For their second week back in college, Patrick Lee Yow’s Fashion Folio students were set an exciting and challenging project: following in the footsteps of creatives like David Bowie and Grayson Perry, they had to develop an alter ego and live it for a week. It was all about letting go of the comfort zone of being yourself and looking at things from a different perspective. 1 Granary met up with some of the students to hear about how they went about living life as their second self.
Richard got hold of a pair of dungarees and a small hat that looked exactly like his childhood ones and started doing the things he used to do as a kid. ‘I began by thinking about the expression alter ego and what it meant – a second self. I find myself doing quite immature things sometimes – I like throwing water bombs out of my window and shooting people with water pistols and stuff. I really miss being a kid. I’m turning 20 soon and I really don’t want to be a non-teenager – that just sucks.’
And what did you get up to during your week as little Rich? ‘I was quite lucky as a kid to live in a house with a big communal garden – it’s pretty fucking big. I still live there. Apart from playing football, climbing trees and making dens, it was always about getting in trouble – I was quite mischievous as a kid. I’d sneak up to people’s doors, knock on them and then run away. Or throw things at the doors.’
So in a way you’re allowing yourself to be a kid as this alter ego? ‘Yeah, you could say that.’
Øyvind feels he often mimics his friends while talking to them to feel more confident and likable: ‘I sometimes think that as long as I behave the way they do, they’ll like me. And it’s not something I do consciously, which is why I wanted to look at this in the project and become aware of what I was actually doing.’ So there he went – twirling in Fifties ball gowns with Julia, smoking cigarettes in a fur coat and hair extensions with Fernanda, running through the park in Lula’s creepers and playing dress up with Evie.
Does he feel that after a week of doing this he’s copying people less?
‘Not really. I’ve just accepted it a bit more I think. We all play a character, you know. We’re students to our teachers, sons to our mothers – we play a different role depending on who we’re with.’
When asking Jinglin about her week as her alter ego, ‘an awkward creature from a different planet, unable to fit into today’s society on earth’, the first question that popped into my head was: ‘Did you enjoy scaring people?’. Turns out she didn’t: ‘No, this wasn’t about scaring people. The fact that I scared other people actually really bothered me. I didn’t like going out in public, I was scared to let people see me. Worried they would think I was evil.’ So this project wasn’t about being evil? ‘Not at all. I’m interested in the spiritual world, the highly intelligent forms of life outside of the world we live in. It was based on peace and ethereal things. I like things to be pure, natural, calm and beautiful in that way. That’s why I chose to wear a white wig. White hair is beautiful in such a gentle way, nothing like the vibrant world we live in today. Basically, my alter ego is who I am on the inside, externalised.’
What do you think this whole experience has taught you? ‘I can go out and live my life like this without having to care about what other people think of me. I can be brave, stand there. I’m not worried about people judging me anymore.’
Inspired by nights out in London today as well as its reputation as the place where partying started back in the wild 18th century, Tina went out as her alter ego, a London club kid. When she ran into club kid Mikey Woodbridge outside the supermarket, Tina started talking to him and found out about the perfect party for her alter ego in Whitechapel.
‘When I went there it was really amazing to see so many people who were pushing their outfits to the extreme. I think at first I had a different idea of what it was actually like to dress up and go out in London, but then the reality turned out to be much better than the fantasy. It’s not just a night thing – it’s a continuing lifestyle. I discovered a whole new side to myself.’
Laura, aka Lula, decided to stick with an alter ego very close to herself – someone with the same personality and style but with a different attitude. The attitude of a guy, that is. A walk like a man, talk like a man-type of thing. ‘I could see the confusion in people when they were looking at me – is this a girly guy? Or a man girl? In a way I think the confusion attracted people, girls in particular were pretty interested in the androgyny. The only people that looked at me in a weird way were old guys, cashiers at the supermarket. One of them asked ‘Do you want a bag, sir?’. So I went a bit red – and I was actually buying alcohol so I had to show him my ID. When he realised I was a girl the situation got pretty damn awkward.’
‘My friends back home used to make jokes every time we went out about how much I looked like a drag queen – my makeup, my height when I’m wearing heels, even the time it took me to get ready. I was always a bit overdressed compared to them.’ For her project, Fernanda decided to embrace this, make the drag queen-esque elements that are a part of her style more extreme and actually become a drag queen.
‘It was so funny – I’d just moved into a new building and hadn’t met any of the other people that lived there yet. And then on my first day as a drag I bumped into one of my neighbours in the lift.’
Thanks to Richard, Øyvind, Jinglin, Tina, Lula and Fernanda for taking the time to share their experiences with 1 Granary.