Lichen is a composite organism, it grows from the combination of algae and fungi. The algae and fungi form a symbiotic relationship. They live together as a combined life form, relying on each other to survive. Lichen grows where other plants cannot. On bare rock surfaces, where wind, rain and sun fail to destroy it. It is often left unnoticed despite eating into stone. Motor Neurone Disease is often left unnoticed as well, like lichen that grows through your nerves and muscles. But instead of creating a symbiotic relationship, it becomes a parasite. 

My grandfather Jim died of MND, only six weeks after being diagnosed. His rapid decline in health took us all by surprise as the lichen of his disease dulled his nerves. The lichen also spread across our skin, as our bodies sedated with grief, came to a standstill. But while the lichen can represent decay and deterioration, it can also represent a beautiful symbiotic relationship, that of growth and development through any hardship.

The first garment explored the fragility associated with Motor Neurone Disease. The muscles begin to waste and you loose motion and the ability to move. The body bruises easily and skin becomes limp and paper like. The blotchy purple lichen print represents the bruising and pallor mortis of the skin after death. The long sleeves prevent movement and the hood hides the wearer. A sufferer of MND is rendered incapacitated, with little movement to arms, legs, swallowing, and eventually breathing.

The second garment examines further degradation of the body, in the form of death and cremation. I have used an orange lichen print to symbolise the burning of the body. It almost looks like skin or scales. I have used a translucent fabric throughout this collection to show how a sufferer with MND is trapped within a body that is decaying.  This piece in particular shows the translucent quality of the fabric, with the body visible beneath.

The third garment considers the concept of rebirth, a life after death. I have used a green lichen print, the universal colour of growth, balance and harmony. This dress enables a freedom of motion with a looseness in the skirt and sleeves. Finally the wearer is free from a disease that binds their movement. The lichen previously represented the atrophied body, but now it embodies growth, both physically and emotionally.

It is for my grandfather that I have created these pieces. As a watercolour artist his work focused on the natural environment around him. He loved colour and was always astonished by the way nature itself was stitched together by what appeared to him as a deep design, one that could only be intentional and awake. I wanted to create something beautiful for him, full of colour and life and movement. These are aspects that sung clearly throughout his entire being, and have been left behind even though his body could not.

Concept and Garments by Jasper Fearnley / Photographed by Ash Koek / Modelled by Jasper Fearnley

Cinematography by Ash Koek

Garments/Concept by Jasper Fearnley
Edited by Ash Koek

Modelled by Jasper Fearnley
Music by Stephen Fearnley

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© 2019, Jasper Fearnley