Claire Barrow, the London-based designer and visual artist, is teaming with Brazilian ethical footwear brand Melissa on an immersive art installation, set to be unveiled on the eve of London Fashion Week at the exhibition space of the brand’s Covent Garden boutique.
Barrow brought her various areas of interests together for the collaborative project, which extend beyond fashion to art, sculpture, technology and performance.
Titled “Dancing With Dreams,” the installation focuses on theatricality and invites the audience into Barrow’s imagination.
There are five sculptures as part of the art piece, made of sustainable materials, clay or acrylic, in line with Melissa’s ethos of using recycled materials.
A series of digital projections are displayed adjacent to the sculptures, featuring performances by the likes of actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed who starred in the film “Catch Me Daddy,” dancer Harry Alexander and LGBT and social activist Michael Peacock, who interact with the sculptures as if they can talk back to them.
Barrow’s aim is to challenge societal prejudices and stereotypes with the project; the enigmatic performances invite the audience to make up their own assumptions and idea of who each performer is.
“The sculptures look so real that they invite you to create your own idea of what each character represents,” said Barrow.
She was also thinking about the juxtaposition between the digital and the online worlds when putting together the project.
“Sculpture was my starting point, but I wanted to make it modern, so we included the digital projections. We live our lives half online and half in the real world so that was something I wanted to portray. I always like to use real life as inspiration,” added Barrow.
To bring the installation to life, Barrow designed costumes for the performances featuring her signature hand-drawn, childlike illustrations and plenty of embellishments in the form of pastel-hued pearls, feather and ribbons, which reflect the dreamy, soft mood of the installation.
The entrance to the exhibition space also features shoes from Melissa’s fall range, which were customized by Barrow, hanging from the ceiling.
Melissa has always invited London’s designers into its exhibition space, allowing their creativity to run loose with such collaborative art projects. Past participants include Gareth Pugh, the late Zaha Hadid and Jeremy Scott. In September, Vivienne Westwood reinvented her Anglomania Rocking Horse platform shoes from the Eighties using Melissa’s recycled materials and celebrated the launch with an in-store installation paying homage to Westwood’s rich design history.
“I’ve always been a fan of Melissa shoes, how they look and smell, and also their ethos of keeping everything 100 percent recyclable, cruelty free and keeping production within their native Brazil. Working with a big brand as an artist is what you want to do and it’s an honor to be able to follow exhibitions from Gareth Pugh, Jeremy Scott and the latest installation from Vivienne Westwood,” said Barrow. “I’m also [pleased] to be working with actors, musicians and dancers at this professional level.”
Barrow has often stretched her creativity beyond clothing, experimenting with a variety of media. Last year, she hosted her first solo art show in East London, where she explored modern daily anxieties against medieval fables and religious tales.
Having stepped out of the official London Fashion Week schedule for the past two seasons and put her wholesale accounts on ice, Barrow said that she prefers to work on individual projects across a variety of creative disciplines. She is also working on smaller capsule collections for her namesake fashion label, which will be launched independently, outside the confines of the traditional show schedule.