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Archive for January, 2006


Monday, January 30th, 2006

Briefly met with Christina who will be helping me to outsource the obsessive ‘makers’ that I am after: people with skills in crochet, knit, embroidery, smocking, stumpwork, redundant and strange crafts that are slowly becoming less and less popular. Hoping to incorporate some of their handwork into the creation of exciting new garments.

Met with Clare, another Clare who will be getting the web blog sorted… Also got a quick word in with Claire Wilcox, who introduced me briefly to the CIS (the computerised archiving system) and advised me on my upcoming archive visits. She is also off to Germany for the Dusseldorf opening of the touring Vivienne Westwood exhibition. Not had too much contact with Clare because of her busy schedule and involvement with the Castelbajac, but hope to catch her again soon. Flying to Berlin in an hour or so.
Image for ideal exhibition

Berlin: Cold, but what an amazing city. The exhibition lasted for 3 days, but what a wonderful location (Cafe Moscow) in the former eastern sector of the city. For 3 days saw little except the formidable city’s east, explored a little in the evenings, but we should get some time to explore once the exhibition is complete. Met buyers and press people in Berlin, as well as some designers who I have met before and whose work I admire, namely Wendy & Jim (really called Helga and Hermann), and met some other great designers. Had the good fortune of meeting Dianne Pernet, spoke with her for some time. The rest of our stay in Berlin was amazing, what a wonderful place. Met some old friends, saw exhibitions, enjoyed late socialising European style. What a lively and enjoyable city. On the last day went to watch a fashion show at my ex student’s university, Derya will be coming to help me to realise some patterns etc in a couple of weeks.

Weekend of 28/01/2006 and 29/01/2206

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Preparation for the exhibition in Berlin. A few new pieces which seem to link things together nicely, not sure exactly how many pieces are in the exhibition but there certainly are a great deal more than I remember having done.


Thursday, January 26th, 2006

Should be meeting Claire Wilcox today, she is very busy with the Jean Charles de Castelbajac installation so might be lucky to catch her later. I mended and went live with lestrangefruit.com web page last night in readiness for Berlin so checked that this morning and made a few amendments. Now I am going to peruse some of the acquisitions books. Met Sanna last night who is preparing a dress for the Berlin exhibition, an adaption from an older style using a harlequin fabric from a previous season, but good for something new in the retrospective. Also spoke to Anita today who is already returning to Australia (she is helping me with fabric sourcing). Sanna will be helping me out on Saturday with final preparations for the exhibition in Berlin. Also changed our accommodation to a more comfortable apartment. Before I go to Berlin I have yet to sort out numerous administrative bits and pieces, all the samples need rejuvenation from their dingy old storage boxes in my studio.


Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Met Clare Browne, curator, specialising in 18th Century Textiles, who specialises in the bizarre silks collection. Taken to a rather strange room, the first proper archive in my adventure so far: exactly the type of room one would imagine - apparently used whenever filmmakers want a taste of the ‘real’ museum archive - wonderful wooden cupboards packed full of exciting objects. Firstly was shown amazing 18th century garments in a wardrobe, several dresses in immaculate condition. Baroque gowns: well engineered brocaded and back draped; dresses for a young lady in acid yellow, amazingly finished internally with pinking shears, wonderful colours in a rather distinctive but decidedly odd colour palette. What wonderful history these garments must hold.
Bizarre silks
In a series of drawers, I was shown fabrics, which are the precursors to the bizarre silks (the main reason for this particular visit.) IN the 50’s a book was written about silks in a bizarre style by a Swedish author/curator called Sloman, forever naming them ‘Bizarre silks’. After some consideration and investigation, I discovered that word ‘bizarre’ was used in the 18th Century but never meant as a descriptive term to give its current understanding. The word actually appears in English in 1648 (borrowed from French meaning handsome or brave which in turn took its meaning from the Italian ‘bizarro’ meaning angry, irascible.) These fabrics epitomise all these original meanings and the subsequent meaning, unusual, unconventional, far-fetched and fantastical. I was able to view and handle fabrics dating back to the late 17th century, ranging from the amazingly well kept to the more threadbare. How amazing to touch these fabrics. These are apparently requested for viewing only occasionally by other historians, curators or researchers, rarely by designers. What a wealth of influences these fabrics portray. We looked primarily at 17th century French silks called the “proto-bizarre”: All by unknown artists and in intense colours: acid yellows, the palest of blues, viridians, apricot, red, woven with metallic thread. Some of the fabrics have had many end uses in their lifetimes: wall hangings to garments, and, once their fashion wore off, donated to churches for conversion to ecclesiastical garb, now museum pieces. Often influences are apparent and sometimes they become more and more strange: things begin to emerge like tropical fruit, fungi, in strange conjunction with buildings, urns, trellises, odd graphics, etc against very normal floral motifs. These French silks have been curated to communicate direct influences on the “bizarre silks” proper. The styles of the proto selection have fairly rigid layouts, mainly right angles, fairly organised regiments of objects, but as these develop, one begins to see the more organic, far more diagonal placement of objects within the fabrics, shapes which pierce one another, curvaceous unidentifiable uncanny shapes, and occasional architectural feature.

Putting this into an English context, I was also shown a 1744 sketchbook by Anna Maria Garthwaite, an English female fabric designer (we would probably call her a ‘freelance’ fabric designer) who was commissioned by weavers and private mercers to develop fabric designs during this period. Her work is rather intriguing since nothing is known about her training, in the then male dominated industry, yet her work is key to the work of that period. She was raised in rural England as the daughter of a vicar. Though not ‘bizarre’ in their content, the influence of the bizarre silks is evident, and her influence on Leman, the prevalent fabric designer of the time, is very clear. Her pattern books were bought from a mill in Huddersfield in 1971, apparently found in a cupboard. (Museum number T391-1972). What is also interesting is that there are early signs of the ‘engineered’ design to pattern piece in some of Garthwaite’s waistcoat designs. Never quite got round to looking at the proper bizarre silks, but will continue with Clare and be investigating that further on the 9th of February.
Bizarre silks
Another interesting subject came up, that of the origin of symbols contained within the fabrics, that of the tropical fruit etc. Influences seem to come from everywhere and what is even more interesting is that influences seem to cross over to porcelain of the time. The fabrics apparently were influenced by porcelain and in turn influenced porcelain painters, and many artists apparently crossed over into both disciplines working for both porcelain and fabric manufacturers as freelancers of the time. The emergence of these strange objects on cloth (we can see this also on porcelain of that time) was a response to the public demand for things tropical, unique and strange.


Monday, January 23rd, 2006

Met Katie, a placement student who will be doing some cutting experimentation for me, she was always one of my star students and is taking a year out to develop her technical skills. Gave her some Vionnet stuff to look at, as I am interested in working out some of her more strange techniques for myself. Katie will prepare some mini toiles for me to see how techniques can be grown into the label’s cutting philosophy. As I recall my initial intention was to understand and construct a collection of garments, which, although simple, wearable and comfortable, should encapsulate techniques of the old cutting masters in completely new ways to develop my own cutting confidence.
Gave a talk at St Martins to year one MA students, got a chance to catch up with Louise Wilson and Toni Tester at the college. Just a fortnight before, I had been in to see Louise and one of my ex-student work placement students Daisuke now in year two on the MA, when I had flashbacks of the energy and panic stations of my own time there. I always admired Louise and what she does for that place. What strength and commitment she has. Talk went well, quicker than I imagined after which I dispensed my pearls of wisdom to a bemused looking bunch.


Friday, January 20th, 2006

LCF. My first official days at the London College of Fashion were mainly spent in the library: ploughing through books for inspiration, mainly about garment construction.


Thursday, January 19th, 2006

An administration morning is required, booking Paris trips for Premiere Vision, etc. Meeting Stephen my assistant around 2pm.
Browsing some textile magazines…


Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

Feeling rather curious about a bunch of green acquisition files today, began ploughing through a collection of files dated 1844 going through to 1993 (after which I am imagining that the system was computerised and no longer used? For some reason I began looking in 1974. Each file contains the fashion and textile acquisitions for each year, including textile, garments and no real ordering other than the date which the items were given. A series of notes pertaining to each item: register number, date of receipt, how acquired (sometimes a gift, sometimes bought, price etc), condition, and so on. And a rather detailed description of the item or items, typewritten, hand edited, sometimes with a picture, photograph, notes, and whether or not it has been exhibited, when, where etc. Strangely, the books themselves seem to go through a series of changes depending on the person placing the entries, who took the pictures, etc. Funny really that what it seems to me is that the museum itself is a strange fruit, undiscovered and forgotten systems of archiving and administration, filing and storage. Content wise: came across several Vionnet, many Balenciaga, Callot Soeurs, etc - all the usual suspects, but interestingly some garments that I have not come across before, what a wealth of information: my only regret is that there seems to be a fundamental lack of any technical interest in the pieces within the catalogues themselves. Another surprise is the way that groups of things arrive in a sort of fashion - suddenly the introduction of several of fans, broaches, hats, 18th Century textiles, all seeming to enter the archives in natural groupings. Also a lot of dust on some of these books suggests that they have not been used for some time. An excellent resource although I am curious as to what happened towards the late 80’s when things were poorly filed, and the archiving system seems to have been totally ignored. Following a chat with other members of staff to answer some of my questions, it transpires that these are the records of everything that ever came into the fashion and textiles department, until around 1993 when things became computerised and changed systems. The reason why things go in and out of ‘fashion’ depends entirely on who was donating what etc. What happened in the 60’s and 70’s were the constant donations from Cecil Beaton who gave many fashion garments and object and which accounts for the ‘burst’ in the V&A modern fashion items, and some amazing stuff. If I recall, a lot of the Beaton collection is available for public access at Blythe House. I Spent the afternoon going through more of the Cecil Beaton donations. Wonderful.


Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

National Art Library, what a crazy place. Purple pass allows me to access things directly, and go back into the library itself. Amazing collection of old journals, magazines, etc. The most interesting were the “La Mode Parisian”, “Courrier des Dames” (includes some garment patterns, garment details etc.) dating back to 1832 and containing coloured lithograph drawings of fashions from the time, beautifully hand-coloured. Back at my office started rummaging through many of the stranger sources that lay right before me, quickly went through some green files containing all documentation of early acquisitions, more books, and noticed an invaluable collection of books of crafts and strange techniques, of which I am unfamiliar.


Monday, January 16th, 2006

Usual first day nerves, but an excitement for what is to come. Briefly shown around the maze that is the museum and my office, located in the FTF department. Shown the large fashion and textile library outside my office and the original acquisition books which date back to the middle of the 19th Century - these have recorded every arrival since the start of the museum of objects in the relevant department. Looking through the textile books, a main interest is emerging from a very early start: the 18th century textile. I am particularly interested in the strange representations on fabrics in the bizarre silks, the idea of the ‘exotique’ in particular a large variety of books, as well as representations of tribal natives meeting discoverers on cloth. With a lot of trend-based fashion focusing on this period’s textiles, I am curious as to why they seem to have reared their heads again? I am concerned about the real content of these fabrics. Little documentation seems to have been uncovered any reason for the strange figures on cloth in the Leman collection of bizarre silk designs. Why was there a need for representation of buildings, exotic fruit on textiles? What strikes me as even more odd is the very peculiar content: graphic shapes, strange compositions, funny really how these were so ‘modern’ in their sensitivity.
Bizarre silks
Investigate: People’s obsession with the exotic. Flowers on fabrics having Indian religious significance, removed for purpose in the West. Perhaps the fabrics were meant as somewhat of a souvenir? Perhaps the main aim of the prints for the collection need to take on a sort-of souvenir quality?