When your teenage daughter declares ‘ Mum, I have something to tell you”, one usually thinks the worst. When Hannah said this to me six years ago, I knew she wasn’t about to tell me something dire, and I had an inkling what she was going to declare. “ Mum, tomorrow I am shaving all my hair off’. Her beautiful hair! The locks that I had so lovingly braided from the time it was long enough to - and she could sit still for more than two minutes. Those natural curls that were often tamed straight or worn like Princess Lea.
But it was her hair and she was old enough to decide what she could do. The days of mum having an opinion or needed for consultation on decision-making were long over. A fashion graduate, she was entering a new phase of her life, alongside her dear friend Steven. Fecal Matter was about to be born.
Fecal Matter?! Isn’t that just a fancy term for poop, stool, s*it, and caca? What on earth possessed them to associate their fashion brand with excrement? Actually, I think it is very clever and certainly catches one’s attention, whether in disgust or amazement. I have dealt with my fair of shit over the years - literally and figuratively! I’ve birthed three kids. I am a nurse. And I am human. It is a necessary, and more precisely, vital, bodily function. If you don’t poop, it can cause a variety of unpleasant drawbacks such as constipation, impaction and diverticulitis that will have you heading to an emergency department before too long.
The name is clever because, well, the fashion industry is in many ways exactly that. S*it. Exploitation of laborers to manufacture their lines in dreadful conditions; gaunt models parading garments on the catwalk; mass production causing a huge environmental impact as waste increases and atmospheric pollution rises. And the cut-throat aura that surrounds it. It is a hard industry to break into. Or 'make it'.
Admittedly in the early days, I found it a wee bit embarrassing telling my friends that my daughter’s fashion brand was called Fecal Matter. I was met with the reactions one would expect. I found myself defending them, as any mother would. The name represented this wasteful world of fashion. Their endeavor to provoke their followers to thinking about the material world we live in, how much we fill our closets and then dispose of items indiscriminately, and shocking them with their makeup and attire. We formulate an opinion about someone within seconds of seeing them, but often don't give them a chance to get to know who they really are.
Clearly many people identify with Hannah and Steven and their brand as they have 741K followers on their Instagram account. They are go-getters; seizing any moment possible to be exposed. My magazine collection has multiplied as they have featured in high profile publications such as Vogue, Tush, Office and Chaos . Their photoshopped skin shoes became a reality and are a permanent fixture at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and on display right now in the Melbourne Museum of Modern Art in Australia.
They have had photo shoots with famous photographers such as Nick Knight, Tim Walker and Steven Klein. They have travelled the world, won a CAFA ( Canadian Arts and Fashion Award) for best fashion influencers in 2019 and had a cameo appearance in an Asap Rocky music video Fukk Sleep. Such incredible accomplishments for a couple in their mid twenties.
Fame has its pitfalls though. There are haters. Individuals who have the need to degrade, discredit, mock and even vilify them. Hannah and Steven have been spat on, jeered, chased and fake-fired at. I cannot bear to read the negative comments that can spew on social media. I have to stop myself responding. If we are out together, heads turn. You see the body language of passersby and all I want to do is scream ‘Do you have a problem? She is MY daughter!’
Ironically, I have learned so much from both Hannah and Steven. They have taught me to be less judgmental and more open to differences. Hannah used to tease me that I would be the first one making a derogatory comment about a passerby who looked weird. She was right. It took her transformation for me to realize that you cannot - and must not - judge a book by its cover. Hannah may wear clothes I couldn't or wouldn't; her make-up is alien-looking for the most part and definitely not a wanna-be look for me, but she, they, have a creative and fearless energy that I admire enormously.
Despite growing up in very different settings once they connected they have remained not only business partners but best of friends. Hannah was born in New Zealand and only five months old when we moved to Montreal. She was fortunate to attend private school, and although she was surrounded by wealthy and privileged kids, her home life was very grounded. Steven had a tough life, growing up without a father-figure for the most part and being ridiculed and taunted at school. Living in a not-so-nice part of Montreal also had its drawbacks.
Together they are a team. They are committed to their brand, living and breathing it every single day. They work very hard to produce, promote, and provoke. You can try and chop them off at the knees but you cannot take away their commitment, passion and belief in their product or themselves. That takes guts.
To be honest I am so used to her being bald, I can’t imagine her with hair now. I hear it is pretty high maintenance to keep the scalp hairless, and given how much time and money I spend staying blonde and straight, somedays I think I should join them. Both Hannah and Steven may have changed their appearance but inside they are the same. They are two of the most kind and sincere people I know - and I am not just saying that because I am related. I am immensely proud to be a Fecal mom!