of my time, digging through archives, reading and watching archaic documentaries. I’m always fascinated by the things we choose to forget as a society rather than by reinforcing dominant zeitgeisty philosophical ideologies. This always becomes the main driver for my design process and once I’m sufficiently inspired, enraged or upset; the sketching, 3d modelling and printing happens relatively quickly thereafter.
SC!: Let’s talk about The Vacanti Man. What really fascinated you of this experiment? What did you want to tell with these pieces?
RE: The Vacanti mouse has become ingrained in our history as one of the first viral post-modern horror stories. The grainy photo of a hairless pink mouse with a human ear protruding from its back was posted on blogs, attached to emails and even became the poster boy for an anti-genetics group, called the Turning Point Project, who placed a full-page ad featuring the rodent in the New York Times. The mouse served us as an unnerving reminder of the dark side of medical science.
We like to think of these horrific acts as part of an ill-informed and a more socially conservative past, where mistakes were made and times have very much now changed. However, in 2017 aversion and conversion therapy is still legal in the UK, including electric shocks, administered poison, and even physical abuse. Pseudo-medical science from religious groups such as Christian Concern and holistic medical clinics such as the Core Issues Trust, continue to assert that this kind of medical torture. This is so unbelievably wrong.
I wanted to create a visual metaphor to shock and remind, that history has a tragic way of repeating itself. In 2017 the United Kingdom has become a theocracy. In an interview with the Sunday Times Prime Minister Theresa May said that God and her faith are guiding her decision making.
As policy and religious belief become scarily entangled, and bioprinting limbs and organs revolutionises science are we on the eve of the Vacanti Male? A dystopian future where 3d printing can remasculinise the effeminate men of Britain under the all seeing eye of an attentive church.
SC!: Where do you think the future of jewelry is heading?
RE: I think the future of jewellery will start incorporate synthetic bio-materials such as lab made bone and proteins as well as taking advantage of nanomaterials that can incorporate user defined material properties. This technique could also create incredibly fine ornate details that would be nearly impossible to render with current manufacturing technologies.
SC!: Do you plan to create wearable pieces anytime soon?
RE: I am currently working on a minimalist collection of necklaces and rings for the Ma-Wah gallery, which is opening in North East London in June.
SC!: Your Next Step is…
RE: My next collection. I’m busy researching this at the moment, I’m exploring historical role of the libertine and their subsequent decline and antagonism in contemporary 21st century culture.
SC!: Your main inspiration is….
RE: Aesthetically, I am very influenced by film and film art. I owe a great debt to David Lynch, Guillermo Del Toro and Mathew Barney. In regards to other jewellery designers, I will always adore and admire Rene Lalique, his jewellery is both wonderfully ornate and beautifully surreal.
SC!: Your dream is….
RE: To display my work at MOMA. I think it’s the most inspirational gallery in the world.
SC!: Instagram accounts or website you like.
RE: Some websites and accounts that really inspire and/or amuse me are: Love Watts, Fucking Young!, The TAX Collection, and Ello.
SC!: Your favorite artist is / are….
RE: I’m a big fan of Marc Quinn and the Chapman Brothers and have always adored the haunting paintings of Francis Bacon.
SC!: You cannot live without…
RE: Pizza, I have literally an unhealthy love for the stuff.
Photographers: Roxane Grant, Jayden Tang
Make Up: Lana Chikhireva, Erin Kristensen
Models: Kamila Nowak, Chris Machari
Design: Rob Elford
Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla