Complex sentiments around gender, politics, and social status are wrapped up in hair and how it’s styled (just ask Rachel Dolezal). “It’s a material which shapes our identity but also it conveys a statement towards others and society,” designer Alix Bizet says. For her project Hair Matter(s), Bizet fashioned garments made from human hair to explore the symbolism it has in society.
“Human hair is shaped to be a social indicator between individuals to communicate their status and cultural affiliations,” Bizet describes on her website. “Although hair’s original state is characterized by richly diverse texture and colors, our idea of hair has been steadily standardized over the years by the cosmetics industry, media, and social conventions, making it akin to a uniform.”
For the project, Bizet collected hair from salons, worked with an expert felter to create a textile from the raw materials, and sewed three Chewbacca-esque jackets and three headpieces, which will be on view at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht from February to May 2016.
“Exploring hair’s materiality and meaning through design is a good way to understand its diversity and taboos,” Bizet says noting that as a mixed-race individual, the project has a personal connection. “Having an afro, I struggled to accept it as non-standard in a globalized world of beauty lead by a dominant model of straight hair.”
Moreover, Bizet views the project as a provocative weapon against racism.
“There is no ‘perfect’ hair as the beauty industry would like us to think—just hair,” she says. “Fashion should be used to combat any form of discrimination. In many subcultures, beauty and fashion were the statements of individuals who didn’t want to fit in with the dominant model. And as always, the underground culture once seen as weird often becomes the trend. I hope diversity will be a trend to follow.”DB