Facing My Design Process
The collection concept is only part of the story, it is easy as designers to focus on the end product and the aesthetics of the piece. But to create true change, every part of the design process needs to be addressed. I have had to face up to how I perpetuate the cycle of insecurity and prejudice, I have been forced to take a step back and realise where I am going wrong and attempting to change that. I am not saying I have got it right just yet but it is a start. This is my process and my problems...
Research, Concept and Inspiration
I am not the most traditional in researching, I tend to be a bit 'bitty' in this regard. Meaning, I am always researching, always looking for the next thing. I am usually inspired by people, by social/political movements and my own emotions. Texture and fabrics are always high up on my inspiration list. Once I've latched on to whatever it is I feel I need to say and explore, I love a bit of visual research. This is usually artists, and I am a huge sculpture and performance art fan. However, on reflection I do tend to favour female artists, and they tend to be British or American. Why? I have no idea, but I am missing out on so much culture and beauty by blinkering myself like this.
Colour and Fabric Choice
Now this is a biggie. I was taught in some intern job years ago to place colour swatches on the skin to see if they 'work' together. This exchange often ended up with a discussion like 'oh yes this looks good on the skin'. No, this looks good on YOUR skin, or MY skin. What about people with different skin tones, skin textures and ages? These were not often considered, from what I have seen. This is how I have built colour palettes since then, and it is fundamentally wrong. This collection is focused on celebrating ALL skin through colour choice. Fabrics are such an integral part of my design process and I often don't consider how they will perform at different sizes. Yes, I think about the drape and the performance (and the cost, let's face it), but I need to also be thinking about how things will work on different bodies.
Initial Designs and Development
This stage tends to backwards and forwards between toiling and sketching. As I have moved forward through my career, this step has definitely got shorter. Time is money! I do tend to make decisions much quicker now, and factor in costings and timings in a more realistic way. The main take-away of this stage has been my sketching/illustration process. Now, I am not talking about the quick little sketches I do on the corner of my pattern paper or on a napkin while my brain is working through a problem. (These tend to look like manic non-descript scribbles.) I am referring to the 'proper' or 'final' illustrations that go into my nice sketchbooks and portfolios. I am no artist by any means, but I have been taught during my education to create a croquis or an illustration to design on top of. Then simply...duplicate her. This means I have pages upon pages of the same lady just in different outfits from different angles! Now and again I will move her on a bit, but she is usually abnormally tall and slim with legs for days, and a giant head. I have realised there is no way I can talk about diversity with her as my medium of design expression.
Pattern Cutting, Toiling and Sampling
Simply put, I have always been taught to cut to a size 10. I mean, we say size 12 but there is NOTHING size 12 about those samples. As a size 14-16, I am not even able to try on my own toiles. Ridiculous! My time working on bespoke has definitely helped me work through this and has stopped me falling back into this cycle. My patterns moving forward are focusing on encompassing multiple sizes. For this collection, I am attempting to have as many garments fit both a UK 10 and 20 (and all the sized between) as possible through stretch, fabric manipulation and attempting to use more maths than I am used to. It's not like anyone fits great into any one size anyway, so why not make the garment fit YOU rather than you fit it? After the MA is done, I want to continue working on this so I can offer multi-sized options for a diverse range.
Styling, Photography and Show
I am usually thinking about the styling the entire time I am designing, I think it's the costume designer in me. I can't help but think about the outfit as an entire character. Photoshoots are usually a scramble but I like to do them as soon as the samples are finished. I have realised looking back that all my models look the same. They are young and they are white. This is definitely not okay in the slightest and I take full ownership of this issue. I will always make a conscious effort to showcase a diverse range of beauty in every way possible and continue to educate myself on diversity and equality. As for a show, I am not going to pretend like I have ever been able to showcase my work in this way. We shall see what the future post-Covid looks like!
The not-so-fun part, but the part that we need the most. Social media is our friend and I am not that great at it. My goal is to create a positive feed, full of diversity and inclusivity. This is down to model choice, influencer choice, hashtag choice and styling. No nasty comments allowed!
Now you have seen where I am heading, I am inviting YOU as the reader, as the fellow designer to do the same. You can do this privately, or put your heart out in the comment section below if you feel up for sharing. Either way works for me, as long as we are all thinking in a positive way, that is all that matters. Fashion needs to move with the times and it is time to change.