This dress was designed as part of The Cutting Circle project and I’m refining it for an exhibition in Sydney early next year at Object. It is a similar approach to WAR / PEACE but with the letters forming all the lines needed. When I drew the first sketch I didn’t have much of a plan as to what the garment would look like and designed it almost entirely on the dressform and sewing machine. Usually I like to be more certain of the design before I cut. I was apprehensive but excited to see what might appear at the intersection between my hand, typography and chance. In the Cutting Circle demo I started to sew the garment up again from memory in a beautiful black silk tissue (dead stock) from the wonderful Global Fabrics. I’ve since been refining the pattern – the sleeve on one side was uncomfortable to wear and makes the dress twist around the body. Many of the features ‘discovered’ in the design process I really enjoy – such as the fold across the shoulders (done initially to improve the garment balance) and the interior ‘tunnels’ (to alter the skirt length) and draped pocket. The overall shape works well and the dress is fun to wear.
For me the biggest questions the design process of this dress raises is the play between risk/chance/serendipity and the controlling hand of the designer. The cut lines are controlled by the letters forming the work RISK – an approach which is undeniably risky. And i didn’t know what the garment would look like even once I had cut it out – what I didn’t know was that it would work. So what is my role as a deisgner? The decisions I made at every point; what shape the work took, which of the lines to cut and which to leave, where on the body I placed each piece, the fabric I used, the way I sewed the garment together, all lead to the final design – something that is both calculated and intuitive. And as such, a different person would come up with a different design from the same pieces.
The phrase “Go back to the drawing board” is something I rarely use. And its not because I don’t draw in the traditional sense of the word It’s because I don’t have a finished drawn design to test through a prototype as such. I design as I prototype – the process is conflated and non-linear. I ‘draw’ the pattern for a half conceived prototype, and resolve the pattern as I make the prototype – constantly receiving feedback from the materials I’m working with. It is a one step ‘design’ process with multiple feedback loops.
Thought I’d share with you a little thing I’ve been playing with today.
This is a plan for using up the remnants of a piece of fabric (NZ Merino Knit) that I had been using for half scale toiles of zero waste garments. The resulting fabric remnant is irregular in shape so I was trying to work out how to best use it all. The dark grey are the parts of the original fabric that i had used for half scale toiles so are no longer there and I only have the remainder to design the cardigan from.
It is coming into winter so I thought I’d make it into a self lined cardigan with a snuggly collar that is grown on the the back of the cardigan (developed from my mens Embedded suit design that went to Chicago). The plan shows both the cut lines/pattern pieces as well as where they will eventiually go. The darker fill being pattern pieces and the lighter versions of the same shapes are where they will be placed. Once I make it I’ll upload the result – at this stage i am probably 80% sure of how the design will work out.
I am testing out a couple of techniques here (while making myself something to keep me warm) – the grown on collar and nesting the lining and outer in each other – a process that was actually inspired by the zero waste furniture that Chris Jackson and I are testing out. It is really exciting when the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration become apparent when working on your own stuff, it not only generates new knowledge in a different field, but also informs your own design work within your existing practice.
This also demonstrates to me the benefits that new technology might have on my design practice. There is only one piece of this fabric in the world in this shape. My next step is make a paper model of it, which helps but doesn’t answer all my questions. And then I have to cut it out of the fabric – if it is wrong there’s not a lot I can do – I can’t re-cut it – so in essence the resulting garment will only ever be a ‘prototype’ unless it turns out perfectly first go – which rarely happens and is why prototypes are so important. If I had access to CAD software capable of testing my design out then I could do so – and while it certainly doesn’t replace the prototyping process, at least it will give me a good idea what I’m doing before I potentially waste a piece of fabric. I am happy to risk creative design outcomes (I am excited to see what this design will show me in response to my ideas) but i’m not happy to waste materials, and digital modeling would enable me to reduce the risk of material waste.
While I acknowledge that this specific situation is not something that would ever happen in industry – all cloth should be valued as a material with energy, people and raw materials invested in it, regardless of if it is a one off or not – perhaps even more so if it is mass produced.
Zandra Rhodes studied printed textile design at The Royal College of Art in London. In 1969, she took her collection to New York where it was featured in American Vogue. Zandra was UK Designer of the Year in 1972 and by 1975 founded her own shop in London. Her clothes were soon worn by the rich and famous including Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury and Diana, Princess of Wales. Awarded nine Honorary Doctorates and a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II, Zandra has been institutional in setting up London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. Today, she continues to clothe the rich and famous with collections sold around the world. Zandra also designs sets and costumes for opera as well as licensing her name for various products.
The piece shown in YIELD: Making fashion without making waste is titled Chinese Squares. It is a beautiful example of a textile leading the garment design, with the pattern being cut around the hand painted square motif so as to not disrupt the painted lines and form.
The resulting garment is both simple – being constructed essentially from a series of squares, and complex – with open pleated sleeves and an ornate print. It wraps around the form of the body without side-seams and hangs languidly in silk crepe de chine. The pattern for Chinese Squares is very close to zero waste, however the selvedges appear to have been removed. The design references historical ‘square-cut’ garments in particular the way the sleeve/body is arranged. Pieces removed for fit around the neckline and waist are reinserted to form the wrap-around mechanism at the waist.
The garment looks timeless in person, although it was made in 1980, and is in almost pristine condition. The garment was generously loaned to The Dowse Art Museum by The San Diego History Centre for YIELD and it was donated to them by Lucretia G. Morrow. It is part of the Chinese Collection from Spring/Summer 1980 and other examples of how the same print was used by Zandra can be seen below.
Zandra Rhodes work in YIELD acts as an anchor, as although it is not the earliest example of zero-waste fashion it remains eminently accessible and beautiful despite being made over 30 years ago and the respect for cloth evident in all her work is plain for all to see.
Here is a video of ZERO Waste: Fashion Re-Patterned exhibition with a short glimpse of my (un-ironed) work during the set up of the exhibition. See from 1:24 to 1:29 and you’ll see the menswear pieces. Also if you want to download a PDF of the Catalogue – click HERE. Designers and artists include Maison Martin Margiela, Timo Rissanen, A Magazine, Nick Cave, Padmaja Krishnan, Derick Melander, Refinity + Berber Soepboer and myself. I have loved Derek Melanders work since I first encountered it and his installation in the window of the A+D Gallery is particularly lovely.
Keep up to date with the latest happenings for the Yield Exhibition opening to the public on the 26th March 2011. Timo Rissanen and I are co-curating this international traveling exhibition on Zero waste fashion design. First in Wellington NEw Zealand at The Dowse Art Museum and then traveling to Textile Art Center (TAC) in Brooklyn New York in September 2011. And then.. who knows!
We have a new facebook page you can ‘like’ and stay informed with up to the minute info on whats happening and when the openings are!
The pattern is theoretically done – and ill be passing it on to Genevieve Packer in the next few days for the print. I feel like the pattern is over complicated. But the garments themselves are relatively simple – slim pants, dress with baby-doll silhouette and a shirt/top with a bow at the neck and a swing silhouette. All are slightly 60s in aesthetic – and oddly for me, kind of cute. Here is the pattern – color coded for your convenience. Greens = Top/shirt, Blues = Dress and Charcoals = Pants.
Timo Rissanen and me are curating/directing a really exciting exhibition on Zero/Low Waste fashion design – opening in New Zealand (The New Dowse) in March 2011 and New York in August/Sept. I’ll post the confirmed list of exhibitors soon – we are so excited!
Chris Jackson, Gerbrand Van Melle and me had a meeting with The New Dowse today to pitch the ideas for the exhibition design to them – TND were really excited also. Have a look as what we are working on. It’s going to involve some similar translations of 2D to 3D that zero-waste designers (and most 3D designers) need to be pro’s at. And a lovely font by NZ typographer Chris Sowersby called Karbon Slab.
I’ve developed my own design for YIELD along a bit since I last posted on the YIELD blog – check it out through the link below