Tashi Fay is a fine artist and costume designer based in Los Angeles. We first encountered her when she produced the extraordinary collages for our shoot with Grace McKagan for Issue 1. Her work is rooted in garment design, but extends far beyond. In her art projects, Tashi’s subjects are clad head-to-toe in her own designs, however she uses collage to elevate the pieces and the models who wear them, turning them into fantastical creatures, evoking strange, wonderful and even frightening ideas.


I’m really interested in how your experience of reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood led you to create these images. You speak about the morbid fascination of constantly going back to the things that scare you, reading the scary book, watching the horrific film, even though you know it will keep you up.

 In Cold Blood really got to my head. The descriptions were so thick, I could feel them and see them: “hair all over them walls,” “the head of each was completely encased in cotton, a swollen cocoon twice the size of an ordinary blown-up balloon, and the cotton, because it had been sprayed with a glossy substance, twinkled like Christmas-tree snow”. I would get really stuck.

But my obsession with the book was really just a starting off point for this body of work. I wanted to explore why I have always been so enchanted by horror and dark fairy tales and monsters, when I’m such a horrible sleeper. My whole life I’ve been a bad sleeper. My dad tells this story about when I was a toddler: I crawled out of my crib and came into my parents room and said, scowling, “you can keep putting me back but I’ll keep creeping out of my crib and creep back into your room!” I started digging into my lifetime collection of nightmares, sleep paralysis experiences and radio voices and the original idea kept unraveling further and further into this kind of impulsive mess, but I think the lack of method really worked for the project. 

Collage is such a synesthetic medium and I wonder if it reflects the way that you personally experience fear?

I’ve made a handful of attempts to artistically replicate my hallucinations, dreams, etc., but it’s a struggle to capture the simultaneous fear and wonder of a nightmare. For me, collage has been the most accessible way to illustrate what I dream and see in my head. It’s like a hybrid of photography and illustration. I love collage because it’s kind of this game of transformation. Here’s a peach. How do you make this peach feel different than a peach? Like how in your dreams you see a face you’ve never seen before but you know exactly whom the face belongs to?

I first fell into collage when I was on a Wintersession Photography course in Paris as a sophomore in college and realised I was kind of a crappy photographer. I was really only taking mediocre pictures of trash and pigeons. So I took all these naked images of myself in weird positions and then warped body parts in photoshop, printed them out and cut them up and made these collaged creatures out of them, and they felt like the most honest self-portraits I’d ever made.

The images also feel, to me, very playful. Is it a cathartic process for you, a form of therapy in turning the bad into good?

Hand collaging is a very therapeutic process for me, it definitely allows me to turn off the loud part of my brain and play. Because I work with found print material, I never know what pool I have to pick from or what the final product will look like and there’s something really exciting and satisfying about that.

I wanted this series to be scary, but the characters kind of created themselves and they turned out to be these lovely people who mean well but they don’t get very much done. I had “Friends” playing in the background so maybe the laugh track slipped into the collage. It’s always really important to me that even if the subject matter is really serious and dark, that humour shines through in the final product. Maybe it’s not always “obvious” funny or maybe it’s actually not funny at all to anyone but myself? But I have a lot of fun making the work that I make. I’ve never been good at forcing myself to do work that I don’t enjoy.

 You make all the clothing we see in the images yourself. What is your relationship with ‘fashion” as distinct from “art”?

My focus in all my work is storytelling, so when I use fashion as an art medium I think about constructing a character. The debate goes on and on, fashion isn’t art! Fashion is art! I don’t really care that much to separate the two… To me fashion is very special and an innately intimate art medium; you put it on, it becomes an extension of your body. People can say they don’t care, but they can put on one thing and finally feel like themselves and put on another thing and feel alien.

In the fourth grade my friends and I dressed up as boys to do a dance we choreographed for a PE class, I think the dance was to the Backstreet Boys. And I loved the feeling so much that for Halloween I just borrowed clothes from my male family friend and dressed as a boy. Many of the adults handing out candy at each of the houses in my neighbourhood asked why didn’t I dress up?

I pretended to be a little offended but I really wasn’t. It was thrilling to be mistaken for someone else. We find these characters that we feel excited and comfortable in. I’m always jealous of the people who really have only one look. That takes real determination.

creative direction, collage and all clothing