Fashion Makes An Effort
Blair Fornwald on art, style and late-night web shopping
by Carrie-May Siggins | Photos by Darrol Hofmeister
Who: Blair Fornwald
Where: Dunlop Art Gallery
I've known Blair since before I moved away and have always enjoyed her sense of style: part turn-of-the-century dandy, part DIY punk, part elegant lass and definitely an original. Blair, along with John Hampton and Jason Cawood, is part of the performance art group Turner Prize* and an assistant curator at the Dunlop Art Gallery too.
What's your favourite piece of clothing?
I'm really enamoured with my great big leather satchel. It's from a little Scottish company called Scaramanga. All of their products are ethically handmade from natural materials. The finish is so nice and the stitching is sturdy and the leather is so thick; it's basically indestructible. I can imagine it being my bag for the rest of my life.
I also have a collection of lovely vintage shift dresses from the '50s and '60s that belonged to my great-grandmother, and those are all really precious to me.
Where do you usually shop for clothes?
I shop a lot at independent shops like Seed and Coda. I also shop online a lot, late at night when I'm feeling lusty and impressionable, and at The Bay on my lunch breaks. The Bay is so close to my work, and nobody helps you, ever, and that's actually kind of great. When I travel with John and Jason, we always end up at Holt Renfrew, in the menswear section, and I just feel up all the cashmere and cotton and silk. I like menswear, since there is kind of a set number of pieces - shirts, sweaters, trousers, ties, you know? And everything is kind of a variation on a classic design. I like the order and simplicity of menswear.
How does your love of art play into your sense of style?
I am inspired by artists like Elsa Schiaparelli, Leigh Bowery and Kenneth Anger. I also draw some aesthetic inspiration from bad crafts - like church fundraiser stuff - god's eyes and neon doilies, and that sort of thing. I like bad ideas and unlikely colour combinations and funny jokes in fashion. That being said, I'm interested in notions of performativity and the idea that our identities are not fixed, but rather something that we construct on an ongoing basis. Fashion is one of the ways that we perform our ideas of "self". Take gender for instance: my fashion sensibility sort of vacillates between dapper lad and fancy lady. I'm kind of in a fancy lady phase right now, but I hope that it reads as a specifically queer and constructed sort of femininity, and not an essentialist "I'm a girl, so of course I like to be pretty" kind of thing.
What's your fashion pet peeve?
There's this quote by Isabella Blow that kind of sums it up: "My fashion icon is anyone who makes a bloody effort." Conversely, my fashion pet peeve is that very few people seem to make much of an effort. I'd like to see more people dressing with intention, daring and wit. A return to a certain level of formality and age-appropriate fashion would be nice too.
Do you ever make any of your own clothing items? What/how? What do you think of the DIY movement in fashion?
You know, I sew and knit and make all kinds of crafts, but rarely do I make things that I wear, outside of performance art situations. The one thing that I made and do wear often is this fur brooch - I just found a piece of coyote fur and stuck a safety pin on it.
Do you wear accessories? Do you have one in particular that you wear all the time?
Besides Fur Brooch, I have a lovely long strand of freshwater pearls that I bought last summer at an estate sale. They're beautiful and they have such a nice weight and warmth to them, and if you fidget with them, it looks kind of elegant - whereas fidgeting with any other thing in the world looks annoying.