I wanted to take some time to reflect on my response to my tutors feedback on assignment 5. I’ll try and be clear about practical changes, where I’ve added or re-written elements of the essay and worked on any other feedback my tutor gave me.
In preparation for the assignment, throughout part five I took a few photo’s of textiles in context that I encountered in my day to day life. I’ve included these photographs with some analysis of the textiles in my physical learning log (see pictures below):
I also did the same for some of the photographs I took during my afternoon at Hampton Manor:
Textiles in context: Hampton Manor
Hampton Manor is a ‘country house and restaurant’ situated in the small village of Hampton on Arden, between Solihull and Birmingham. My husband used to work there and it was one of the first places that came to mind when considering an environment where textiles play a key role.
From my last visit to Hampton I remembered that textiles were used to create a sense of luxury and welcome, there were velvet upholstered chairs, silk or satin curtains and bold patterns covering cushions. I asked the current Head of the House, Joshua Oakes, if it was possible to visit to take some photographs and ask questions about their use of textiles. I was kindly allowed to spend an afternoon photographing not only the guest rooms (there are fifteen in total), Peel’s Restaurant, their afternoon tea room and lobby area.
As I went around the Manor, and in the course of my questioning, it became clear Hampton Manor was undergoing a change in terms of it’s aesthetic. It was interesting to discover how important textiles are in creating an new aesthetic and environment which sought to celebrate The Arts and Crafts Movement. In this assignment I want to explore their transition from one aesthetic to another, and touch upon how they are using textiles to reflect values from The Arts and Crafts Movement. I think that the shift towards a ‘hand-crafted’ look within Hampton is part of a general trend against what Guardian Journalist Justin McGuirk called, ” a culture surfeit of branding and cheap mass-produced goods” the end is result is that we, “romanticise the hand made because we yearn for quality not quantity”. McGurik’s article makes the claim that the mass population will not be able to afford the cost of paying for higher quality goods, “we’ll be seeing more crafted industrial goods coming our way, as we lust after craftsmanship we can’t afford and disdain the industrial products we can”. If this is the case, then the luxury sector, and I consider Hampton Manor to be a part of this, may well be the area to champion goods created by a new wave of designer-makers.
I took a truck load of photographs whilst at Hampton, and I’ll include them all in this post purely so it’s clear that I took plenty of primary research before then selecting which were appropriate for the assignment essay…
I was initially unsure of how to approach this exercise so I chose a few different fashion images, printed them out and annotated them in my physical learning log. Doing this helped me to decide which image to analyse in more detail for this exercise. I took some photo’s of the annotated fashion images I’ve stuck in my physical learning log, see below:
Having read the review in Vogue Runway; Mary Katrantzou Fall 2011 by Sarah Mower, I found and listened to Mary Katrantzou’s TedxAthens 2012 Talk; Challenge yourself to define your limits (see video below).
Whilst she talks at length about philosophical and practical limits which she fought to against to develop herself and her brand she also touches upon key interests and theme’s within her work. Mary Katrantzou was born in Athens, and initially began her creative journey by studying towards a BA in Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design. She transferred part way through to Central Saint Martins to complete a BA in Textile Design. Following on from this she graduated in MA Fashion from Central Saint Martins being awarded distinction.
Her MA collection featured printed dresses which played with tromp d’oeil jewellery. It was this collection that really helped her to marry together ides of shape and print in creating strong designs with an element of visual illusion or trickery. There’s an interesting interview with her after the MA show with fashion magazine Dazed – Mary Katrantzou Does Pretty Robots by Alexa Hall.
Katrantzou taught herself how to use photo-shop to apply digital patterns initially to interiors and subsequently onto female clothing.See’s her practice as a marrying of the theoretical and a practical approach to fashion. It’s clear from her Ted talk that she’s driven to test and push boundaries in print and textiles. With each collection her technical expertise develops and she pushes herself into different avenues, not just pursuing print design but thinking about new shapes and approaches to women’s wear.
Her Fall 2011 RTW collection was a critical success and in another Vogue Review by Tim Blanks talks about the collection being about ‘the woman in the room’ as opposed to ‘the room on the woman’. I think this is referring to the collection having a greater focus on how textiles are used, in terms of shape and drape on the female figure as opposed to the garment simply being another surface (much like any interior surface) on which to place a print. I think the collection marked a significant turning point for Katrantzou away from interior design to women’s wear/fashion design.
It’s clear looking at her collections since 2008 and 2011 Katrantzou is not a one trick pony, her drive to push the boundaries of print and her own understanding of how fashion works on the female form is consistently evident.
Her Spring 2016 RTW & Fall 2016 RTW collections are an example in point;
On the dress opposite embellishment and sequins are used to from pattern rather than digital printing methods. The silhouette and shape of the outfit are much more streamlined, sophisticated.
On the maroon coloured dress opposite texture, colour and shape become the dominant features (and print is unseen). A much heavier weighted material gives the dress a different drape than in previous outfits, showing an understanding of different fabrics.
The texture appears to be created almost by way of quilting or embossing a pattern onto the surface of the fabric. The solid single block of colour on the dress also marks a departure from the bold multi coloured dresses of Katrantzou’s previous collections.
In The Vogue Review of Spring 2016 RTW Mary Katrantzou by Sarah Mower, speaks of Katrantzou’s versatility; “in her intelligent way, senses the danger of being boxed into a trend. In this outing she also showed she can take on the challenge of proving she’s able to design without print, without colour and without embroidery or texture…Compared with the clothes she was making when she came out of CSM, this collection bore almost no relation stylistically.”
Print was more of a feature in her Fall RTW 2016 collection. However prints where taken to new levels in combination with other textile techniques. In the dress opposite print is married with embellishment in the form of sequins and new form is considered in the shape of a shirt dress.
The cut away details of the shoulders is also a different consideration of shape or form against the female figure.
In the design left, print and pattern are boldly applied to the surface of a (presumably fake) fur coat. The shift onto the form of the coat represents a step into considering other garment shapes beyond dresses for Katrantzou. It also represent’s her continued experimentation with different kinds of fabrics and textiles in women’s fashion.
The colours of the print are vivid but the shapes are kept simpler, fitting with the simpler outline or silhouette of the coat.
In the dress opposite the scale of print used is much smaller and subtler fitting with the lightness and drape of the fabric it’s printed on. I think here there’s an example of playing with volume, by using a lighter almost crepe fabric and pleating the skirt sits further away from the body.
It’s also a much more restrained colour palette than in previous garments or collections.
My final finding from research was an video of a conversation between Mary Katrantzou and Alexander Fury (then fashion editor of The Independent). They discuss her AW 2013 collection, but more revealingly she elaborates on her approach to designing women’s wear. To me it’s clear she’s interested in textiles, the treatment of fabrics, through print or embellishment, or distressing or pattern, and then secondly is interested in shape, how a fabric can be used on the female form.
For the purposes of this research point I have been asked to find examples of any designer/high street brands that are characterised by their use of print and pattern. The two that instantly came to mind were; Cath Kidston and Orla Kiely.
I’ve been asked to consider this question when looking at the brands;
Do you think this (use of print and pattern) is primarily about aesthetic considerations or is it in part an attempt to create an identifiable brand that can then extend to other products such as fashion accessories, household items etc?
When considering how to approach this research project. the first thing I began to do was look for examples of Orla Kiely’s work and how that might provide evidence to answer the question above. It doesn’t take much digging around to find plenty of examples where certain shapes, or forms emerge in patterns across several different formats from; women’s fashion, to candles, to home furnishings and kitchen goods.
I decided to focus on one pattern or form which found different expressions across a variety of goods, textiles and non textiles. I picked the ‘Wallflower pattern’, seen in the photo below:
This ‘Wallflower’ motif is seen across a range of collections, seasons and kinds of products. In the series of photographs below you’ll see examples where Orla Kiely has really adapted and kept the print interesting by playing with different scale motif’s, varying colour and application onto different kinds of surfaces.
My personal favourite application of the ‘Wallflower’ pattern is the application in a orange/red colour on women’s wear for fair-trade fashion pioneer’s People Tree.
The scale of the pattern has been reduced on the bag opposite to create a greater repeat for the pattern.
The introduction of the yellow/creme colour in the shape of the flower adds a contrast to the navy blue which keeps things feeling fresh and simple at the same time.
On the Candle ( see photo on left) colour has been add in a sophisticated on trend slate grey. Kiely has manipulate the scale of the ‘wallflower’ here, making the shape larger emphasises the form of the shape for a bolder appearance. The effect is I think fitting for a candle which you want to add interest to a room without appearing too busy (a small repeated pattern might have that effect).
By highlighting the flower shape in white another form within the whole shape becomes apparent and breaks up the grey overall.
For the duvet cover (left), the wallflower pattern has been scaled up again to create a large repeating pattern. The ochre or mustard yellow colour gives a retro graphic quality to the print overall. Here there’s an sense of use of negative space too as the flower head is white and recedes into the white background of the cover. I think the use of the negative space in using white helps stop the print from becoming too busy or making it hard for the eye to settle. In a bedroom a sense of calm or rest is probably a good idea so this simple bold repeated pattern works well.
I think the melamine jug pattern (left) is the most retro looking application of the wallflower motif. The mustard coloured background provides contrast next to the white body or stem of the wallflower. Another two colours are added by the pink flower head, and grey circle. These colours feel justified when applied to a surface or product (melamine) which has a strong association with the 1970’s and all things retro.
In my final example of application the wallflower motif is seen in a small, closely repeating pattern on women’s garments (see photo left). I think this works well partly due to the limited colour palette, the use of two shade of red/pink and a contrasting grey circle for the flower head.
I wanted to include examples of Orla Kiely’s collaboration with People Tree as I feel this is in part evidence of activities which help build a sense of brand, by bringing greater brand awareness by reaching different groups of people (in this case ethical shoppers). There’s a link to two video’s about her collaboration with People Tree in Spring Summer 2014 & Spring Summer 2015 below:
And for a final measure a couple of images from previous People Tree collections against examples of pattern or print found in Orla Kiely’s book ‘Pattern’:
Orla Kiely has had several collaborations with Uniqlo, a collaboration with Clarks to create a shoe range in 2014 and an unusual collaboration with Halfords; Olive and Orange, a range of bikes, tents and outdoors equipment with her signature prints.
Orla Kiely’s willingness to use print and pattern on a broad range of surfaces and in collaborations strikes me as more of a brand approach than an purely aesthetic or artistic venture.
I didn’t think my word alone, or my observations of her collaborations are evidence enough of there being a concerted effort to create an identifiable brand. So I did a little bit more research to find some kind of interview in which Orla Kiely discussed these kinds of considerations. I found a suitable interview on the Drapers Business website. I had to sign up for 12 weeks free access so I’m not sure if this link will be accessible to others but nevertheless its; The Drapers Interview; The World of Orla Kiely by Graeme Moran, 9 Dec 2015.
It’s certainly clear in this interview that not only is Orla Kiely regarded as a brand by those within the industry (she won Drapers Premium Brand of the Year award in 2015) she is also happy to discuss the business as a brand herself. She refers to colour and pattern as ‘the two cornerstones of what we do’. Moran says “unwavering focus on her signature quirky style has enabled the 53-year old designer to build her name from small handbag collection into a flourishing business with global reach”.
On the subject of her collaboration’s Moran says, “while there have been numerous collaborations that have seen her signature patterns appear across a range of products, they’ve always been beneficial to the growth of her brand”. Orla Kiely is quoted as saying, “we’re approached with a lot of projects and we don’t do all of them. I want to work with people that I like and I feel understand us”, which indicates a considered attitude and efforts to maintain a certain style or feel of brand.
I do think it’s important to state now that I don’t think this is a completely contrived effort on Orla Kiely’s part. What I mean by that is she doesn’t design pattern or prints solely with the objective of creating whatever will make the most money or achieve the highest brand recognition. These factors are considered but it seems at the heart of the business is her personal love for and pleasure in creating these things. She says in the aforementioned interview; “I never design anything thinking, ‘this is going to be a winner’. I just do what I like. It’s good when you’re [making] things that you love, or would wear. I want to like it. I want to love it”.