Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Fashion Design Research @ Fashion & Textiles Museum

Yesterday evening I attended a lecture at the Fashion & Textiles Museum. It was based around Ezinma Mbonu's new book, Fashion Design Research, and she was joined by four other speakers: Erika Trotzig, Christine Yai, Tom Pike and Gemma March, who discussed how they began their research for a collection, and how they prefer to carry out and present their research.

Because it was almost like an informal discussion, it was interesting to learn that they all had different ways that they preferred to work, but there where common points that kept cropping up, that they were all in agreement with.

  • Inspiration can come from both a positive or a negative reaction you have to something. Quite often, if you question why you don't like something it can lead onto other things - making you more curious. Curiosity is key to researching, as it draws out ideas different to what you already know.
  • Research can never be too broad, but it is important to edit your research down into what will be relevant to your final collection. Think of your work like a funnel shape - with the research at the widest point and the final outcome at the narrowest point.  Sort your collated inspirational imagery, text, sketches, objects, etc. into key areas of shape, mood, colour, texture/fabrics, etc. onto a pin board. Anything left that doesn't quite fit should go (even if you love it - you can file it away to use in a different project).
  • From your research, you should have some initial ideas, but to generate more design ideas it is important to keep going back to your research and analyse it. Also look back on what you have done particularly well in past projects and question how you can evolve it. Research isn't separate to your design process, you need to keep going back to it and question it, draw from it, experiment with it. Discuss you ideas with tutors and peers, and make a note of the dialogue.
  • Dealing with a creative block: Do something different - take a walk, listen to music, talk to a stranger, go to the library and pick out random books, listen to the news.

When working this year, I will definitely make good use of my pinboard in the visual spider diagram way that was recommended in the talk. Be able to move the images and text about will help me to keep making connections and continue to edit my inspirations and research. Having the board in front of me all the time will help me to keep analysing my research and refer back to it during my design process. I must remember to take regular photos of my inboard too, to record the progression of my work and so I can look back on the changes I have made along the way.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Following three interviews in the last two weeks, I have been offered placements from them all. A paid internship one day a week for the whole year at Lavenham Jackets in Sudbury, voluntary work pattern cutting at People Tree in 2-3 days a week in Brick Lane, London (Travel expenses paid), and 2 days a week (flexible) at the Warner Textile Archive for the summer (5 mins drive from my house).

Although it was amazing to be offered a paid internship, if I accepted, it would have meant a commitment to Lavenham Jackets for the whole year - not just through the summer, but throughout my final year - and I just felt that it would be too difficult to balance it with my studies and my family.

During my interview at People Tree, it was really interesting to learn how, because of their commitment to ethical fashion, the relatively 'low-tech' way they communicate with their manufacturers abroad. The placement would be unpaid, but they would pay for an off-peak ticket from Braintree to Liverpool, which is more than most companies offer, but they do want me for 3 days a week, which might be difficult to balance.

Finally, my interview at the Warner Textile Archive went really well too. They were impressed by my cad skills in my portfolio, and were interested on how I could develop their product range for the archive gift shop, as well as working as an archive assistant which is really exciting! Although the position will be unpaid, the archive is only about 5 minutes drive from my home, and they have said that I can stick at two days per week and work the hours that fit in with Ella, which is great news.

I think I have decided to accept the placement at the Warner Textile Archive, as it is more flexible and closest to home, so makes it more achievable to work there for the whole summer. Also the WTA is a place I have wanted to work at since I moved to Braintree, so it is wear my heart lies.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Work Experience and Internships

Deimante Meilune

I am currently working as an intern for Deimante Meilune one day a week, which I am really enjoying. My duties have included so far hand-embroidery, pattern cutting, toile construction and alterations, manipulating prints on photoshop, visual research, and helping out on photo shoots.

Lavenham Jackets       Orla Kiely for People Tree     Collectif

I have an interview for a paid internship once week at Lavenham Jackets this wednesday, and I am in the process of arranging work experience over the summer break: pattern cutting at People Tree and archive work at The Warner Textiles Archive. I am also in communication with Collectif with regards to some possible work experience.

Warner Textile Archive

So I hopefully am on my way to having an interesting summer-break, gaining some valuable work experience in both textiles and fashion. I hope it will also help me to narrow down what I would like to do after yr 3, as I am still not clear on what career path I want to pursue in the near future.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Warner Archive Textiles Fair

Last year, I had a great day at the Textile Fair run by The Warner Textile Archive in Braintree, and I was not disappointed this year either!

Not only do they have lots of traders with stalls selling fabrics, textiles, yarn, and books. But they always have a good selection of free talks from experts in their field. I attended all of them and a free store tour (Inside the archive itself).

The production of Burnished Indigo in minority south-west China - Martin Conlan
Batik from Java - Diane Gaffney
Textile Conservation in Practise - May Berkouwer
WW1: Fashion in Conflict - Katy Conover

I made some great contacts. May Berkouwer has invited me to visit her lab/studio in Sudbury during June, Katy Conover has given me her email address and has offered to help me with my dissertation and I also introduced myself to the Archive's Archivist, Katy Wigley, who I am in talks with to hopefully get some work experience at the archive itself. All in all, a productive day - and right on my doorstep!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Dissertation Preperation

Our lecture today was aimed at preparing us for our 3rd year dissertation. Interestingly, the advice we were given in the lecture from Dr Jeremy Spencer (delivered to the yr 2 art students as a whole), differed somewhat from the advice given in our seminar (delivered to our yr 2 fashion and textiles class afterwards).

Dr Spencer was keen to advise that our dissertation is meant to be an argument and that we need to write with a purpose, and that the title should always pose a problem that your dissertation should solve. There was also some really good tips about dissertation structure.

In our seminar Jackie gave us some good tips too. The difference between an essay and a dissertation,  where to get ideas for deciding on what your dissertation will be based on, and how to make a start.
She was keen to emphasis that we should write about something that we love and are passionate about, and that it doesn't necessarily have to pose a problem.

I know that the 3rd year will be really hard work next year, and I will struggle to balance my uni work with my family life. So I MUST use this summer - not just for internships and work experience, and giving my house a much needed sort out - but write the 1st draft of my dissertation, collate a decent sketchbook of work for my pre-collection and have done a few experimental toiles. This way, I can start the new term on a role.

I have a few ideas mingling around in my head about what my dissertation might be about, but nothing firm in mind. It will very likely be about historical clothing, and I am more interested in working class women and the making of textiles and clothes. For example, I often pick up hand made vintage aprons and pinnys at car boot sales, and they all sit in a suitcase under my bed. When I look at them, I wonder about the woman who made and wore it, there is something evocative about them to me. This might be a good social and cultural thing to look into and I could probably look at it from a feminist angle too.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Jean Paul Gaultier @ The Barbican

After spending my birthday submitting my personal philosophy essay,  I decided to spend my birthday weekend visiting the much talked about Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican.

What I really loved about the exhibition, was like the Paul Smith exhibition, you where able to take photographs and videos of everything (I had a very dead battery after two hours!). You could also get up very close to the garments and try and work out how they were constructed. Also the size of the exhibition was huge, so I think there is something for everyone really - definitely a must-see!

Although Gaultier's garments can sometime be a bit outlandish to me, I admire his use of historical and cultural references throughout his collections. He also has a strong emphasis on craft. His use of muses also drew parallels with my own experience during the Diversity Now! competition.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Woman's Hour Fashion Special

Celia Birtwell; Grayson and Philippa Perry; Breton stripes

Jenni Murray talks to Celia Birtwell about her passion for print, textiles and her career in fashion.

We discuss the difference between clothes and fashion; why is it that we form an emotional attachment to some clothes and throw others out?
Grayson and Philippa Perry talk about the wardrobe they share with Clare, Grayson's alter ego.
Fashion historian Amber Butchart and Melanie Rickey examine the enduring appeal of the Breton Stripe.
And we ask why do so many of us adopt a kind of uniform, wearing the same colours and styles, day in and day out?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Grey Friars Installation Presentation

It was really nerve racking doing my first presentation in front of the OMCI Investments team. It is the first time I have had to present my work and ideas in a professional environment, as all my other presentation have been to my tutors and members of the class.

In the end it all went quite smoothly. The atmosphere was very informal, and relaxed and they asked lots of questions about my work, which I was able to answer. They seemed to really like my sample, but they thought it would look lovely hanging at a window like a decorative curtain,  rather than as an installation piece in the servants stairwell.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Personal Philosophy Presentation

Today I gave my presentation on my personal philosophy. The presentation features designers that I think my work relates to and why, and discusses the subjects around fashion that are beginning to shape my personal philosophy.

Former model, Ulyana Sergeenko has turned from being an avid Moscow-based buyer of haute couture, into a couturier herself. She uses local Russian artisans to adorn her glamorous gowns with traditional details and techniques. At a preview a couple of days before her latest show, Sergeenko was keen to point out the hand-painted beaded fringe suspended from the back of a silk gown, or how the wool appliqué blue cornflowers employ a special technique normally used for carpet making. I really like how her collections are often inspired by traditional and historical dress too for example her latest collection was a reimagining of a ride on the Orient Express, crossing the borders of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Orsola de Castro started and her sustainable fashion label, From Somewhere in 1998, upcycling 2nd hand clothes made from luxury fabrics. She has now become more of an environmentalist within the fashion industry. “I’m always asked by journalists what are my tips for shopping ethically. Find a young designer whether they call themselves sustainable or not.  You are encouraging local production, pieces made with quality and creativity.  Young designers work in such a way, buy whatever you can but because you’re not willing to compromise.  You use your creativity.  Very often, the collections are produced locally using scraps – that’s a need rather than a commitment.

When I visited the Paul Smith exhibition at the Design Museum at the end of last year I was really interested to learn how Paul works in a similar way to myself.
Although I already admired his designs for their wearability with a sense of fun, it was exciting to learn about the man himself, and his office full of quirky objects, that can spark off an idea for his next collection. What Paul Smith does well, is to take historic and traditional inspirations as a reference, but develop them into something contemporary, unexpected and quirky.

I always draw inspiration from historical designs and traditional clothing from other cultures, I am an avid collector of beautiful things, and in truth a bit of a hoarder, but like Paul smith the things around me help me in my design process.
What I need to work on, is how I can successfully develop my historically inspired designs, to make them more contemporary, in a similar way to Smith.

My collecting habit also feeds my love of craft, it often introduces me to skilled textile techniques, and I often marvel at the time and skill involved in creating such beautiful pieces. From these pieces I can try and incorporate or reimagine the techniques in my own designs, in a similar way to Ulyana Sergeenko.

I am often given unwanted antique or vintage textiles from family members, or can be seen rummaging around in house clearance boxes at car boot sales, where I rehome unloved and unappreciated clothing, pieces of fabric, hand-made lace or embroidery. Often people today fail to value the old, which to me - often means high quality and well made, with love.

As you can probably tell, I hate throwing anything away and this is one of the reasons why I am keen to include the ethics of sustainability in my my design. Like Orsola de Castro, I can use my collection of 2nd hand textiles to make my final collection, to make beautifully crafted one off pieces, but it is also to important for me to explore how to make use of waste textiles on an larger scale, so I can produce larger runs of designs, if need be.

Giving my presentation went better than expected. I didn't use notes, and I kept within the time allowance. Of course there where lots of little bits that I missed out and forgot to mention. Next time, to help jog my memory, I might write down a list of technical and descriptive words that could help give a more professional tone to my presentation.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Deborah Coughlin and 'Plus sized' fashion on Woman's Hour

You can listen here to Deborah Coughlin and read her article for the Feminist Times online Sadomasochism on the High Street here.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Georgians @ The Fashion Museum, Bath

Following the Grey Friars brief given to us by OMCI investments, it just so happened that I had planned a visit the next day to my parents in the Bath. The Grey Friars Building was built in 1755 during the Georgian period, and Bath is a very beautiful Georgian city, so it enabled me to make a good start on primary research for the module.

The Fashion Museum’s exhibition, Georgianscelebrates the museum’s situation in the Georgian Assembly Rooms in Bath. 

The exhibition includes original 18th century outfits from the museum’s collection - gowns made of colourful and richly patterned woven silks, as well as embroidered coats and waistcoats worn by Georgian gentlemen of fashion. 

also included are 18th century-inspired fashions by Anna Sui, Meadham Kirchhoff, Vivienne Westwood, Stephen Jones, and Alexander McQueen. All are influenced by the 18th century aesthetic, and all (in different ways) show how the elegance and grace of Georgian dress continues to inspire fashion today.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Diversity Now 2014 self evaluation

I was very excited when I heard the brief for this project, the lecture that Caryn Franklin gave at the beginning of the module was extremely inspiring and really helped to get the ball rolling on the project. As a size 18 myself I was really pleased that I would have the freedom to design a garment other than an industry standard size 10. 

I chose my friend Lesley as my muse because, I have always admired her style and the way she dresses. She is not afraid to wear something a bit quirky and individual, and sources most of her wardrobe from charity shops, car boot sales, eBay and vintage inspired online shops like Collectif. However, Lesley is 48, and a size 18, and the area that she has problems with when buying clothes is her stomach. For example if a dress fits her round the waist, it is often too big at the bust, and vise-versa. So the problem I had was to design a garment that would flatter her body shape. Because her measurements sat between a standard size 18 and 20, I would also have to do several fittings with Lesley to make sure that the dress was fitting in the all the right places whilst looking good on. I felt I chose a very good muse to work with closely, as she lives not to far from me, I was able to arrange fittings easily after the initial interview I had with her to base my research on.

Lesley’s love for 1940s and 50s fashion drove my initial research, but I need to design a garment with a shape that flattered Lesley. Because of her stomach area, I would have to draw attention to cinching in her smallest area, under her bust, to create the feminine silhouette so prevalent of the era. I decided to work on a 1940s inspired dress that was shaped by ruching fabric. It was a complicated design idea that would push my knowledge of modelling on a stand.
I really enjoyed using this method of construction in this module, as it gave me more freedom to experiment with draping as I went along, almost sculpting - but with fabric. Draping on the stand also helped me to ‘discover’ what the pattern of the dress was - from doing, rather than thinking technically how to draw it out. Using a bias cut helped to give the dress a better drape and provided a slight amount of stretch to a traditionally non-stretch fabric like tweed, which I was keen to use. After I was happy with position of the folds of fabric, I took this ‘draft pattern’ to Lesley’s to check for fit. I discovered that although the stand  was padded to Lesley’s measurements, her shape was slightly different to the stand, but I was able to make alterations to the draft whilst Lesley modelled it for me. I used fittings with Lesley several times over this module, and this helped me to develop my final garment into a dress that fitted Lesley well, so that she was comfortable, but that also flattered her figure.

Another issue I had to work around was Lesley’s eczema. Although she was keen for me to use tweed in the final design, tweed is traditionally made from wool, that can be itchy or irritating to the skin. I decided that I would need to fully line the dress in silk or cotton, to overcome the problem, although this would involve more work, but it would also give me an opportunity to learn a new skill, as I had never lined a garment before. After some research into tweed fabrics I eventually settled on a silk and wool mix tweed, it had a beautiful softness and a lot more drape than a traditional harris tweed, which worked well with my drapey dress design. Using a soft, fine, mustard coloured wool- mix suiting in a similar weight to the tweed,  helped to highlight the details of the dress with a contrasting flash of colour.

The illustrator class was a great addition to support the module, another new skill to practise and develop. I have learned how to draw out garment designs and create patterns to fill them with, but because my final collection was quite asymmetric and involved a lot of gathering, I spent a long time trying to recreate my garment design in illustrator at home, but it never looked very professional, I hope that I will be able to develop my skills in illustrator as I progress on the course, as I have done with photoshop. I therefore decided to draw my final collection line up and technical flats by hand, but used photoshop to add colour and texture to present them in a more professional way.

It was quite challenging to make a garment that fits someone in all the right places, compared to constructing a garment from standard size blocks and mannequins. Womens’ body shapes vary so much even within their own dress size bracket, and so it is important to learn how to design clothes to flatter those different shapes and make fashion easily accessible and enjoyable for everyone. As a size 18 myself, I strongly believe clothes should make women look amazing, no matter what their size or shape. After reading an article a couple of years ago about a student at Graduate Fashion Week that had won an award for their plus sized final collection, it made me start to think about whether it was something I should consider for my final collection. Although it would be more challenging than designing standard size 10 garments, I think the fashion industry needs to address the issue that size 10 is not the standard size of our nations women anymore, and as fashion students, and the next generation of designers, I 
think it is definitely something we should take heed of for the future.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Lee Lapthorne Lecture

Lee Lapthorne was our guest speaker today. I first met Lee in Yr 0 of this course, when he tutored us for two studio modules.  So it was really interesting to learn in more depth about his career and the invaluable advise he had to pass on.

Lee Lapthorne's Print Designs

Lee has an MA with distinction in Textiles, has his own range of high-end scarves and bow ties, and has produced hundreds of catwalk shows for Britain's biggest design talent including Zandra Rhodes,  Jasper Conran, Peter Pillotto and Gareth Pugh with his company Doll. He has also launched an independent international platform that bridges the gap between on and off schedule designers: On|Off

Some of the key advice that Lee gave us was:

  • Focus on what you, as a designer, are good at - it is good to have a knowledge of all things, but you must be a master of one.  He gave us some examples of designers that have built their name up slowly, but had staying power, as they did one particular garment especially well. Christopher Raeburn is known for his parka jackets, Palmer Harding for their cotton shirts.
  • Costing and target customer - If you are going to make a scarf that will have to retail at £400+ to cover the cost of materials and labour, you need to consider what sort of customer will be able to afford to spend that much, and then market your product towards them.
  • Branding & Marketing - Lee sited the young british design J W Anderson's website as a good example of branding for his target audience.
  • The importance of persistence and serendipity - Lee spent a long time ringing and emailing large companies, and sending the examples and images of his designs. But because he also wore his designs to meetings, often industry key figures noticed them and asked them where he got them from. He was finally motivated to launch his scarf collection when a Selfridge's member of staff asked where they could by his scarves.
Lee's lecture has really made me consider what sort of person I want to be designing for, how I can brand my 'label' and the importance of wearing my own work. This will really help me when considering the direction I will take in my 3rd Year.

Friday, 17 January 2014

George Childrenswear Competition 2014

I have just submitted my collection of 6 outfits for the George at Asda Childrenswear competition. The category I chose to design for was girlswear aged 8-9 yrs. It has been really difficult to balance working on my submission alongside my studio modules. I have spent a many hours on photoshop (creating print designs, scanning in and editing swatch samples and technical drawings) to produce some professional looking range pages.

Although there was another competition to design a mens t-shirt which would have taken much less time to complete, I really wanted to design a girlswear collection - my daughter is 10 yrs old and I feel like I have a good idea of the target customer, as it is mostly mothers like myself who will be buying clothes for their younger children. My daughter loved the designs so much, she has asked if I can make her some of the outfits too. Maybe during in the summer break when I have a bit more time on my hands!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Voice of fashion & Textiles

It is often implied that fashion is a conspiracy to distract women from more important issues such as politics and society, therefore confining females to a more inferior social order than males. This suggests that fashion is frivolous and unimportant. What this opinion fails to recognise, is the the important role that fashion has to play in social an cultural order.

I while back I watched an interesting programme on channel 4 with Greyson Perry called In the Best Possible Taste . It explored the 'taste' of the different social classes in Britain and how they dressed and decorated their homes 'spoke' and betrayed their social status. Similarly, I found the book Watching the English by, anthropologist, Kate Fox very interesting. It explores the behaviour of the English and identifies the 'tell signs' of social class not only through behaviour and language, but through what a person chooses to buy or wear or drive.

What we wear says so much about us before we even open our mouths to speak our views or believes, quiet often someone has already formed an opinion of us. For this reason fashion has often led cultural change. From the 1920s 'flapper' to 1990s 'rapper'. Sub-cultural groups have often made a point of moving away from mainstream fashion and trying to dress differently- to identify themselves as different from the mainstream society, only for their style to be copied by followers, and then, ironically, by the mainstream fashion.

We also dress for different occasions, it is widely accepted in the UK that you would wear a suit to an interview, particularly if you are a man, or something smart if you are a woman. If you are attending a funeral, it is usual to wear black, and if you were attending a wedding as a guest, it would be a faux-pas to wear white. However, these codes of fashion are different depending on what country or culture you are from. In india, a bride would wear red traditionally, and white is the colour for mourning.

Fashion is not only important socially, but politically too. Josiah Wedgewood designed an anti-slavery medallion that could be worn as a pendant or ring, or set into a snuff box.  "At length the taste for wearing them became general, and thus fashion…was seen for once in the honourable office of promoting the cause of justice and, humanity and freedom" Thomas Clarkson, founder of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Wedgewood had exploited fashion as vehicle for political change.