Claire Barrow describes herself as a fashion artist. She makes clothes and art. Since her debut at London Fashion Week as part of Fashion East in 2013, she has carved herself a niche for a DIY aesthetic using her hand painted primitive style, making  clothes, film, and sculpture. Her hand painted earrings made from modelling clay sell out the minute they hit her online shop (check them out here) but for her latest exhibition Dancing with Dreams at Galeria Melissa in London’s Covent Garden, it’s about an immersive experience rather than finding something to buy. If you feel inspired, you can buy a pair of Melissa shoes (from their Flygirl collection for AW17) and channel a little of your inner Claire Barrow and customise them yourself.

We are really excited about Dancing with Dreams. It seems you are becoming increasingly comfortable in more of an exhibition setting. Do you like to share your work with a wider public?

Yes, I’m definitely interested in public art, I’ve always been interested in that. That’s the territory I want to go in, fashion can be seen that way too. People don’t take fashion that seriously as an art form but I think it’s like that with public art a bit too. I really like showing it that way – people can come in and out and loads of different types of people can see it. I think that’s so cool.

It’s on until May?

3 months, yes. I’ve worked hard on the project for a few months, only really kicked off properly late end of last year, so it’s been a lot of work in a very short space of time. The idea was always there. I’ve had this idea that I wanted to do something with sculpture and technology and performance so I had it in my head already.

Can you describe what it’s going to be like - it’s described as an immersive experience...

In Galeria Melissa they have two art spaces, a top floor and a bottom floor, and you walk in and there are 13 shoes customised by me (6 and a half pairs) and they are dangling from the ceiling with ribbons, almost like ballerina shoes, decorated by me.  And the ribbons are going to blow all over the room and behind that there will be a projection of the film with the sculptures and the costumes I’ve made, and then in the downstairs main gallery space you will have the five sculptures, the real life human sized sculptures dressed and decorated by me, and next to them will be projections of real people performing as if they were performing to the sculptures.

It seems you just can’t stop, you’re not confined by paper or fabric or film

It’s definitely been a theme of the installation. I wanted to do everything. I’ve done all the make up myself, I’ve cast it all, picked all the actors myself, [Sameena Jabeen Ahmed who starred in the 2014 film ‘Catch Me Daddy’, dancer Harry Alexander of the Michael Clark Company, LGBT and social activist Michael Peacock and performance artist Amy Kingsmill], put the routines together myself, they are improvised but I’ve come up with the characters to explain to them, I’ve made the sculptures, I’ve created the costumes for the sculptures and people, I’ve used the shoes as art pieces and decorated them, I’ve commissioned the soundtrack, I got someone to make it from scratch for me [Kenichi Iwasa of band Xaviers and Taigen Kawabe of band Bo Ningen. Taigen also provides vocals for the piece alongside singer Beatrice Brown].  It’s very much my ethos of DIY, literally do it myself. I just wanted to feel like it really came from me, everything came from me.

After your Retro-Spective presentation at the ICA for AW16, which was a study of dress throughout history, you took some time off away from the fashion schedule. Has that been a positive thing?

If I wanted my ideas to grow I just needed some breathing space to get out of it for a while to think. I’m excited about doing more stuff like this in the future.

Melissa gave you freedom?

Yes it’s been great, this is a big brand I’m working with but their ethos is really amazing. They recycle all the plastic they use and they give their workers a fair wage and they make everything in Brazil where the brand started, there’s no animal products whatsoever used. That’s really cool.

Dancing with dreams, I’m intrigued by the title of the show. Are you a dreamer?

I think I’ve dreamt it up in my head, the dancing is quite literal, and it’s an idea dancing with you in your head, you meet the people before you know them, you might be dreaming about the perfect man in your head years before you meet him, and stereotypical marriage things like that and having children, you have these little ideas dancing around in your head, that’s what I was thinking about.

Galeria Melissa x Claire Barrow: Dancing With Dreams is on display at Galeria Melissa, 43 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JY until May 15. Find out more information at melissa.com.br/uk.

Interview by Tamsin Blanchard

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