A lot of running around today. Meeting with Rob at the LCF at 10.30am to update him on the developments so far and discuss the future of the project. Some library work in the morning, 12.30pm meeting at Hand & Lock – embroidery company since 1767. Had lunch with Alistair and Frances, and was then shown me around the embroidery workshops – felt like a step back in time. I spoke at length with Frances about the possibilities of incorporating stumpwork into the collection and she gave me the contact details of some makers to investigate. I am very excited by these prospects. Hand & Lock are currently involved with an international embroidery competition annually and it was interesting to talk about the future of their competition and embroidery in general. Today also was the last day of the Textile Forum (London fabric trade fair), and I sent Derya and Stephen to follow up on some fabric leads. Sadly today is also Derya’s last day; I look forward to having her help me again in summer. 16.00pm meeting with Chris Breward to update him also on my progress. Received email from Hilary who will arrange a visit to the porcelain and ceramics collections. Since the robberies of several Meissen pieces these galleries have been closed except for the first Tuesday of every month when they allow public access – I am trying to arrange a visit to these galleries to investigate the idea of the maker’s mark. I need to see their collection of porcelain pieces and have some questions answered that arose at the start of the residency, which might aide in the conceptual progress.
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V&A Stores all day. Today I decided to investigate the contents of some of the wardrobes in the Fashion stores. Worked through a lot of storage wardrobes today, whilst selecting pieces from each wardrobe to analyse in greater detail.
Aimed to go through wardrobes one at a time and pick out pieces, which had any relevance to my own current pattern cutting interests and surface detailing. Found some Dior and Balenciaga pieces, mostly ball gowns and eveningwear pieces, which incorporated the frill or pleating in peculiar ways. Also saw an Ossie Clark gold leather jacket, which made me think about the detailing of jackets within the collection. Also looked more closely at work by designers Zandra Rhodes, Schiaparelli, Yuki, Katherine Hamnett and Pam Hogg, amongst others. Was happy to spot a John Galliano dress that I did not realise that he V&A owned. One of my favourite Galliano pieces ever.
An interesting pattern consisting of surface applied frills, effectively bias cut strips, each sewn on individually and where even the bias strip seams add to the decoration of the surface. Derya did some investigation for me in the National Art Library in the V&A, looking mostly for interesting graphics and surface treatment ideas.
Studio. Working through more ideas for dresses, collars, frills and details. Things really have become clear since David and I had our brainstorming session over the weekend. I feel like these discussions have fuelled our journey forwards.
Studio. Following a lot of discussion over the weekend and brainstorming, I think that everything has slotted into place conceptually. We are interested in the idea of subverting the frill. Wrote sketchbook entry: “The purpose of the frill: To decorate the already made structure. To form part of the structure. The frill tries to become structure, but struggles. The frill should subvert itself and its use as decoration: for example a frill may have its own frill. A frill may be part of a functional part, but also may hint at a function: a collar, a pocket, a may or may not operate… The purpose of print: To enhance structure. To defy structure.” This now forms the basis for the entire collection. Also been toying with the idea of the maker’s mark – am interested in the marks left by different processes in the making, the journey of each piece. This idea came from looking at porcelain at the very start of the residency. Still not entirely sure of the nature of the print, but still feel that seeing the bizarre silks may have some subliminal effect on the end product.
Feeling rather confused about how to take things further. Designer’s block, and feel as though my senses have been overloaded. Decided that on Friday we would go fabric and trimming sourcing instead of trying to work through any other design ideas, shops included MacCulloch & Wallis as well as Joel and Sons, but we also squeezed in some coffees, and some decent rummages through Vintage Modes in Gray’s antique market and some vintage collector’s stalls in Alfie’s market.
Opened my mind to many new perspectives that were needed in making decent fabric choices. As I mentioned before, there are effectively 3 stories and I feel that 2 of the three are now fully resolved. At the weekend, David and I discussed the importance of the muse in trying to define these stories.
Have decided to take Derya to the modern stores today to help me to photograph pieces etc. Vicky chaperoned us. The first time I had been in the stores with Vicky, I asked which pieces were most frequently requested and she mentioned that she had shown the Dior bar suit most often to members of the public.
Not wanting to risk losing out more than anything I decided to view this ensemble first. I felt the way I felt the first time I had ever seen the ‘Mona Lisa’: in awe and here I was handling this magnificent famous piece of fashion. I know that Derya felt the same. We measured up the piece for future reference.
We continued to another jacket, which Dior created that same year - a grey woollen jacket with oddly concealed seams and pockets and a most interesting collar. Continued in the store looking at an Ascher piece featuring a commissioned print by Feliks Topolski, as well as a Lanvin georgette dress with leather surface embellishment.
That afternoon (with Kate as our guide) I decided to look at some Baroque pieces in the fabric stores. Studied the surface embellishment on these pieces, which made me realise the importance of the surface in my own work, something which I often overlook in favour of the pattern or style lines. Later that afternoon we continued looking at haberdashery items, 18th century shoes and hats.
Studio. Loads of administration to do and have given Stephen the job of catching up on all my emails and administrative ends that needed tying up. Began working through some dress ideas. Have been very inspired by some images of the latest Viktor & Rolf show. I have always loved their work, ever since I had first heard of them before I had started my MA, before they first began to make waves on the fashion scene.
Working between the LCF and my studio. Trying to resolve some shape ideas. Jackets mostly. Happy with progress. Took Derya to work in the MA space at the LCF. Saturday went to Portobello mostly to look at porcelain bits and pieces, but also some garment research.
I have requested to look at anything in the modern stores labelled ‘Anonymous’ – with Antonia in the modern stores. Began with a clear slate, no expectations and no idea of what to expect. Although essentially a collection of pieces without labels or known provenance, we came across many pieces with incredible detailing. One piece, which could have only been an Ossie Clark piece, another that might have been a Balenciaga or Givenchy from the 50s.
I noticed a complicated gold metal and tulle overlaid dress which looked incredibly like a Vionnet piece – all her typical signature details: I was willing to bet my life that this was a Vionnet. I insisted to Antonia that this was a Vionnet, and my persistence paid off when Antonia on close inspecting of the inside of the garment found a Vionnet label. Wow. We could not believe that this was not noticed before.
On closer inspection of the acquisition files later that day, I noticed that the original notes suggested that this might have been a Vionnet, but that there was no real proof of its provenance – that was in 1976. Now we have proved that the V&A have another Vionnet piece on their hands. Thirty years later. Wow!!! Other pieces, which I studied that afternoon with Kate, included a Valentina dress and bolero jacket, expertly cut. Also a series of opera coats.
Back from Paris and ready to get things moving… Pattern cutting all day. Some good development.