They pioneered the alien aesthetic, they introduced the club scene to hardcore music, they bore the $10,000 skin heels, they have been featured in prominent museums, they have appeared in major magazines, they have modeled for design legends, they subvert the industry with their sartorial style: they are the duo making new waves in the world of fashion.
The artists behind Fecal Matter, Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran, first became acquainted while studying fashion design at Lasalle College in Montréal. Initially, they viewed one another as opposites: Hannah describing Steven as being the “annoying kind of student” who constantly disrupted class with questions, and Steven describing Hannah as being “very very studious.” After class one day, Steven approached Hannah and they connected over their mutual hatred of the fashion industry. Eventually, their bond grew to love and they became inseparable.
Together, they discovered their identities and ideated ways to make their mark in fashion. All they lacked was a bit of encouragement. At just the right time, they met a teacher by the name of Milan Tanedjikov, who supplemented their motivation and validated the importance of their ideas while, in the process, forming his talent incubator, LIGNES DE FUITE. Under his mentorship, they gained the confidence to expand their research into various topics including transhumanism. With their concept becoming more refined, the duo’s ideas would soon synthesize into Fecal Matter, which they would debut in 2015 at Festival Mode + Design in Montréal.
Following graduation, they began their journey by wearing their own designs, applying their unique style of hair and makeup, and posting photographs of themselves in public on social media. People were noticing. However, as their popularity grew, so too did the antagonisms they faced trying to suppress them. They then decided to leave Montréal for abroad, where their alternative appearance got them many opportunities because, as Steven recounts, “[at the time] it was very disco... this was when Gucci started coming up and doing eccentric retro looks, but we were going full future and
full alien.” At first, many in the industry “ghosted” their approaches, until they grew too big to be ignored.
As years passed, Fecal Matter gained a different perspective of the industry. They encountered like-minded people such as Rick Owens, with whom they associated for over a year. To them, he is not just a collaborator, but a friend who “loves not just what we do but who we are in a sense of our spirit, our tenacity, our courage.” After working with the legendary designer and building their reputation together for almost a decade, the duo made the decision to move to Paris.
The French Capital was a strategic choice. They saw Paris as more challenging than their alternative, London, because although the latter is “more liberal,” they state that “it’s the same shit also... it’s still run and funded and co-signed by rich, white people that are businessmen—that’s who runs the world. It’s just, they disguise it better.” In contrast, they consider Paris openly conservative, where boundaries and hierarchies are upheld, thus making it the ideal location for them to work on breaking the barriers that prevent oppressed circles from finding their footing in the fashion industry.
To understand their plans, I met with them in Paris for an interview at restaurant L’Avenue. There they sat, wearing their makeup, dressing both in Rick Owens and their own designs, contrasting the minimal and elegant environment surrounding us. As usual, they were in their element. As our food arrived I proceeded to record our conversation
Now that you’re both in Paris, what can we expect from Fecal Matter?
S: Right now, we’re just experiencing the change and the transition—living in Montréal was our home base, now this is becoming our home base. But in terms of projects, I mean, our goal is to just—I don’t know when this will happen, I don’t know how long it will take— but to just do a collection that really really embodies everything that we are feeling right now, but more importantly, everything that we don’t understand yet— if that makes any sense?
Sounds interesting. Can you elaborate on that?
S: There’s so much we don’t understand yet that I want to use a collection to understand. There’s so many things you don’t understand. It’s like, where do we belong? How do we see the world, where the world is going, social media, technology and, you know, gender—all the subjects that we’re passionate about but that are also important in life. I want to use a collection to exercise that and to discover more through that—that’s really an important thing that we come here to do: that collection. But, with that being said, what we do is not just designing, we’re image-makers, we’re working as models collaborating so who knows what. I mean, we have a lot of projects happening already but who knows where all those projects lead?
H: And right now we are working on a special photography project that feels really freeing. Usually before in Montréal we would create constantly but we wouldn’t have enough time or resources to, like, be able to delete, rework, redo; we would pretty much use all the content we created and release it immediately. Here in Paris, we are indulging in the creative process and letting work simmer, develop, collaborate, travel, grow with time before even thinking where it’ll end up. Photography is a medium that we have always used within our work to express our vision of the world. Even though fashion always seemed like the focal point, in reality photography perhaps is even more prominent due to how most people interact with Fecal Matter. Clothing is only one part of the Fecal Matter pie, there are so many other parts that deserve to be explored and now more than ever we’re finding the time, the creatives, and the point of view to uplift them.
What’s your priority in the meantime?
S: To just be as authentic as possible. To continue to push—not just fashion—but
ourselves and our own experience as creators. But to also hopefully enjoy life a little bit more.
I feel like we want to try to enjoy it a little bit more: it’s kind of been hard for us to do that, we’re very work work work. But I feel like people in Paris really indulge. That’s what they do. It’s like a very indulging lifestyle where people can stay for dinner for 4 hours, they can, you know, do nothing, read poetry—really indulge in all that life has to offer. Museum, art, fashion, music— they really go into it. And it’s not fast-paced like New York, or even Montréal, or Canada. So, hopefully we get to indulge a little bit more into our fantasies. But yeah, I mean, to be honest, the aesthetic we’re building right now is couture. And the reason why I say an “aesthetic” is because the aesthetic we’re going after is like a couture aesthetic and—what is that going to look like for us? Well, we’re gonna have to wait and see.
I’m sure you’re both excited to show Paris what you’re capable of.
S: It’s our dream: this is our dream, you know? This is what we’ve gone through so much and sacrificed so much to get to this point, and we’re just excited, nervous, scared, panicking, but at the same time, taking it one step at a time, which is something that we are trying to get better at.
H: I just want more moments where I feel like ‘oh, I was born for this,’ “everything I’ve worked at is
for this moment”, so that’s what I hope for this year.
S: Because sometimes it’s like you’re laser-focused on something, but you actually don’t know what’s happening. You’re just obsessed over the glass, but you don’t realize that you’re even at a restaurant, that there’s people, the time is ticking. It’s when you have that duality of being focused but then also it’s an internal awareness, but an external awareness all at the same time connected, it’s where you’re like, ‘ok, I see the full picture,’ you know? So, we want those full-picture moments. And right now, it is a full-picture moment, to be honest. Right now, we’re experiencing it.
Has your perspective on things changed since arriving here?
S: I don’t want to go into it too much—but before even leaving Montréal, it’s a full realization saying goodbye to all our friends and family. It was a realization of how much we’ve lived, how much we’ve impacted, and how much people have impacted us. It’s just been a bit of a closing chapter moment for us. Life is so short, it can end so quickly, but, you can be alive and not be alive at the same time, so, it’s like—experience, indulge, have fun, take risks. So that’s what we’re going to be doing: that’s our future. Who knows what that’s gonna look like. But we’re going to gamble everything, we’re just gonna—
H: See where the chips end up.
S: And if we fall on our asses, we fall on our asses. That’s just—it is what it is. We get back up. We’ve been down and up and down and up, so it’s just how it is.
Images by Raphael Viens and Fecal Matter Article originally published in LIGNES DE FUITE Vol.3