These days, brands such as H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, and others dominate the market with low-priced takes on designer wear. Because these lines allegedly rely on sweatshops, manufacture garments not meant to last, and base their business on quickly fading trends, their offerings have been termed fast fashion. In response, another movement has developed: slow fashion, which makes use of craft techniques, aspires toward a more ethical form of production, and is intended to have greater longevity. The model Ella Emhoff, with her one-of-a-kind knitwear that looks charmingly handmade, has become something of a poster child for the movement, and many hobbyists have picked up knitting, crocheting, and sewing to pass the time during quarantine. There are countless makers, and increasingly, many are selling their work on Instagram or at boutiques like Café Forgot in New York. In fact, the New York Times recently called handmade clothes the opposite of “cheugy”—the Gen Z adjective that describes out-of-date trends. A number of these makers have art practices, too. Take a look at the artists whose work moves seamlessly between painting and sculpture, jewelry and garments.
Left: Vita Kurland wears Sean-Kierre Lyons’s PRODA shirt. Right: View of Lyons’s exhibition “Mmhhmm,” 2019, at Larrie, New York.
In plush sculptures and colored pencil drawings, the self-taught New York–based artist creates a fantasy world of flower warriors in a realm where “everything is a Black figure, and everything has consciousness.” Lyons’s latest flower warrior shirts, currently for sale via Nguyen Inc., are follow-ups to their 2019 collection launch with fictional collaborators PRODA and GUCCHY. For New York Fashion Week in 2020, Lyons partnered with designer Collina Strada to create 11 limited-edition T-shirts, with 70 percent of proceeds going to G.L.I.T.S, a nonprofit that provides support and essential care to trans sex workers. Lyons’s collabs are sewn by machines, but the artist’s drawn images give their vivacious garments the feeling that they’re made by hand.
Left: Emma Pryde’s Scimitar Earrings. Right: Aspirational Lamb Gate, 2020,
epoxy dough, galvanized fence, resin, wire, metal hardware, glass, crystal, plastic tiaras, house paint, ribbon, 60 by 36½ by 4 inches.
This Wisconsin-based jeweler and sculptor casts emblems of innocence and girlhood—bows, butterflies, angles, poodles—in pastel pinks, purples, and blues. They’re almost nauseatingly sweet, and that’s the point. Pryde’s sculptures are composed of porcelain, plastic, and found objects; her one-of-a-kind jewelry is typically made of laser-cut plastic. She’s best known for her dangling dagger earrings.
Min Ji Son
Left: Screengrab from Min Ji Son’s website, www.minjison.com. Right: Today Too, digital drawing, dimensions variable.
Son’s airbrushed and digital paintings, often incorporating anime-esque figures against hazy, pastel backgrounds, are just as likely to appear on garments as they are on canvases. The Los Angeles–based artist upcycles secondhand garments by airbrushing feminine figures onto them.
Left: a tattoo by Will Sheldon. Right: Will Sheldon, Web, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 69 by 55 inches.
Sheldon is based in New York, where he is best known as a tattoo artist, though he also paints. His fantastical images—spindly Gothic fairies, dragons, and skeletons—show up in both his paintings and tattoos, which he says can be worn just like clothes. He’s inspired by mall art and the trading card game Magic the Gathering.
Read an interview with Will Sheldon here.