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.