Interview Series: Jess Eaton

Would you wear a dead animal carcass if it had been transformed into something fabulous? Jess Eaton of UK design boutique and studio EatonNott has done just that, turning the tragic death of furry creatures into exquisite garments in her controversial collection titled “Roadkill Couture.” Made of animal pelts, feathers and bones, the collection was showcased at Brighton Fashion Week in 2011 and met with both a standing ovation and tons of controversial press coverage.

The collection attempts to “give a second life to things of wonder and beauty when they would normally perish or simply be thrown away or discarded” which in retrospect, actually seems like a respectable and novel idea. This collection was so off-the-wall and intriguing to me that I was compelled to find out more about the ideas and processes behind it. I caught up with Jess Eaton to gather some inside info on the message behind the project, her inspirations, and her responses to some of the criticism it has received. Check it out:

Q & A

LF:  What inspired you to create the collection Roadkill Couture?

JE: Roadkill couture is more than just clothing/accessories, it’s a conceptual art piece and was a natural progression from my last collection ‘Trashion’. The idea came to me at the time when Jon and I were first toying with the idea of opening a shop/studio together and it seemed to fit perfectly. It excited me a lot and the more layers I found to the piece.

LF:  What are some of your favorite pieces created in this collection?

JE: I love the stern looking black crow pieces from a visual aspect and the pieces that challenge our preconceived ideas and taboos like the rat jacket or the feral cat fur cape from an intellectual viewpoint.

LF:  How do you feel about or how would you like to respond to the controversy and criticism that has occurred surrounding this product?

JE: It doesn’t bother me because there is no content to the criticism and as soon as people stop and think about it, they realize how hypocritical and idiotic the criticism is. Every piece of leather we use in our daily lives was once fur that has had the fur removed, every ham sandwich was an animal that died for you to eat it. I don’t kill anything… I just pick up the things other people throw away as rubbish.

LF:  How has the response from the public affected your work and inspirations?

JE: It hasn’t really, although the majority of response has been overwhelmingly positive… but as an artist I knew I had to do this project, whatever the outcome and was prepared to face the music.

LF: Is the collection made for ready-wear or would you say that it is more an artistic representation of high-fashion design?

JE: It’s definitely something special… most pieces are one-offs as I use what I find and that rarely repeats itself. All creatures are unique so the pieces, even if the same style, are never the same.
LF: How were you able to achieve high-end designs with such materials?

JE: I let the materials dictate the designs… I like to keep the nature of whatever material it is I’m working with and I have learned how to process them through necessity to be able to create the pieces I see in my head. I’m not going to lie to you, some of the pieces are very difficult to make, but I have a lot of experience at what I do.

LF: What message are you trying to send with this collection?

JE: Roadkill Couture has lots of layers…I want to challenge people to think about their own and our societies relationship to animals. It is very self-serving and hypocritical. We don’t want to be confronted by death and have removed the reality of our behavior and consumption to the point that people get offended by the old fashioned butchers with carcasses hanging in the windows and have created a ‘faceless’ animal that is just a cellophane wrapped piece of pink flesh on the shelves of a supermarket. I want people to think about how we give values to animals…some we find worthless and eat, some we consider family and take into our homes. It’s all social conditioning and I think it wrong. In India the cow is holy (roast beef is our nation’s favorite dish) and in China, they eat dogs which we consider to be man’s best friend. If you can wear leather/eat meat then why not wear a coat made out of dog? I would never kill anything for my work and only use materials that would normally be thrown away. I am not also not sensationalizing death but celebrating beauty and using our natural resources as our ancestors did before we became a ‘throw away’ society. Sure some people get up in arms about being confronted by the truth, but human nature is ugly.

LF: Describe your creative process. What gets you going?

JE: I get excited by the natural beauty of the things I find. Nature is a sensational designer and I try to keep the materials as they were but change them into something else that emphasizes the beauty I see. I get strong images in my head and then have to work out how to make it a reality.

LF: What are you working on next? What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

JE: I will continue to create roadkill pieces for our shop, it is our label… but as an artist I will be creating new collections. I have a few ideas but am undecided in which direction to go at present. I am also working in a couple of completely directions but its early days yet and I don’t want to talk about it too much at the moment.

LF: Has working with animal pelts, bones, etc. inspired any future like-minded projects?

JE: Hmm… not really although I do know of some people who have left me their bodies in their wills so who knows!

LF: What turns you on?

JE:  I find work very exciting – breaking boundaries, pushing yourself. I like people who are really themselves and not afraid of it. I suppose that’s why I like very heavy tattooed bodies, because you can’t wash them off and it takes guts and a life choice…but everything else on the list of turn ons remains my secret I’m afraid!

LF:  How fast do you live?

JE: Ha! Not very these days! I moved back to Brighton to slow down, to enjoy life with my son and consciously drink in the minutes that make up a day. That’s what it’s all about. Exciting work, family, friends, love and fun on the beach :-) xx


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