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McQ AW15 campaign
McQ AW15 campaignPhotography Harley Weir, art Ermias Kifleyesus, courtesy of Alexander McQueen

This artist got commissioned to destroy McQ’s campaign

The brand enlists Ermias Kifleyesus to rework its AW15 campaign shot by fashion’s foremost female photographer

For McQ’s AW15 campaign, the brand tapped Harley Weir – the photographer who has captured the fashion industry’s attention with her close-up body shots and experimental compositions – to shoot a series of sensuous portraits. Now, to celebrate the launch of the Alexander McQueen sister brand’s new store in east London, they’ve commissioned Belgian-Ethiopian artist Ermias Kifleyesus to reinterpret Weir’s images. However Kifleyesus didn’t go down the orthodox route, instead leaving these images in public spaces to be defaced. Here, the artist explains more about how he created these images.

Can you explain your artistic process with these collage pieces?

Ermias Kifleyesus: I was asked by McQ to create something with their campaign. Once I received Harley’s images, I started to fold them, squeeze them and stick tape on them. Later, when I removed the tape, some parts of the image were taken off, creating a space for handmade marks. When I see some kind of opening on the images, I take them to telephone booths where I leave them for some time. Anonymous callers doodle on them. By doing this, they interact with each other as well as with the image. I take them when I feel they are ready and I complete them in my studio. The final process is done by me connecting the gaps. Some of these doodles are done by me only. Because I’ve been doing this for so many years, my hand knows how to recreate those doodles. I use many influences, so that I can be many people at the same time.

Why is having a level of public involvement interesting to you? 

Ermias Kifleyesus: Everywhere I go I see a lot of advertisements and posters which are so far away from our creative needs, and by letting other people contribute, I try to transform those posters into public places. Besides, our hand writes or draws less and less every day because of digitalization. By creating interactive conditions in my work, I try to save the magic of the creative hand.

Where did you leave the McQ campaign prints?

Ermias Kifleyesus: I left them in different parts of Brussels, my home town, in various telephone boxes.

What are the concepts that drive your collage work, how do ideas of fragmentation and transience play a role?

Ermias Kifleyesus: My work is about investigating connections, transience, meaning, differences and similarities between time and place. The works are containers of emotion and the very human impulse to leave evidence of unique lives. These fragmentations and traces of people, time and society are my inspirational springboards, they are contemporary interlinked histories honouring urban lives and the infinite connections between the people of the world.

How do you think art and fashion can co-exist?

Ermias Kifleyesus: Our body and eyes are always thirsty for fashion and art. It is difficult to separate them. We can learn a lot from African tribes about how fashion co-exists with art. The tribes of the Omo valley in Ethiopia for example are very creative in their use of natural materials to create their clothing.

McQ's new store is at 115-117 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ.