Britain Creates 2012: Fashion + Art Collusion
[Paul Smith] When the project was proposed to me I just thought I wanted to have an honest relationship, a proper working relationship with somebody who I’d admired, worked with and knew, so that’s how it came about.
[Simon Periton] The ideal thing is that you get two people making something they wouldn’t normally make. It wants to go on a little bit if a journey and go on a bit of a trip for itself.
[Jonathan Saunders] I think fashion is such an unusual thing because at the end of the day you’re producing a product for your customer. It is important what they think of it.
Obviously what we do is something applied and it has to be worn and everything, but since we do a lot of prints we look at different things. I think the initiative is so great because sometimes fashion and art don’t mix up enough.
[Susanna Greeves] We wanted to see what would happen if you take leading talents in their two different worlds, invite them together in to a conversation and really let that conversation take its own direction.
Susanna Greeves, Britain Creates 2012: Fashion + Art Collusion curator
Britain Creates 2012: Fashion + Art Collusion is a project that involves nine collaborations, each one a fashion designer paired with an artist. The collaborations are very different from video to sculpture and installation. Many of them share a kind of presence of hand and making, craft. There’s also some material similarities of radiance, reflectiveness ,of jewels and jewel like colours, they were responding in some way to the setting of the V&A.
[JS] We looked at the idea of multiples and doing something that had an element of craftsmanship to it.
They’re all different. They’re all unique. Silhouettes of jumpers.
[JS] We went to the print room and tried some stuff out and then we threw the jumpers down on to the screen and that is where it all made sense.
[JFP] Yes, exactly.
[SG] Matthew Williamson and Mat Collishaw had plans to collaborate in the past. Collusion was the opportunity for them to finally collaborate together and one that they leapt at. Mat Collishaw’s made a series of work called insecticides where he crushes an insect, in this case a butterfly between two 35mm glass slides, photographs it, then enlarges the result to an enormous scale giving that tiny death significance I suppose but also making it hard to recognise, the scale is so unfamiliar. Matthew Williamson has responded to that in a way by creating a three-dimensional contoured relief in beautiful beading and sequins that picks out the highlights and the scales of the butterflies wing and also creates this sort of relief, terrain map.
[SP] So I didn’t even really know anything about Nicholas and what to do and it took a couple of weeks to even get together because he was away or I was away or something. And then we had a brainstorming and we just tried to end up with something that neither of us had really ever made before. And ended up kind of thinking that we wanted to make a chandelier actually. That was the initial idea. Then that changed in to different things that could hang off the chandelier, then we ended up loosing the lights and making it more of a kind of moving mobile really. That was the journey that we had.
[SG] Giles Deacon and Jeremy Deller are old friends, former band mates and had this instant easy communication. They were interested in exploring William Morris prints. I think they both responded strongly to the arts and crafts movements tenet of art for all and in the everyday. They actually came to the V&A to research a print they found, a stained glass window by William Morris of Sir Lancelot and that was the basis for the print that they applied to the lycra fabric that they’ve used to create a full body running suit with a flowing train, a headdress which Stephen Jones contributed and a great leather lashed staff. Jeremy Deller has called it an arts and crafts suit of armour for an athlete.
[Charming Baker] Paul and I came up with an idea about things we wanted to say. ‘Oh we could do it like this, great’. And so we had a very simple drawing, then I see Steve at The Foundry who I’ve been working with and I say, Steve can we make this? And of course it opens up a can of worms.
[PS] The piece that we’ve done together is this big substantial bike held up by the little mouse. He’s that big and the bike is that big. The piece is about life and about how humble your start is in any way, the fact if you try hard and dig deep and however small you start you can do great things so it’s about that.
[CB] Even if it’s just overcoming the human condition.
[SG] Hussein Chalayan is probably amongst all the artists and designers the one who already straddles the worlds of fashion and art most of all. He came to meet Gavin for the first time, essentially interviewed him with Gavin intoning the words that Hussein had transcribed during the interview and Hussein providing a chanted echo behind. From that, Gavin designed a series of rings for the label in the middle of their vinyl edition, which draw on the Olympic symbol but also refer to Duchamp rotary sculptures. One of those designs was transferred on to a wooden disk and placed horizontally, and that disk rotating is what was filmed to create the video that accompanies the track. Where the camera follows the rings as if from the viewpoint of a runner on a running track or a needle in the groove of a record.
There’s not a single formula for a successful collaboration and in fact I think each of the pairs approached that challenge in a different way. The challenge of communication and trusting one another and giving up the total control over the artwork.
Stephen Jones and Cerith Wyn Evans had also known each other for a long time. They were clear from the beginning that their work should in some way take the form of a hat. Although it’s a conceptual halo more than a hat. Five glowing rings of LED orbit around a central headband and that’s a sort of elegant reference to the five rings of the Olymic symbol. Cerith has used light a great deal in his conceptual practise from fireworks to neon and here I think the medium is almost following the fluid lines of one of Stephen’s sketches.
[Francis Upritchard] Well we haven’t worked together but Christopher and Peter had worked with my husband before and then this project came up.
[Christopher De Vos] So I guess the collaboration itself was in the air already so when we both heard that there was the option to work together we thought, ‘yeah great’, and so we can make it happen.
[FU] I made the figure and the face and the hands and feet and Christopher and Francis made the outfit.
[CDV] And it’s a really exciting pose she’s in, it’s from a yoga book and we thought it’s great that it’s something so athletic.
[FP] And it’s a yoga pose that I certainly can’t do and I don’t think you two can either.
[CDV] Not really.
[CDV] It does look very Francis, the colour.
[FU] But it looks very you too.
[Peter Pilotto] It’s interesting how it fits really well together I guess.
[SG] Some pairs worked very closely side by side in a hands on way in the studio. Some of the collaborations evolved through the process whilst others were decided at a planning stage at the beginning and some of the pairs were able to work in a looser way so they could pass something form one to the other, each add their separate contribution.
[SG] Mary Katrantzou and Mark Titchner again were introduced just for this project. Both of them work with extremely dense technical imagery themselves so that immediately gave them a common technical language but it also gave them a challenge in how they could combine that in to one work without clashing or being at war with one another. So in this digital animation, they’ve created a space, a whole world where their separate contributions can combine and interact in different ways. So Mary Katrantzou’s amazing Trompe-l’oeil prints become a kind of landscape and Mark Titchner’s text appears and travels and moves through that landscape.
All the artists and designers were very curious to explore each other’s worlds and I think that most of them have found it a very rewarding experience to step outside their own creative practise and outside the boundaries of the art world or the fashion world for this time. I even think that some will take something from the project back to their own work and practise in the future, which I suppose is the most rewarding an artist experience could be.