‘I love you, you love me, and we don’t judge each other.’

Fecal Matter on the freedom and frights of revealing their inner selves.

By Dominic Cadogan
Photographs by Juergen Teller
Creative partner Dovile Drizyte

Fecal Matter. - © System Magazine

Fecal Matter on the freedom and frights of revealing their inner selves.

In the background of many of Fecal Matter’s images, you can spot the same sight: a rubbernecking member of the public with their face contorted in horror and disgust, or fear and confusion at what they’re seeing.

In the foreground, eliciting such a visceral reaction is one, or both, of the eyebrow-raisingly-named duo that is Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran. Usually with demonic black sclera and ghostly white faces, their limbs often sprouting alienesque horns, they might appear horrifying to many, but they themselves have never felt more beautiful.

While scaring locals in cities around the world and on Instagram – where they’re somewhat more poetically known as @matieresfecales – the pair have amassed a community of fans who feel a kinship with being othered simply for daring to look different. It’s a familiar feeling for queer people or those existing outside of the binary. ‘The common thread is that they’re scared and they don’t know how to be confident,’ Bhaskaran says. ‘We help them to understand that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Feeling gender dysphoria or that you don’t belong in your environment isn’t wrong – it’s normal.’

The pair were each on their own journey to self-acceptance before becoming Fecal Matter, and have since used the platform – which traverses art, music, and fashion – as a way of exploring their identities and pushing the boundaries of what ‘beauty’ can be. With a mission to ‘provoke society’ since they started back in 2016, they have gone from outsiders to finding a place in the worlds of Rick Owens and Balenciaga.

System beauty spoke with the pair about using beauty as a tool to live authentically, their journey to self-acceptance, and the impact their platform has on people like them.

Fecal Matter. - © System Magazine
Fecal Matter. - © System Magazine
Fecal Matter. - © System Magazine

Dominic Cadogan: You recently moved to Paris. How do you find people respond to you there, compared to Montreal where you are from originally?

Steven Raj Bhaskaran: There’s a polarizing effect in Paris; there’s so much freedom on one end, but so much conservatism on the other. We definitely face it and it’s dangerous, but for us, since the beginning of our journey, it’s been the case that there’s no safety anywhere in general. That’s a big part of why we share so much of what we do on Instagram and social-media platforms, because it gives people a sense of ‘if they can do it, so can I’. The centre of our work is obviously the looks and the aesthetic, but our vulnerability is what’s really important to share.

How do the tools of beauty and fashion lend themselves to crafting your identity and help you live more authentically?

Hannah Rose Dalton: I went to a private all-girls school with a uniform for 12 years; you weren’t allowed to wear make-up, so I really grew up thinking that nail polish was a sin. Beauty was a very interesting development in my life because I wanted to be a good girl and thought that I would never wear make-up. I hated how make-up was used to cover up or as a disguise to look younger; I thought it was diminishing rather than adding anything. Meeting Steven was when I was able to see that make-up could be used as an addition to the human form.

Steven: We both helped each other go into this courageous space where we do what we want to. I love you, you love me, and we don’t judge each other. We just started doing it on each other and having fun and it became this organic development of what it is today. Make-up isn’t a tool to cover anything up. It’s a tool to reveal our inner selves; it gives us a sense of freedom. It’s a cliché but the most important thing is to be yourself and that’s how we use beauty. In the beginning, we rejected beauty and didn’t understand it, but wearing make-up is something where you just need the courage to try it out, and now I love it and feel so much more confident with it.

Fecal Matter. - © System Magazine

I also use make-up as a way of revealing myself, but it’s complex because when you’re not wearing it, you feel like you’re not representing yourself properly.

Hannah: It should be a mirror match of what’s on the inside, on the outside. It’s almost like a dichotomy because with all three of us, we do our make-up to express our true selves, but then we have trouble taking it off to be our ‘real’ true selves, like how we wake up in the morning. It’s a weird situation, but it’s a journey and at the end of the day, what’s most important is that you have fun and love yourself.

Steven: That’s the goal really, to learn to love yourself in all forms. That’s the exciting part about when you start – you’re hooked on self-expression. It’s like a drug, and it’s so fun. We’re all going through a journey, but the key is not to use it as a mask to hide behind but rather to embrace the person behind all of it – because ultimately, the person behind the make-up is the one who created it.

How has the industry changed? Are people now more accepting of different forms of beauty?

Steven: When we started, our look was considered ugly, disgusting, revolting, monstrous, and to call it ‘fashion’ was a joke. Now, we see some of the biggest brands influenced by what we do – our visuals and presentation – and they’re reaching out to work with us. The beauty standard has definitely changed.

Hannah: There’s still such a long way to go and there always will be in this industry because it’s based on exploitation. It’s much better than eight or nine years ago when we started, but it can still be better.

‘When we started, our look was considered ugly, disgusting, revolting, monstrous, and to call it “fashion” was a joke. Now, we see some of the biggest brands influenced by what we do.’

Steven Raj Bhaskaran

What can we expect from Fecal Matter in the future?

Hannah: I always say the end goal is to do movies one day, because I think that includes all aspects of our platform: music, storytelling, photography, and visuals.

Steven: Definitely make-up, too. But if we’re going to release our own products, I want them to be truly special, authentic, and innovative. It’s in our minds and we’re exploring it. The beauty industry needs releases and products created by the people who actually wear them so that they have durability, wearability, and those little details that only the wearer understands.

Taken from System beauty No. 1 – purchase the full issue here.

Make-up: Fecal Matter. Hair: Gabriel de Fries and Beth Shanefelter.