Artist Misha Japanwala is reclaiming her body, one sculpted breastplate at a time
Pakistani artist and designer Misha Japanwala is doing it all — smashing stereotypes, making wearable sculptures and making it to Vogue.
One wonders how her signature breastplates, busts of busts if you will, make it past Instagram's notorious content censors. Probably because sculpture is not nudity. As a result, her page is filled with not-nude images of models fully dressed in resin re-creations of their own bodies.
“This is the reclamation of our bodies in art and how we want to depict them and what we want to say about them,” the 25-year-old told Vogue in a February 26 interview. “The art that we consume globally is so heavily focused on the perspective of men and their view of female nudity.”
Her desire to subvert the male gaze motivated her thesis collection of wearable nude body castings. The collection was titled “Azaadi” or freedom.
But a female Pakistani artist, even one making not-nude sculptures, is going to be the inevitable victim of hate on social media.
“If you saw a Renaissance painting in the Louvre depicting a nude female body, would it anger you as much as a body cast that I made? I’m always thinking about that," she says.
The idea of casting from life came to Japanwala as she was thinking about the female corporeal form, specifically her own, to the point that she started dreaming of sculptures of naked bodies. What followed was extensive research and eventually stumbling upon The Compleat Sculptor, a casting and fabrication store in New York City.
“My process of trial and error and standing naked in my bedroom painting silicone and plastic on my body started there,” she explains. “My work is hung on my walls, but it’s also wearable, so I personally consider it fashion.”
Breastplates also became popular on the runway in 2020, as seen in collections from Tom Ford and Schiaparelli, and worn by celebrities like Zendaya, Kim Kardashian, and Zoë Kravitz.
Her work was also given a six-page spread in Vogue Spain, modeled by French model Cindy Bruna, which has been her biggest editorial fashion credit to date. That also landed her a feature in model Gigi Hadid's Gigi’s Journal Part II, a special issue of V Magazine.
"While I was in fashion school, the idea of working on the design team of a luxury fashion brand is something I always thought I would be perfectly happy doing,” Japanwala says.
“It wasn’t until working on [my body castings] and getting press and women reaching out to me and resonating with my work that I re-envisioned what was possible for me. I guess I didn’t understand that I could be here and do this until I created the work.”