Where Art, Style and Fashion Intersect – An Interview with Brisbane artist GERM (She/They)

By Camy Mortimer

For the past few years, up and coming Brisbane based artist GERM has been working tirelessly showcasing their ‘weird and wonderful’ artwork through paintings, murals, illustrations, photography and digital art. Through their art, GERM has created an entire world filled with various characters big and small. This world and its characters are displayed ‘in their truest form’ and are both a reflection of how GERM examines the world around them, and also in part, how they wish the world to be.

In the past GERM has merged their art style with their day-to-day fashion and has been known to dress as some of the characters she creates. In the past they have blended their love of fashion and art by painting their designs on clothing, creating t shirts, overalls and a range of other clothing ‘canvases’. In keeping with our March theme, ‘Making it your own,’ this week, we sat down with GERM and discussed all things from fast fashion to how style has influenced their art.

What is your opinion on the Fast Fashion Industry?

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“I don’t like fast fashion; I tend to stay as far away from it as I can with my own purchases… I think, just for me, it’s like an environmental thing – there is so much waste in the fast fashion industry, and I don’t really want to be a part of that.”

Germ discussed the fact that not only does she choose to not support fast fashion (as much as possible), but she also stated how a lot of the people in their circle don’t either. This was refreshing to hear as I tend to find that there is a very toxic culture in our society today surrounding the idea of posting outfits to Instagram, being embarrassed to wear a piece of clothing twice and the need to consistently buy something new. This culture is what fuels the fast fashion industry and has made it as powerful as it is today. GERM states:

“I mean, I think there’s already so many pieces of clothing in the world and I certainly don’t think that there needs to be more made. I mean, I think there’s already so much to work with. I think if you have an event and you know you’ve got something in your wardrobe that you haven’t worn for ages, just wear it again. You don’t have to buy a new thing so you can post a new photo or whatever. If you want to have something new, make something new.”

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What is your second hand/ Vintage shopping process?

If you’ve been keeping up, all of you readers would know that this month’s theme for Populace has been ‘Making it your own’. We have been discussing the best tips and tricks to always get the most out of second hand and vintage shopping and how to always get the best finds. As well as this we have recently launched our #threadityourway campaign on Instagram which promotes embracing your style and showing off your second hand and vintage fashion.

Being such a uniquely stylish person, we asked GERM what their personal process is when they go into their local thrift stores, and how do they get the most out of it?

“I like to go for interesting materials and things with cool designs on them… I’m a strong believer that you really have to dig through a lot of shit to get to the really good stuff. But a lot of the time I come out with a lot of basics as well. I don’t go in there with this big, grand idea in mind that I’m going to come out with a glow mesh thing and be like the coolest chick. Sometimes I come out with just t-shirts and singlets from target, and it’s the best thing ever.”

Germ also relishes in the beauty of an awesome bargain when it comes to thrift shopping.

“People will go to Cotton on and stuff like that and buy a bunch of singlets and stuff and I’m just like, that already exists! Go to an opshop and it costs you literally $2.”

She went on to discuss the beauty of keeping an open mind and that a lot of the time she will find things that she can alter to her liking.

“I mean, sometimes I’ll find things which are in the kid’s section. I’ll just cut it up and try making something new out of that. I don’t like to leave any stone unturned.”

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How do you style your characters? How do you define your style?

As mentioned, GERM’s art revolves around the world she has created where she reflects on the what she sees around them, what she sees within themself, within others, and how in some ways she would like the world to be. She tells a story using quirky and unique characters. She states the intent behind the styling of the characters and how that is important to the story she is telling through the artwork.

“Styling the characters is probably one of my favourite parts of drawing a character, and a lot of the time I style them in a way that I want to dress because it’s almost like filtering how I want to be through this like whole other body.  I just find that whole aspect of clothing really interesting because it tells a story in itself.”

She mentions how she believes that clothing and style should be an expression of self, a way to tell your story to the world. Playing off this idea, and considering the fact that the fast fashion industry in particular thrives off of micro trends, I wondered if trends then should be obsolete. If as consumers we weren’t consistently trying to keep up with the latest trends by cycling through clothes at an alarming rate, and instead only bought and wore clothing that aligned with the style we had adopted to suit our sense of self, then re-wearing it (shocking I know) would no longer be a problem because the pressure of being considered ‘in fashion’ and ‘trendy’ would no longer exist. Would that perhaps be a first step toward a more fashion-conscious economy?

“Yeah, I mean, I think people should look at clothing as something that is for themselves, not for everyone else… I think that clothing should be something that makes you feel comfortable or empowered or beautiful or whatever you want it to be, but make sure it’s for you.”

GERM further expresses the importance of dressing for yourself, not worrying about the judgement of others and how that relates back to her characters.

“It’s an attitude as well, I think clothes can 100% alter the way you feel within yourself, and I think that’s what I want my characters to portray. I want them to feel unjudged, not beautiful, not ugly but just uniquely themselves… I draw a lot of energy from those characters, because ultimately that’s what I want to be, I think that’s what everyone wants to be, just 100% themselves.”

Drawing inspiration from their characters for their own style as well as being inspired by the characters themselves, GERM’s art style is very specific to them. The art she creates has changed and evolved over the years, but I wondered, which came first? The art or the style? Was she influenced by the art originally or did the art influence them?

 “I think the art definitely came first, it was like me testing the waters being like, ‘I know I love seeing people wear this and I would love to do this myself.’ But like I was a bit scared too, I was scared about what other people would think. Then it got to the point where I just loved it so much, what I could see in my characters, I’d just be like I WANT TO BE LIKE THAT! I want to be like one of my characters…I was inspired by characters like Tank Girl and especially like the punk movement and stuff like that.”

The importance of owning your look seems to be the key to rocking an outfit. As they say, ‘Confidence is key.’ GERM stated you’re more likely to feel comfortable in an outfit you love, if you aren’t comfortable, you wont feel confident, so what’s the point?

“If you’re not confident, you’re not gonna rock it… I always knew what I liked growing up. I have this cousin, she was a full punk in the 90s and she’s head to toe covered in tattoos, and she showed me all of these pictures of her at her gigs she used to play and movies she likes, and bands she liked and I was always obsessed with it growing up.”

However, it is clear that when it comes to establishing your own sense of creativity and style, you can take inspiration from literally anywhere.

“I remember watching the Scooby Doo movie and there was this one extra with spiky hair, who was in it for like 5 minutes and I was like ‘Oh my God, I need that.’ Then I just totally dismissed it for such a long time… Like shaving my head for example. I’ve never been super attached to my hair – but it grows back!…

It’s certainly now where I’m just like, I have really loved this and I’m just gonna go ahead and just be inspired by that and show it off, just have a good time. It’s been the best decision ever… I think it’s about just not taking yourself too seriously, and to just have fun with it. Like if you have a small feeling that doing one thing is going to make you happy. JUST DO IT. Just do it.”

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GERM says she embraces this sense of fun and making it your own when it comes to opshopping;

“Of the stuff that I really like to wear now are things that I didn’t really like when I got them, but then I came home and I would draw on them, or cut them up or I don’t know, put it onto something else I made, make a tote bag, something like that. And now they’re some of my favourite things that I have. Just take risks and challenge yourself, just have fun with it.”  

As well as altering their own clothes GERM has been known to source second hand clothes for their own merchandise, purchasing pieces like t-shirts and then painting on them to sell at their shows. They hope to look into this more in the future and extend their talents in art to the fashion world.

“That’s something I have been planning for a little while now. There’s definitely a lot more to figure out, but I would absolutely love to have a clothing line or just an extension of what I do with my art in a fashion sense… In the past I have made t-shirts and stuff but I would really like to experiment with different garments and make it uniquely mine… I just want to try to make as much as I can with recycled materials as well. I think that would be one of the best things I could do. I would like to see what I make not only as a piece of clothing but a piece of art in itself. Everything that I would make would be one offs, I couldn’t make a whole bunch of one thing… so it goes back to that thing of having something that is uniquely yours.”  

GERM is all about the art form of their work. Being very passionate about the quality of their work, they wish to make one off pieces to support the idea of having a piece that is uniquely yours’ and to highlight the art of taking ‘something that is discarded and turning it into something new’, as a way of developing your own sense of self and style, and as a bonus, actively fighting against mass produced fashion.

You can check out GERM’s art on Instagram via @__germ___ and their website which you can visit here.

If you wish to see any upcoming shows, GERM has one coming up soon called ‘Warped’ which will focus predominantly on the work they have been exploring recently in animated visual art.

If you loved this article, be sure to keep an eye on our socials where we will be posting exclusive highlights from our interview with GERM.