Monday, 22 April 2013

A Hollywood woolly adventure!

Two posts in one day, I'm on overdrive!
When I was living in Antwerp and working with A.F Vandevorst there were always bits of fabric in the studio, samples from textile agents who wanted to sell to the label for the season, pages and pages of small swatches, and larger books of swatches (whenever there was a book of cashmere I would get very excited) which were big enough to sew together into scarves or whatnot. And really rarely, and the most exciting was when a full length of fabric, perhaps bought for a runway sample to made by us the interns, would be left over and discarded.
I would like to share with you some of the results of two of these pieces of fabric, both the most gorgeous wools, one almost felt-like, thick, structured and the loveliest shade of smoky steel blue, the other a softer more drapy khaki, but still with a certain body which created the most beautiful yet strong folds. Ironically I had used both as blankets to cover the clothes, mirrors, racks et all on my first trip to Sydney, where I drove myself, a wonderful experience only needed once (truck parking in Sydney is extremely unfriendly, parking altogether actually, but anyway...)
As with most of my design sessions, I started at around 11pm and didn't sleep until close to 3:30am, which felt really great as I knew I was achieving something special, pats on the back for me haha!
The blue one already had a cutout in the corner which reminded me of where a collar and lapel meet in a jacket, and I was feeling a long stiff cape like garment with a cocoon neckline. Of course after I pinned it and tried to make it sit on the mannequin it was about to slip off, so instinctively I grabbed the neck and held it in place and suddenly the piece was there in its full glory, these big, impressive, powerful, aggressive and yet completely refined shoulders, with no support whatsoever. BANG!

Then a series of other designed came forth; a shorter and asymmetrical version of the cape, with a draped front and one hole for a hand, the other side being at 'sleeve' length. A draped one shouldered top which as I always like to do, could be turned into a pleated skirt, and all could be worn in combination with each other. I loved the absolute strength, no, fierceness of this fabric, both physically and ideologically, it said do not fkuck with me, I will spear you with my shoulders!

The khaki fabric was telling me something else, it was all about sweeping gestures, moving with the wind, organically raw edges and grand drape. It also needed sleeves, and I had bought, at a market, about 8 metres of this almost elephant grey slinky viscose, which looked almost like a fine fine leather. A series of slits, some Mazzy Star, Depeche Mode and F..k Buttons for musical inspiration, was born the coat. Fitted through the back and free form in the front, able to be worn like a blanket when the long drape pulled over one side, or a long column with the short drape thrown over the shoulder, and actually another way which was discovered by the eventual wearer of the coat. A whole combination of snap fastenings would be applied later for comfort and ease of movement (so it wouldn't fall all over the place!).

Now please consider me humble and flattered and completely opportunistic and go getting (good things!), but I was luckily put in touch with a certain fabulous individual in Los Angeles, one of my new favourite cities after I visited last year. In turn, and thanks to the wonders of social networking sites, I chanced a total failure and messaged another fabulous individual whom I had always liked since seeing her gutsy performance in Scream (1996, wow) who I saw would be visiting Melbourne for work, to come and visit Paris '99, have a bubbly, nibble, and all the wonderful things we get up to here. And she replied, hooray! We met for dinner, at a place I had huge expectations for, which totally did not deliver and so shall remain nameless. The fabulous Rose brought a newly made friend of hers, the wonderful Greg, and through all types of conversation, ranging from gun control, gay marriage, fashion, film, and the fact that she had lived in the same room that I had stayed at 'The Chateau' (!), a fantastic evening was had, and a few hours later at the salon the newly made pieces found themselves going across the world to Hollywood, yay! :D

Hope you like x

Designing 'sustainable' fashion again.

Hello and welcome to 2013 Paris '99 style, better late than never I might add ;).
To fill you all in on the long and the short of it, it is just flyyyyyying by!
Meeting new people, catching up with old friends, replacing my square serving platter with a stunning, and heavy, rectangle of green/black marble (three things with commas I know, but I'm going to keep going on listing, y'all can manage!), planning a successful Paris '99 'traveling salon' in Sydney, presenting a series of talks as part of the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, LMFF, being commissioned to design pieces for an amazing new band in LA, yes, upon reflection it has been rather busy and I love it!
Now let's break it down, possibly into 2 posts so that you don't feel as if you have read a dissertation, albeit with (hopefully) pretty pictures. As you know I am a full bodied lover of fashion, all aspects of the industry; designer's histories, campaign shoots, who was in what shot by who, the history of fashion and style, factual, biographical, the idea of a brand and communication, and of course, design. Since I was 11 I have been draping, drawing and eventually sewing garments, some men's, mostly women's and sometimes in between. I studied fashion design (I'm sure I've mentioned this before) and was even able to humbly show my work in an installation presented in the fashion city of my heart, Antwerp (en).

In fact the first things I had for show at Paris '99 were hand dyed cheesecloths scarves/shawls/wraps/things made with leftover fabric from my graduate collection. I painstakingly squeezed and washed and stirred and wrung these out, and while they were supposed to be black they turned out a fabulous array in between grape and charcoal, which I liked, it was unexpected and unpredictable, and could be worn in a variety of ways, something which started earlier but has continued all the way through to today in my design approach.

I mentioned Sydney beforehand, but what I didn't mention was that about a week earlier I was cleaning out my fabric cupboard, and for those of you who share this (fabulous) disease of collecting fabric, you know how this action can uncover the most incredible finds right in your own home. Well voila, I pulled out a bag, tipped it out and ooooooed with excitement when its contents emerged. A beautiful woollen kimono, and about 6 leather hides, a dark dark midnight blue colour with a weird ripple of black through the middle. Divine, and damaged, according to the vendor at the market where they were bought about a year earlier!
What damage I thought, just an usual beauty.
Needless to say, the kimono (shortened and sleeve bags cut off) became a jacket which I wore to the Nick Cave concert, very appropriate and first day of cool (before a heat wave followed... :S). The bottom half of the kimono became a wrap skirt/cape/shrug, see below. I lined it with a wool that had been in my cupboard since the good old days of RMIT where I stalked the cut off box which sometimes filled with amazing treasures of leftover samples from agents and factories, hooray for recycling!

The leather, 2 hides of it at this point, we simply stitched together at the sides and cleaned up at the edges to create a boat necked top and belted around the waist as kind of organic tunic, and from further scraps of gorgeous fabrics hiding in my cupboard I whipped together a few more unusually draped, bagged out, top stitched, twisted, asymmetrical pieces that amazingly and flatteringly did not return to Melbourne with me!

This got the design blood flowing so to speak, and I have revisited my fabric cupboard often since.
One thing to note is that my work follows strict guidelines. I use found fabric; from op shops, thrift stores, markets, garage sales, places that have given the fabric a back story, and it doesn't matter if I know what it is, the fact that it has one is important. In fact the last time I went into a new fabric shop I felt all the rolls were a bit disconnected and isolated and I didn't really have an urge to touch them, sad I know :(.
Having said that, the hand can say a lot, and if the fabric is something I wouldn't put against my own skin then I don't use it.
The next important thing is to make sure the waste created is minimised almost to zero. I try not to cut, using folding, pleating, gathering, tucking and draping to create shape and volume, and a lot of my work is about the fabric doing what it wants to do with a little bit of manipulation. It's the space between the body and the fabric that is important. And don't worry, I didn't come up with this myself, the Japanese have been following this thought for hundreds of years. There is always an element of handwork in my pieces, and also imperfection, the human touch. I technically make 'sustainable fashion' but I don't like the connotations of this label, I think everything should inherently be sustainable but not have to announce or yell it from the rooftops, or stick a sticker on it. But I'm not here to preach, so please enjoy the words and images and come say hello! :)

 Derek Lam fan printed cotton sateen bustier dress, love!

 Gianni Versace splodge printed silk georgette cowl neck top with gathered leather bands on the sleeves, amazing!

 A selection of some Jean Paul Gaultier pieces, one of my absolute all time favourites!

 My new marble serving platter, yum!!

 Amazing Issey Miyake Pleats Please cartoon top, sick!

 Preparing for my presentation at LMFF 2013, I had one planned and ended up doing 4, so overwhelmingly amazed by the response!

What my audience saw at LMFF, of course I was standing next to the mannequin talking excitedly about sustainable fashion and my how I fit in it!

The setup for Paris '99 Sydney. This apartment was a formally disabled room, and so everything was really low and made us all feel giant, lucky us!

Vintage Gianni Versace woollen square print shift dress, unbelievable!