Monokini 2.0 is an art project that re-examines popular culture’s narrow view of a woman’s ideal appearance. It all began when Elina Halttunen, a PhD scholar, who loved to swim lost her left breast to cancer. Elina couldn’t find a swimsuit meant for one-breasted women and the quandary was the catalyst for Project Monokini 2.0.
Whenever Elina went swimming people would stare at her. In an earlier interview she had said: “We do not see breast cancer operated women in a swimming pool. I have never seen one in public pools or on public beaches during my whole life, and I have been swimming actively in many countries, pools and beaches. I think it is quite surprising, as there are 1.8 million women operated for breast cancer each year globally, and in most cases the treatment is the removal of the breast. This means that there must be millions of operated women hiding themselves from the public eye. I think that is sad and I wanted to do something about it.”
Elina approached Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri, Helsinki-based fashion designers/artists who created Monokini 2.0. The project consists of 10 haute couture swimwear designed by Finnish fashion designers and modeled by 10 women who survived breast cancer and refused to have reconstruction surgery. Today, Monokini 2.0 has evolved into a world-touring photography exhibition underlining the need for inclusivity.
The artist-duo who are childhood friends are known to deal with questions of gender, sexuality and social norms in their various art projects — The Hairy Underwear Collection (a collection for men and women who wanted to celebrate their hairiness) and the Hate Couture collection (focusing on bodily features that generally are considered disgusting and shameful) to name a few. “We make wearable garments out of normally rejected issues to raise acceptance towards diversity and fight the narrow sight of being ‘normal’ and accepted,” explains Vilma.
Breasts have become symbols of womanhood, sexuality and they are important for the self-image of many women. But Elina thinks we are getting quite fixated in what we consider beautiful, healthy and normal. “I still feel like a whole, healthy woman even without my left breast,” she had said. “I don’t think my value as a woman is reduced because I now have a little less fat, glands and skin than before my operation. I also think my scar is beautiful. It reminds me of the second chance at life I got in exchange.”
Monokini 2.0 is for women who are beautiful as they are, even with one breast.