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The Bum being made

You can try Kim K’s bum on for size – thanks to this creative trio

TextHatti Rex

Artist duo Ida Jonsson and Simon Saarinen and designer Beate Karlsson give us the low down on their bottom-heavy project

Body modification has been a big talking point in the beauty industry as long as celebrity culture has been influential. But with more and more people undergoing surgeries to look like the people behind their favourite Instagram accounts, and even their filters, it’s undeniably become a more common topic of conversation. Perhaps the most talked-about body part in the internet age is Kim Kardashian-West’s butt, the behind that legendarily broke the internet and world-renowned for its supremely large size. The reality star slash businesswoman turned law student’s extreme hourglass silhouette has often been used as inspiration for those going under the knife

Artistic duo Ida Jonsson and Simon Saarinen have been collating thousands upon thousands of paparazzi images of Kim K’s infamous booty in a project that last year resulted in a 1:1 scaleable online version of The Bum. Since then, and in collaboration with designer Beate Karlsson, the research has since expanded into becoming a wearable real-life iteration that was worn at NYFW. 

Here, we speak to the team about creating the famous wearable bottom and the value of attention as social currency. 

How exactly did The Bum come about?

Ida Jonsson: This project started around two years ago when we started collecting all this information about Kim’s ass, acknowledging that it kind of made her the icon of our time. We just realised that there’s so much information that you can create this exact carbon 3D copy of it. When we started working with Beate, she had this genius idea of making it into a wearable piece and exploring how far we could take it. 

Simon Saarinen: The gathering of all the bits and pieces of information about this famous ass has been very crucial for this project. We are collecting information about the bum online, from Instagram and the paparazzi pictures, we took all that and made a web page and noticeably the shape changes, how bodies do, it changes with time. The shape is obviously iconic but you can see in time it is sort of changing. 

Has the 3D version changed in size from the web version?

Ida Jonsson: It has a little bit. We made it a little bit bigger for that. 

Beate Karlsson: It’s striking to see just how petite she actually is, because it’s really huge but it’s on a body that’s very small. 

Ida Jonsson: When we tried it on it was almost disappointing for me and Simon. We’re very tall but Beate is more petite, so you really get the scale on her whereas on us it was more just like… we’re a bit curvier. 

What were the reactions to it being worn at NYFW?

Ida Jonsson: It really surprised people. Obviously for a second it looks like you’re naked, so people were initially surprised just seeing that nakedness. We were surrounded by a bunch of photographers wondering what was going on. Afterwards, we went to a private event and that was very fun, there were a lot of stiff, fashion week people with their nice outfits and we were just walking around with big butt on. 

Beate Karlsson: A lot of people came dressed up because of fashion week and we just went in and took their attention away with the butt.

Do you think the future of beauty is replicating celebrity features at home?

Ida Jonsson: Yeah! We talked about that before you called actually, how resemblances of celebrity body parts is an unexplored area. 

Simon Saarinen: What is more important in fashion today is how to look cool on the ’gram. What’s cool about this project is that it really goes down to getting likes and attention on Instagram, it’s taking that thing and giving it to everyone. Similar to Balenciaga, it’s making those memeable pieces to get likes on Instagram.

Ida Jonsson: It’s definitely a meta project. We’re talking about attention but we’re also enjoying the attention.

What do you think the next “it” body part would be? 

Ida Jonsson: Interestingly, I definitely think different alterations of what a body has to be is what’s coming next. Similar to what Fecal Matter is doing already. 

Simon Saarinen: It’s interesting because this whole persona you’re creating online is an alternate reality. We suspect these things will grow and grow because there’s really no reason for virtual things to look like real life. We don’t need to make fashion that actually works with universal laws like gravity or whatever.

With that in mind, was The Bum difficult to wear in real life?

Beate Karlsson: Today when we’re distorting ourselves so easily with Photoshop, it’s really nice to have an experience piece where you can actually wear something like that. When I wore it, I felt like another person. It’s kind of like when you’re little and you’re dressing up and seeing people’s reactions –  it’s an extreme version of that.

Ida Jonsson: I don’t think we would’ve ever come up with this idea if it weren’t for all the people before us doing crazy stuff with bodies, and seeing how Instagram twists the perspective on the way it’s accepted to dress. I was really surprised at how easy it was wearing it, we didn’t have to deal with any security guards or anything. 

Beate Karlsson: It’s a good time for this kind of project: 10 or 20 years ago it would’ve been much more provoking.

Do you think people modifying themselves in these ways have affected fashion week and fashion itself? 

Ida Jonsson: It certainly has, not in a negative way. Models are getting more and more generic but this is changing. On a positive aspect, Balenciaga’s Instagram is photoshopped to have models with two-metre-long arms and all this playfulness.

Beate Karlsson: There’s the creative aspect of it, but obviously in the fashion industry so many designers are just hunting for attention and it really shows when it’s not authentic to the brand. You can see when it’s not coming through naturally.

Do you think that celebrity culture will always have an impact on beauty standards or do you think that in itself is also a trend?

Ida Jonsson: Humans in general always have leaders, and as long as we’re looking up to people, we’re going to copy them in certain ways.

Simon Saarinen: People have always looked up to film and pop stars and looked at what they’re wearing. You get a real-time measurement on how cool different things are. From seeing what’s exploding on Instagram, the timelines of a celebrity wearing something to mainstream production are so much shorter now. That will maybe change, perhaps even more hyper instant with new trends, or maybe we’ll move into a new era where quality will win over quantity. Looking at the state of the world right now, we are in desperate need of influencers and celebrities that have a positive impact on consumption.

What’s next for The Bum?

Ida Jonsson: We’ll have an exhibition this spring in New York. 

Beate Karlsson: We’ll be doing a small production of The Bum, but we don’t know how to materialise them just yet. We want them to be wearable but still the exact shape.

Will there be a way for people to get The Bum themselves?

Ida Jonsson: Yeah, we haven’t exactly figured out how but we are looking at it more as an art piece than a product. So if people are interested in buying the art then we will have a small supply of butts. 

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