words Zarah Cheng
All images are provided courtesy of Dirty Grl.
Where are you from?
How did you decide to start making soap?
While studying at Parsons I became interested in sustainability and reframing mundane objects. I love the visual aesthetic of plastic, but I wanted to find a biodegradable alternative for it as packaging that was more fun and unique for the jewelry I made. I remembered using soap making kits and putting troll dolls in them as a kid, and decided I had to try it again. I bought ingredients, watched hours of YouTube videos, and started experimenting. I quickly realized how much potential soap has as an artistic medium, and how I could market my personal aesthetic with it as a brand. I had to do it!
All of Dirty Grl’s soaps are vegan. What does it mean to have vegan soap?
Yes they are all vegan, which means no animal products are used. The glycerin, which is a natural emollient, is made from the highest quality coconut oil and vegetable oil versus animal oils or products that may upset the delicate natural pH balance which can be harmful to skin. And for moisturizers, instead of using animal products like goat’s milk I use powdered coconut milk, shea butters, avocado oil, cocoa butter, or almond oil.
You have 3 artist collaborations for your new line. Can you tell us a bit more about these artists, and how you typically work with other artists when creating designs?
I wanted to share this idea of soap as a form of functional art with other artists by helping them turn their art into soap. As a part of my thesis project I was interested in the potential of connecting with people (especially artists) though Instagram. I asked artists I think have an interesting approach to sharing their art via Instagram, that I admire and fit with my brand aesthetic, if they would like to collaborate and turn their artwork into soap.
My first 3 collaborators are Humberto Cruz (@iscreamcolour), Richie Velazquez (@deladeso), and Grace Meceli (@artbabygirl). They’re all really amazing, fun, and passionate artists. Since they are not all in New York, if meeting in person and working hands-on with them isn’t an option, we usually discuss the designs online or over the phone. They send me images of their work and we discuss how their work will best be incorporated as a soap design with, shapes, colors, scents, and packaging. I make different variations as samples until the finals are chosen. Other times, the artist they will come over and we’ll make them together.
You recently started a Dirty Grl Trading Card project, where you turn your IG followers into trading cards. What’s the story behind this?
Over the past year I’ve been researching the effects social media has on society and the individual. I focused on Instagram because I’ve been able to follow the transformation since its original vision and understand the effects of how people have made sense of or actually developed it and its social order. We took the simple layout limitations of sharing only square images to construct our identities and use it as a marketing system where individuals act as the product as well as the consumer.
To me it began to feel like everyone is their own character/player in an addictive game, and reposting images to better curate their appearance. Communities are then formed through common interests and interactions, climbing this power structure that should really only exist in our imagination. However, since this isn’t an online game, or high school, (and the majority of people leading the path of technology are young people) the power is valued as how much attention you have that effects of popularity do matter in the real world.
I thought the best way to critique these ideas of the impacts of consumerism and living in a manmade social mediated system as a society was to (visually) actually blur the lines between an online reality and material reality by turning Instagram into a trading card game. I marketed it as my own brand and used my Instagram community to help gain more attention (power), and me as the creator of the game.
The cards can be battled in real life based on the actual image and how the post has been categorized with Instagram hashtags. The categories are ranked based on how common a specific kind of image is posted on Instagram. The virtual version of the game is played on Instagram by posting pictures of a card and tagging the profile of the card and #dirtygrldollars . The profile on the card is encouraged to repost this picture, giving the person who posted the picture of the card attention (likes and follows).
To stick to my brand idea of soap as a form of packaging, I packaged a pack of 5 trading cards inside of soap and sold them at my show for Instagram attention instead of money. I built a pop up shop for the cards with a virtual self checkout system which was an automated video projection of myself telling the customer step by step how to complete their transaction (each pack cost 1 follow and 15 likes). Once they purchased a pack, a receipt card with their profile was printed and put into a pack and sold the next day.
What are Dirty Grl Dollars?
Dirty Grl Dollars are likes and follows (attention) received by the player posting a picture of a Dirty Grl trading card.
Dirty Grl’s new line features sexy sci-fi (like Barbarella) and surrealism. What do you love most about these aesthetics?
I like space fantasies and things that feel a little off but seem as if they could be real. It’s how I want people to interpret my soap.
You told Ruby Pseudo that “attention is currency”, which I thought was so on-point for any entrepreneur. As a brand, how would you describe Dirty Grl’s philosophy with this quote in mind?
Thank you! I’ve found that living in a network society, the economy is running on attention, and because our world is so involved in social media, the virtual and physical have merged to the point where people and businesses make a living through the amount of attention they have online.
Best Nickelodeon show?
Favourite Slurpee flavour?
What creeps you out the most?
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE