A Central Saint Martins student has revealed plans to use DNA extracted from the hair of late fashion designer Alexander McQueen to produce skin for handbags and jackets.
The student, named Tina Gorjanc, has been approached by representatives of McQueen’s company who say the designer ‘would have approved of the project,’ according to The Times.
McQueen committed suicide in 2010 following the death of his mother. He also studied at Central Saint Martins, the famous fashion school, and was celebrated for pushing the boundaries of the art form.
The skin would be adapted from DNA extracted from a strand of hair from McQueen. The fashion icon used his own hair in the labels of his first collection. The owner of the pieces has agreed to give Gorianc one hair for her research.
Gorianc recently presented a similar collection made from pig skin called ‘Pure Human’ to show what the final ‘human leather’ items could look like.
The skin would be tanned and bear tattoos relating to McQueen, as well as potentially featuring freckles, she says. It could also suffer sunburn. She has filed a patent application for the project and is applying for funding.
She has been experimenting with the technique in a laboratory, and wants the project to raise the ethical questions around patenting someone else’s DNA.
She tells The Telegraph: ‘The project is about how our biological information isn’t protected, there are huge gaps in legislation because the technologies are evolving so quickly.
‘Because of those loop holes we are able to extract genetic information from a human source – and it can be someone else’s – and then produce something out of it like a product and then patent it. When you do that you patent material, that is including someone else’s genetic information, which is an interesting concept.’
‘With the tattoos and manipulation of freckles and sunburning, I wanted to showcase the material,’ Gorjanc explains. ‘I think that was really important in terms of getting this connection between the jacket and McQueen.’
The Slovenia-born student says if the items were made they would most likely be displayed in a gallery rather than be made available for sale.
On the subject of human leather being an ethical alternative for animal leather, she adds: A lot of people are really grossed out by the whole procedure, but in my opinion it’s way less gross than other procedures at a leather farm because it doesn’t include animal slaughter and is completely lab born and doesn’t hurt any human beings. We are so grossed out by human leather, but then use animal leather in our every day life.’
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