We caught up with Melissa Janson, a student from São Paulo, Brazil who joined us this summer for our Media, Culture and Communications Summer School. Looking at communications specifically fashion through the lens of psychological theories, she continues to study in Psychology in Brazil translating them and their use in Fashion. Melissa used the three-week summer school to launch MANIFESTit, an Instagram based street style project exploring the conscious choices made when consuming fashion and the opportunity fashion gives for self-expression.
Hear more about her experience on our Summer School…
I’m Melissa Janson, I come from a small town in the countryside of São Paulo, Brazil. I’ve always been interested in visual arts – my mother studied architecture and my grandma was a seamstress, both were a big influence I suppose in how I perceived the world growing up. I’m currently studying Psychology in Brazil, I realized early on in my studies I was interested in approaching fashion through the lens of psychological theories. I’ve become passionate about Fashion Communications, which is where I intend to study further and work within when I graduate.
You joined us for the Media, Culture and Communications Summer School – how was it?
Media, Culture and Communication Summer School was everything I expected and more.
You created an Instagram based project whilst studying with us – tell us more?
The MANIFESTit project was driven by the desire to explore the conscious choices people make when consuming fashion and how they use it as a tool of self-expression and self-discovery. With the advent of social media being widely used by brands, artists, and digital influencers to promote themselves and their ideas, it’s become clear that there’s been a shift in the way people consume fashion. Young audiences are forefront in this revolution, so I felt like informally approaching people in the streets, hearing what they had to say, and creating a space where others could engage with the content I put out, and maybe reflect about their own relationship with fashion, seemed the most fitting for the purpose of the project.
Within your project you’ve featured a range of people from across the world, what was the most interesting thing about this?
The most important thing I got from the interviews was that, despite the diversity within the subjects, the emotional aspects behind their dressing are very similar. Our experiences may diverge, but we share the same motivations; by recognizing the differences and valuing the similarities we could develop more empathetic understandings of those around us. Fashion is often seem as frivolous, but it can be deeply human.
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“Marilyn Manson and drag queens have always been inspirations for me. I try not to blindly follow trends and wear what I actually like instead – I’ve been really committed to all-black outfits for a few years now. I don’t leave the house unless I’m completely satisfied with how I look. I dress for the aesthetic and I invest a lot of time in putting together an outfit and getting the proportions right.” Nicole, 23
How did you find the people you featured in the project?
It was fairly instinctive; I wanted it to be as organic as possible. I’d approach those who presented distinctive styles considering the context they were in. Some are UAL students, others are complete strangers that caught my attention while walking around different parts of London.
Did you photograph all your subjects yourself?
I did, although often times I’d approach someone on the streets and they couldn’t take part in the project because they’re rushing somewhere or maybe they simply didn’t want to be photographed. It was really fun but also demanding because I had never done anything like MANIFESTit before – the challenge to photograph and interview strangers added to the fact that I was doing it in a foreign country.
Are you going to continue MANIFESTit? How do you see the project growing and moving forward?
I feel like MANIFESTit is the first big step I took towards the direction of what I want to do as a professional. I plan to continue it in Brazil and other places I visit – I have a trip to California scheduled for the end of the year. I look forward to keep exploring street style and people’s relationship with fashion, I hope I can find ways to expand the project as I continue to learn from the whole experience.
How was your experience of London?
It was my first time living abroad and I couldn’t be happier with how it went. I stayed in Peckham and it was perfect for me because I wanted to avoid tourist areas. Going out and finding nice pubs and cafés in unexpected places was my favorite thing to do. I’d visited London in 2011 with my family during winter, so it was a privilege to experience the city in the summer this time.
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“I try and find sustainable things but you can’t ‘cause they’re not anywhere, so I thrift or just try and buy more quality over quantity. I used to not care about fashion. I was a tomboy, ‘cause that’s what my mom was and my dad was the feminine one. I would say I express myself through powerful femininity. I used to not find any power in femininity and now I'm finding balance on both, but always in an outfit that I could get shit done.” Sophie, 20
What was your experience like at our Summer School?
Considering I had no previous academic experience with those subjects, I was looking for a course where I could get the theoretical knowledge for media and communications, but also be able to apply them to real-life situations in practical activities.
I enjoyed the course very much – sharing a classroom with students from different backgrounds made every discussion extremely enriching. The tutors were encouraging and engaged, especially when it came to the process of developing our final projects. Some of my favorite moments were; our writing workshops and the field trip to Deptford – which allowed me to explore an intriguing part of London that I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise.
Being a Psychology student, I had a lot of experience with scientific writing, but not in digital literacy, informative writing or branding. I’d say the understanding of those concepts and putting them in practice had a significant impact in how I see the possibilities through which I can accomplish my goals – both as a student and as a professional, in addition to becoming more self-confident (and self-critical) in my skills through the feedback the tutors provided.
I’d absolutely recommend the Summer School to other interested young people looking to get into Media, Culture and Communications, it’s a chance to uncover the communications field, but also delineate and execute your ideas in an autonomous manner.