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Liza Keane
Photography Dean JF Hoy

Liza Keane uses clothing to mine the darkest corners of her subconscious

Like Julia Fox in her Centaurian biker pants, the rising designer imagines women as untameable nocturnal beings

Liza Keane’s graduate collection at Central Saint Martins was a visualisation of her subconscious mind – a nightmarish descent into repressed desires and violent impulses where trompe l'oeil slips were maimed, waistbands lacerated, and dresses logged with gloopy discharge. “Feelings were aggressively making their way to the surface (whether I liked it or not) so at a certain point I just let them, without expecting any great outcome,” she says. The whole thing was a jarringly seductive account of a woman turned beast, which is a description that could just as feasibly be applied to the rise of Julia Fox – who modelled Keane’s Centaurian biker pants in a flash internet moment last year. 

Born in Sweden and schooled under Simone Rocha and Hedi Slimane, Keane’s approach to design rides on the psychosexual philosophies laid out by Carl Jung and Georges Bataille – scandalous, taboo-busting theories about sex, torture, and immoral urges. The kind of morbid fascinations people go to extreme lengths to hide, like Keane, who secretly wore a steel-boned, full-length corset beneath her school uniform. “I did that every day for about a year and no one knew… I think,” she says. With her full-lipped alienoid masks, slashed trench-gowns, and torn-silk dresses, Keane jostles with femininity but ultimately repositions women as untameable, nocturnal savages. “I had this image of a victimised woman in my head that attacks back,” she says. “The woman was me, I guess.”

Below, we catch up with the designer as she delves deeper into her practice, Tracy Emin’s bed sheets, and being so thin-skinned that she is practically “skinless”.

Hey Liza! How and why did you first get into fashion?

Liza Keane: I love creating narratives and objects that express my inner life and fashion feels like a universal, but very intimate, way to communicate that. When I was young, I used to spend hours and hours making houses and clothes for clay figurines. I’d impersonate all the characters too. In school, I found it difficult to make up my mind about what I wanted to do and the choice was split between fine art, fashion, or acting. I picked fashion because it seemed like the most stable career option at the time, but it never really sat right with me to devote the whole of my expression into just one medium like that. But, now, I think my work is at the crossroads between all three again.

How would you describe the world you try to build with clothing?

Liza Keane: I design things that I want to wear. Some things are more of a visual statement but it’s all quite internal and personal. I like thinking about what it might be like to feel deeply comfortable in your own skin, both psychologically and practically – so a clash of protectiveness and sensuality is evident in what I do. I was talking to my friend Dean the other day and we were trying to come up with a concise way to describe the clothes. We decided that “nightwear” sums it up pretty neatly. I'm quite nocturnal myself and the more interesting things that happen in my life seem to be during the night.

Can you guide us through some of the inspirations behind the latest collection? What are some of the themes you wanted to put forward? 

Liza Keane: The collection was a long and painful process, confronting parts of myself that I rejected. I needed to be honest but the things I was hiding were buried deep in my mind. At first, I only perceived them as startling, uncanny flashes of something foreign. The deeper I went, the more private and solitary I became. I was essentially nocturnal at some points. I often couldn’t understand why I was drawn to certain sensations, qualities, or images. Like, wild cats kept surfacing with no real context, but I felt my way through it rather than trying to over analyse it. I had this image of a victimised woman in my head that attacks back. The woman was me I guess, because most of the collection pieces are based on my actual wardrobe. In terms of concrete references: Jung, Bataille, and Lars Von Trier were most key. 

What do you think people are likely to misunderstand about your work?

Liza Keane: Every single piece is very comfortable! Aesthetically, it’s designed for comfort in the psychological sense but it's practically comfortable, too. Each piece in the collection is lightweight, flexible, and easy to move in. I think about materials and small, intimate details a lot – super soft linings and facings, just in the right places, a sense of sensuality in the materials. 

Which piece is totemic of the collection as a whole? 

Liza Keane: The Negative, probably, which is look four. That was a big breakthrough in my process. I'm annoyingly self-conscious, but to be creative you can’t doubt yourself so much. There has to be a degree of positivity. I remember at the time of making this dress all these feelings were aggressively making their way to the surface (whether I liked it or not) so at a certain point I just let them, without expecting any great outcome. I would violate parts of the dress and then repair and reinforce them, and that basically became the design. It was all very spontaneous, joyful, violent, and then at a point I just realised that it was complete. I see that dress now as a document, or evidence, of going through the process. 

When did you first become aware of the power of fashion? Did you have a freakum outfit when you were growing up?

Liza Keane: I was delivering a series of lectures and Dean, who was working with me, spoke about this photo of Paris Hilton for his bit of the lecture. I think my example was some ancient Greek reference. But he communicated his idea in such a joyful and simple way that it made me think a lot about the power of clothes as a form of communication. We often reference that moment as a joke now but I remember it being very formative for me. In terms of a ‘freakum’ outfit, in high school we had to wear this baggy burgundy uniform (a jersey sweater and a polo shirt) but underneath it I wore a steel-boned, full-length corset. I did this every day for about a year and no one knew… I think.

Would you design Rishi Sunaks next TV look for £10,000? What would you design lol?

Liza Keane: I have no idea what I’d make, but I’d definitely do it for 10K!

Whats your weirdest internet obsession? 

Liza Keane: Hmmm, I go through phases of obsessions but they’re not that internet specific to be honest. Last year me and my sister were quite into Creepypasta. That’s maybe the closest one.

The most embarrassing picture on your camera roll?

Liza Keane: It’s really embarrassing! I was just going through my camera roll and instantly had to delete it haha. So, I’m definitely not telling you! But the next most embarrassing thing is probably a stream of the same kind of selfie, there’s just dozens of them.

The most recent note on your Notes app? 


Your weirdest comfort food?

Liza Keane: I’m not really a comfort eater but I love a rosé prosecco when I'm feeling stressed or down. 

The worst advice you've ever been given? 

Liza Keane: “Just be yourself”.

Who’s your nemesis?

Liza Keane: I wish I had one! I can’t think of anyone that I share that much of a mutual hatred with. Maybe myself sometimes?

What's your star sign and are you typical of that sign?

Liza Keane: Aquarius, and yes, except people say we’re not emotional but I’m honestly convinced that I’m skinless at times.

Pettiest thing youve ever done?

Liza Keane: I get petty about technical details when working with technicians because I'm OCD AF.

Let predictive text write your Dazed headline. 

Liza Keane: The Feminist Artist Confronting Women and Putting Them All Back in The Kitchen. Wow, I'm not sure about that, I'll leave it to you guys to make the headline. 

Who would be in your nightmare blunt rotation? And your dream blunt rotation?

Liza Keane: Nightmare: my mum, my dad, and my grandma.

Dream: Georges Bataille, Angelina Jolie, and Kurt Cobain.

What would your ghost outfit be?

Liza Keane: Tracy Emin’s bed sheet.

What do you reckon youre most likely to get cancelled for?

Liza Keane: Public indecency. 

Title of your biography? 

Liza Keane: Hungry Hole.