Interview by Celia Wickham in Berlin; Monday, Aug. 10, 2015
Mayan Toledano and Julia Baylis; Photo by by Jody Rogac, Courtesy of Me and You
For Julia Baylis and Mayan Toledano, their feminist fashion line and creative project Me and You has provided them a space to create a refreshing and emboldening alternative to the commonly oppressive and destructive modes of female representation and self-expression at play in today’s fashion world. The two artists, who met during college in New York City, have been working together on ‘Me and You’ ever since, channeling their nostalgia and celebration of girlhood and female friendship into the empowering clothing they create. The pair have created dreamy and engaging photo sets with friends and fellow artists, such as Alexandra Marzella and Barbara Ferreira, and taken part in shows such as ‘Literally Bye’ at Art Basel Miami last year, where they exhibited a particularly powerful item of clothing from their line, a delicate sheer dress with the words ‘Don’t Touch’ embossed on the front.
Through their shared feminist ethos of sisterhood and self-acceptance, which underlines what ‘Me and You’ is all about, they have been able to create an exciting new world and aesthetic for girls that celebrates and makes a place for them. Berlin Art Link spoke to Baylis and Toledano about the safe space that ‘Me and You’ provides and creates for young women, the power of social media to create change, and the importance of forming artistic networks with other young creatives.
Maayan Sheriss by Mayan Toledano; Courtesy of Me and You
Celia Wickham: You both met at fashion school a few years ago. What was it that drew you to each other in regards to working together creatively, and what is it that you admire about one another?
Julia Baylis and Mayan Toledano: When we met each other, we knew that we both shared something special. We had such similar viewpoints and saw the world through the same lens – we were both very nostalgic, loved talking about our grandmothers bed sheets, or weird little trinkets we would find at the dollar store. Both of us had felt disenfranchised by the fashion industry in New York – a tough fast place that doesn’t have a lot of patience for dreamers like us. We found solace in each other by creating a visual world that encompasses all the things we love.
Barbara Ferreira and Diana Vera by Petra Collins, styled by Mayan Toledano; Courtesy of Me and You
CW: Through ‘Me and You’ you have been able to create a shared aesthetic that celebrates and explores themes of girlhood, femininity and female friendships. What are you hoping to achieve through addressing and reinterpreting these ideas through your work?
JB/MT: We like to think of ‘Me and You’ as that safe space that you used to go when you were a little kid playing in your room. A time when your head was full of imagination and excitement. One thing we both bonded over was that we loved playing with Barbie dolls when we were younger – it wasn’t so much about the dolls themselves, but the world we created for them. That’s kind of what we are doing now still – creating worlds, feelings, moments.
CW: Do you feel that the feminist politics that you both share has an effect on the way in which you view the collaborative work that you do together, and the projects and people you choose to work with?
JB/MT: It does for sure. Our identity as feminists will always be the backbone of what we do. We aren’t just a “feminist” brand because we believe that every brand should be a feminist brand. The standard for most marketing toward females is not positive, and is mostly about making women feel that they are lacking or sub par. Like your life isn’t complete unless you buy this product this second! It is more of a goal for us to have girls feel good about themselves than to sell them something. In terms of our website, we are just as happy for someone to be positively affected by our imagery as to feel the need to buy something.
Clem Creevy by Mayan Toledano; Courtesy of Me and You
CW: You have worked with fellow friends and artists such as Petra Collins and Arvida Byström, and you encourage a dialogue with your fan base through your social media platforms. How important are these online networks and creative collaborations to the ethos of ‘Me and You’?
JB/MT: Extremely important. We are seeing, more and more, the power and influence of the internet as the years go on. We were both struck when reading the recent article in New Yorker magazine where the victims of Bill Cosby came forward. A majority of the women said they felt more comfortable coming forward and speaking out because they found other victims though Facebook and Twitter. As a result of social media these women were able to possess the strength to come forward, find each other, and hopefully bring their case to justice. It just goes to show that the media isn’t controlled just by those with power and influence any longer. If a group of voices come together, it can result in change.
CW: Although ‘Me and You’ is primarily fashion focused, you are also very interested in producing video content, photo sets, and curating artistic events. How has this interdisciplinary approach changed your idea of the capabilities of fashion and the way in which we define it?
JB/MT: We never saw this project as solely a fashion collaboration: we’ve always seen it as more of an art project. Basically, there is no limit to how we choose to express our message. And we think most creatives feel the same way, sticking to one medium is boring! We also have some super exciting projects coming up where people will get to see how we explore and expand our message across different platforms.
Teressa Ornan by Mayan Toledano, styled by Julia Baylis; Courtesy of Me and You
Celia Wickham is a visual artist and filmmaker, and is the editor of the feminist zine Milk and Honey.