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Fash of the Titans I: The Girl Behind the Battles

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@fashofthetitans by Gillian Daniel

These days, fashion seems to be all about the 90s.

But cast your mind further back in time and you might remember the hokey 1981 film about Greek gods, Clash of the Titans. Billed as a “British-American heroic fantasy monster adventure film”, it starred no less than Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith and was indeed a heroic-fantasy -monster-adventure film featuring the likes of Zeus, Hera, Medusa, Andromeda, Perseus and – for a good measure – a Kraken, all rendered in the finest stop motion animation available at the time. It’s since been remade, but fans of the genre will always remember fondly how the film spoke to a simpler age: one where claymation was the height of technology, and Greek mythology-lite was delivered forth to a paying audience in an engaging and joyfully irreverent package.

It is perhaps fitting then that Gillian Daniel’s popular Instagram account, @fashofthetitans, recalls the title of the feel-good film. By day, Gillian is Manager (Curatorial Programmes) at National Gallery Singapore. By night, she runs the highly entertaining Instagram account @fashofthetitans, a feed which pairs runway looks with famous artworks, asking the cheeky question of “who wore it better”?

Some might say she’s managed to track down the holy grail of art engagement, successfully marrying mainstream fashion with niche visual art images. Yet others love her page for its gorgeous aesthetics and fun vibes.

Us?

We love the fact that a Singapore girl’s managed to storm the world of art and fashion in such a joyful and clever way.

Typically more centred on Western art images, Gillian’s put together a Southeast Asian redux of @fashofthetitans, just for you Plural pals. Look out for these stories over the next few weeks, but first, here’s an introduction to the woman of the hour.

Gillian Daniel by the Arno river in Florence
Introducing Gillian Daniel, the face behind @fashofthetitans. She’s pictured here by the Arno river in Florence in August 2019.

 Tell us how you got started with @fashofthetitans and what you were hoping to achieve with it.

I started @fashofthetitans in 2014. I was living in London at the time and had just seen an exhibition of Henri Matisse’s cut-outs at the Tate Modern. Later that week, I read an article that featured Peter Pilotto’s Spring 2015 collection and came across a look featuring a black A-line dress with a colourful graphic print and matching chunky sandals. The contrast and shapes of the bold pops of punchy magenta, rich cobalt, and juicy tangerine against the black called to mind Matisse’s La Tristesse du Roi.

Without thinking too much about it, I put the two together on Photoshop and posted it on my own Instagram, asking my friends who “wore it better”, Matisse or Pilotto. I had so much fun hearing their responses that I was curious to see if I could find more matches. This led to me posting a string of ten (images). I enjoyed the process so much that I ended up setting up an account just for these.

@fashofthetitans
The Instagram post that started it all…

Which has been your personal favourite @fashofthetitans pairing, and why? 

I never set out with specific intentions for @fashofthetitans. I’m always looking at art for fun or work. This project is about looking closer at the colour, shape, texture and composition of works I’m drawn to and delighting in rediscovering them in a different form on the human body. Those first ten pairings I made remain my favourite six years on. To me, they represent the project at its freshest, when I first realised that there can be these uncanny cosmic connections if I just look for them.

Gillian at Pinch Ceramics Studio. Image courtesy of Tricia Lim from Pinch.
Gillian, indulging in other creative pursuits at Pinch Ceramics Studio, where she is a sporadic weekend ceramicist Image courtesy of Tricia Lim from Pinch.

@fashofthetitans has been listed as one of Grazia Italy’s Top 10 fashion Instagram accounts and one of InStyle Magazine’s Top 15 fashion and art Instagram accounts to follow. Tell us about that experience – how did you manage to attract the attention of mainstream media and what came out of those features?

I honestly couldn’t say how I managed that!

Both of those articles featured much more established accounts that have a ton more followers than me, so I felt surprised and lucky to be included. Those features helped to connect me with more people interested in my project, which led to a few commissions and collaborations with lovely people such as yourselves!

 If you had to pick only one fashion designer’s clothes to wear for the rest of your life, who would it be?

 Ooh, that’s a tough one. Visually, I am drawn to Dries Van Noten’s lush layering of print and texture and the masterful craftsmanship of Alexander McQueen. I also loved the clean lines and quiet confidence of Phoebe Philo’s Céline with the “é”. You’ll probably see this preference reflected across @fashofthetitans.

But I don’t know if I would pick any one designer’s clothes to wear for the rest of my life. I work in a museum and I’ve always loved things that hold stories. This carries over too into my dressing. My favourite things in my closet are often thrift store finds or things I’ve stolen from my mother or grandmothers.

Also if I’m being honest, who am I kidding? These days all I wear, really, are a handful of Zoom shirts on rotation, paired boldly with my most statement pyjama shorts or exercise leggings…

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Check out which Southeast Asian art works Gillian pits head-to-head with runway looks here and here!

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