Selling Persona

March 6, 2020 / Nick Sheppard

The future of branding is all about personality. These two designers show us how it’s done.

Fishnet gloves, cross motif jewelry, a bold red lip, and a wild mop of hair…sound familiar to any of you ‘80s fans? If we got ourselves a Delorean and bopped back to circa 30 years ago, we would see the influence of America’s hottest new cultural sensation: Madonna. From thumbing through the pages of Vogue to spying on fashionistas bopping to Material Girl, we’d see the imprint of her badass punk meets Marilyn Monroe persona on every corner. Now, let’s go ~back to the future~. Instagram. Go on, I give you permission. Search @matieresfecales. Do you see it? The second skin silicone boots with a fleshy horn stiletto. Black eyeliner all the way out to over there and Comme des Garçons levels of platform shoes. Now, look up @pisssy_pusssy. Just look at those velvet masks whose Cheshire Cat grins look ever so gently bound by a thousand dainty safety pins. Imagine the fringe on that purple and orange reptilian headpiece bouncing to the thump of techno. Fecal Matter and Pissy Pussy — yep, you heard me — are very much, not Madonna. They are strange and creepy creatures whose looks put the word “commercial” far down on the list of descriptors. But...they’re captivating. Enthralling. Mystifying. You can’t look away. They offer a window to a fantasy where a crosswalk is as good as a stage.

Have I lost all but the freaky-deakies out there? If you’re still here, may-haps you want a piece of the action. You’re in luck. Fecal Matter has set up shop on Depop and Pissy Pussy just moved from Etsy to his own merch website. If you find yourself in Montreal or Brooklyn, they’ll even make a house call if you want to throw down some serious pesos. (Remember those silicone heels I mentioned?...mmmm yeah they’re $10,000 #fuggetaboutit.) Here’s what I’m getting at: while these two artists seem niche, they’re followings and influence are growing day by day. Fecal Matter has won several major design awards and had a garment worn by none other than Lady Gaga. Pissy Pussy just had some of his designs featured in Mont Blanc and Lavazza coffee campaigns. Their notoriety and their ability to support themselves financially off their very personal designs is an example to the fashion industry that the future of branding lies not in commercial appeal, but an appeal to consumers’ fantasies and identities.

“Oh my god, is this boy talking about pee and poop? I thought this was a fashion, uhhh wtf??”

“The person underneath the fabric has vanished from sight. A creature of the night(life) is born.”

Don’t worry, doll, let me explain. Fecal Matter is a brand/creative duo based in Montreal, Canada, that was formed by twenty-somethings Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran after they finished design school. They sell their brand’s clothes and accessories on Depop, produce high octane club music and operate their Instagram account you’ve presumably perused by now — if you haven’t, what the heck, girl? Why the provocative name? Dalton told Vogue, “It’s things that we don’t like in the industry, like the child labor, the waste that goes on in the fabric industry, the dyes that are harmful for the environment.” They also want their brand to promote critical thinking about beauty standards and our relationship to our clothes and, even further, our humanity.

Their looks embrace perceived opposites and marry them. Hard and soft, masc and femme, large and small, Hollywood glam and Halloween drag coexist in a singular look to synthesize something otherworldly. Their designs are rooted in morphing the body, something they take to an extreme with their makeup and photo editing. Wearing Fecal Matter, just like wearing any kind of big-name designer, isn’t just about the garment itself. It’s about what that garment stands for. The message here: a fat middle finger to gender, to beauty standards and the idea of being human at all. If you’re down diggity with that vision, there are several ways to buy into their message. Scroll through their Depop offerings and you’ll see a range of enticing products. On the more affordable side, they sell accessories like necklaces made from hardware store chains and small bags with dildo handles. If you want to spend a little more serious money, you could get a custom made repurposed blazer with chains cinching in the waist or a bright orange sculptural latex dress.

Pissy Pussy, while equally fabulous and campy, has a completely different story. Pissy started as a club kid drag persona for the 25-year-old Robert Reed when he moved to New York and got hooked on the nightlife scene. As he’s developed the persona, Pissy Pussy has built her aesthetic on a few distinctive characteristics. First, a signature mask covers the entire head except for three little baby grommets where the eyes and mouth should show. Second, all capitals, TALL shoes, be it seductive stilettos or brick-like platforms, that’ll squash all the basic bitches in the disco. Third, and the most striking aspect of a Pissy look, is one bold print that covers every inch of her. Absolutely no sign of a human body shows whatsoever in most of Reed’s designs. The person underneath the fabric has vanished from sight. A creature of the night(life) is born.

While Reed does make head to toe custom Pissy Pussy looks for clients, the majority of his sales are Pissy masks and merch. Buying a Pissy Pussy mask is a PP-lite (teehee) version of the whole experience. You still get the sensation of skin-tight coverage and body erasure, but only focused on the head. You at least get to see through the tiny little eye holes that Reed himself looks through when he gets into full drag. It sort of reminds me of the way a Sia wig functions. Maddie Ziegler is just herself without the wig, but as soon as she puts it on she is part of Sia, a little mini-me. You put on a Pissy mask, and you transform into a mini Pissy Pussy — a lil baby Pissy Pussy.

There is a greater perceived feeling of intimacy between the designers and the customers than a typical fashion brand. Both designers have brands founded in caricatures of themselves. When customers purchase a piece from their collections, they move about their own worlds with a piece of their favorite creators. This relationship isn’t constructed on empty and arbitrary values like higher status or wealth. As Dalton of Fecal Matter put it, “You have to really like what you’re buying into and you really have to love the design and the textile [as] opposed to just buying it because it is Dior.” This more personal and emotional connection customers have with the brand build fans and a community, not just a customer base.

Take the recent launch of Rihanna’s clothing line Fenty as a more mainstream example. Like Fecal Matter, Rihanna is simultaneously creative director and muse for the brand. She is the brand as much as the brand is her, and we eat. it. up. Fecal Matter and Pissy Pussy act in the same way, embodying the brands they have created. They are sharing and selling the visual parts of their identities and the philosophies attached to them.

People have a deeper connection to the things they buy when they feel that they can point to it and say, “There! That right there is me.” Fecal Matter and Pissy Pussy are the Steve Jobs of selling funky, wild, crazy personas. They’re selling the fantasies people didn’t know they had until someone showed them. Who can relate? ■

By: Nick Sheppard

Layout: Sydney Bui

Photographer: Alyssa Olvera

Stylist: Maya Halabi

HMUA: Cameron Kelly & Olivia Harris

Models: Amanda Jewell Saunders & Christian Kenoly

View the full spread as it appeared in Issue No. 13 here.
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