Clay Grandison is One of Sarah Mower’s Six Designers to Watch
Three days before the UK locked down in March, the otherworldly figure of @clay.woman started to appear on Instagram: a young Black woman, photographing herself as she draped and knotted ever changing reconfigurations of fragmentary, beige-toned fabrics and lingerie on her body. Who was she, generating such a strongly feminine, delicately erotic, assuredly considered series?
A designer, photographer, stylist, hairdresser, make-up artist or performance artist? It turned out to be Clay Grandison, a second-year fashion communication student at Central Saint Martins, in her bedroom in Brixton – one of the lockdown generation who has used their time alone to make astonishing creative break-throughs in what could have been the most paralysing of times.
“I’ve thrived being on my own,” she says. In the flight from college, she “grabbed some old crap” and start- ed travelling through visual roles nuanced with cultural resonances – a creative thread tying together ancient mythologies of female power, and her vision of a future realm. “I’m interested in spirituality, myth and science fiction. Before lockdown, I was researching goddesses, courtesans – moments from old religion, from Africa and all over the world.”
As she tells it, her dressing-up sounds like entering a kind of creative trance, inhabiting personae where hybridised meanings surface while she deconstructs and reconstructs garments and manipulates wigs – “Black women’s culture” – into delicate headpieces drawn from Himba hairstyles.
It’s not fashion, or art, that she’s aiming to place herself in, but the possibility of harnessing the digital realm that only her generation can foresee. “I was a weird kid who wanted to dress up as a hero. Sci-fi is my whole life. Black people are the largest consumers of sci-fi. My father drew for comics and I’ve gone to every Marvel convention with him. My grandmother, who’s Jamaican and who was involved with the whole Caribbean artistic community, she took me along to every exhibition.”
Against the background of Black Lives Matter, Grandison is clearly a significant – and rare – emerging young female voice among those taking their place in the rise of Black creative empowerment and change, in education, and way beyond that. A future in CGI character design – and its limitless possibilities for creating new worlds – is what she has in her sights. Or as she puts it on be- half of herself and her cohort, “shooting high”.
Photography by Clay Grandison. Taken from Issue 65 of 10 Magazine – FAMILY, FOREVER, LOVE – available to purchase here.