Art

New Beginnings: The Move To Manc

The summer celebrations are coming to an end. Among other important jobs like sobering up and trying to make an appropriately sized bowl of pasta, the last few weeks have consisted of preparing for the move to Manchester. Once all of the cardboard gets slung out the flat will be a cosy little Bohemia, with a bay window overlooking the local park and a few too many boxes of flavored tea scattered across the counter – exciting times ahead.

To add to this all new flower-child existence, I have finally fixed my sewing machine. After eventually recovering from the 2 year headache that fashion design brought upon me, this year’s work placement has given me the much needed opportunity to get back into the world of sewing. Truth be told, I’m really looking forward to rediscovering my passion – nothing beats the rewarding buzz you get from making something from scratch and seeing it being put to good use. Who knows, maybe this new version of myself might be the final evolution.

Alongside the sewing aspect of the work placement, there is also the chance to use other creative mediums. Getting stuck into some painting and photography has been on my to-do list for a while, but other commitments have meant that it’s been months since I’ve even picked up a brush. Being able to explore a new city and find the time to be creative is the absolute dream.

So in the light of this brand new chapter, this blog will be re-purposed for a year. Instead of documenting my university progress and the occasional brain fart, its new function will be to record everything that happens to me whilst on my placement. I hope any readers will enjoy this journey as much as I’m going to – let the mini adventure begin!

Manchester

 

 

 

Tale of a TV Screen

God. If the reflections bouncing off of this blank TV screen were an actual show, I would have changed channels long ago. Staring at my expressionless, painfully average features against the white wall behind me, tinted grey against the cold black glass – it makes me realise how much editing must go into a shot before it is worthy of the big screen.

But then again, I’ve had a very similar reaction when I‘ve watched episodes of Geordie Shore or Big Brother. For me, it was a struggle to watch for more than a minute. Watching people go about their day to day business with almost obsessive interest, picking at the very fabric of their being like a starving vulture. Not really my cup of tea to be honest – I’ve got better things to do than watch So-and-So off of that reality TV program go for their morning poo.

But having said all of this, maybe there is something beautiful in studying the mundane? The more I stare at this reflection in the TV screen, I start to notice minuscule and interesting details: The way the light radiates gently from the florescent lights above, the fact that the wires holding them to the ceiling are invisible in the reflection, the way that all of the hues and colours of everyday life are transformed into an array of monochromatic shadows through the black glass. With no airbrushed augmented reality to compare it to, it looks kind of pretty.

Maybe it’s all right to turn off the TV and be okay with the image that is still sitting on the screen? It’s kind of sad that my first thought was that the unedited version of my face wasn’t good enough to be there. I bet people all over the world feel exactly the same way. Taking a million snaps and only putting 1 of them on social media is daily practice, because nobody will love us if we put that one up where we look like we’re trying too hard.

Also reflected in the TV screen is the window to my right. It’s pouring with rain outside, tinting the scenery grey, just like the black glass of the TV. I remember walking through the sleet this morning, agitated at the fact that my hood wouldn’t cover my entire head. My mood worsened when I finally reached shelter and had to wipe mascara from my cheeks, which I had so carefully applied an hour earlier.

Having taken the time to stare at this TV screen, I’ve made a promise to myself. I will walk home today with my hood down. I will jump in every puddle I see and let the icy wind blow my hair back into its natural, chaotic state. I’ll get home, pour a cup of tea and settle down to some rubbish TV. Only this time, I’ll remember to see the bigger picture – in full colour.

dress

Discount Creatures

When the price is a crucial distinguishing factor among products, competition doesn’t necessarily lead to innovation of better products or to a stronger, more highly evolved industry. Price wars too often lead to a decline in the status and power of craftsmen and creativity ends up taking a back seat. Emily Cheetham explores Rita Britton’s stance on discount culture and what Nomad Atelier’s practices are as a result.

Technology-powered globalisation has made bargain hunters of us all. This means cheap labour and cheap materials are repeatedly turned to, so that customers can be offered the lowest prices. Neither of these tactics are innovative or sustainable and they certainly don’t contribute to long term growth. One result is the cheap materials get thrown away. In the UK alone, 1.8 million tonnes of textile waste are produced each year. If companies are looking to produce more clothing for less money, this figure will only increase. Another result is low-wage workers end up with an erosion of income, which leads to debt and decrease in spending – a vicious and ultimately destructive cycle.

It is also not unheard of for companies to factor in discount prices before the garment has even reached the shelves: “I’ve got 50 years of experience in the fashion industry and never have I seen [discount culture] as bad as it is today” says Rita. “Companies will now put prices up. For example, if your coat was meant to be £100, it will be sold for £120 instead, so that it can be discounted at its original price.”

Joshua Ellis & Co Ltd, located in the heart of West Yorkshire, supplies cashmere for Nomad Atelier and the company can trace the origin of their raw materials right back to individual herds. “Some people think about clothes in the way they think about food” says Rita. “They think they can only afford a MacDonald’s for tea. But it is entirely possible to make an affordable meal from fresh, locally sourced food. The same goes for clothes.” Processes centred around heritage and sustainability are fine examples of how to breathe new life into a stretched and creativity-starved market – by producing clothes of premium quality that will remain at the forefront of the wardrobe for decades to come. By extending the life of clothing by just an extra nine months, our carbon, waste and water footprints would be reduced by around 20-30% each.

je

Joshua Ellis – preserving skills and specific craftsmanship is a main priority

 

Also, the shortage of passion and creativity that comes with discount culture can make a store feel lacklustre: “Discount culture has led to the dumbing down of designs” says Rita. “Young people can’t advertise anymore, because only the big boys have enough money to do it.” When put next to a genuine desire to give customers the best possible experience, discount culture really pales into insignificance. A genuine love for what you do can be infinitely rewarding and in-house design teams can often be the answer to adding a sprinkle of passion and personality to each stitch. If customers are worked with closely, designers can produce new and wonderful things that contain a warm authenticity and a sense of pride.

With garments that are made with so much devotion and commitment, it would be a sin to cheapen the craftsmanship. Nomad Atelier has belief in its ethos and its clothing – this, to me, is priceless. Discount culture may make us part with our money, but belief in your product and craft simply can’t be bought.

What About Piguet?

piguet-portrait

 

Robert Piguet is the designer I have chosen for a well overdue brand revival, set to launch in the coming years. So in a bid to pinpoint the essence of his character and understand the mind behind the masterpieces, I’m going to make sense of all of my research by telling my own version of Piguet’s life story …

story-time

Once upon a time in a faraway land (also known as 1898 Switzerland…) Robert Piguet was born. 17 years later, intent on becoming a dress designer, Piguet made the journey to Paris to work under John Redfern and Paul Poiret. Both designers were very important in the early 20th century – Poiret was famous for his artistic inspiration and dressing of theatrical pieces, whilst Redfern was one of the first designers to produce sturdier textiles for the increasingly active woman.

Piguet remained with these influential and innovative couture houses for many years, before founding his own house in 1933. Whilst there, despite his training with Redfern and Poiret, he became involved as a businessman rather than a designer. Piguet employed talents such as Dior, Balmain and Givenchy to produce designs for his collections, before they rose to fame. Although the pieces came from multiple designers, Piguet embraced theatrical 1930s romanticism. Talkies were revolutionary during the 30s and they played a big part in the glamour and escapism surrounding the decade. A lot of Piguet’s work incorporated staples of this glamorous culture, such as high collars, high capped sleeves and large yokes. This theme was a constant, portrayed throughout all of his collections and he became known for dramatic, refined womenswear with exemplary attention to detail and fit.

1930s-scene

In the 1940s Piguet met perfumer Germaine Cellier. They worked together to create fragrances that mirrored his elegant, post-war fashions. The first scent was named Bandit, a heavy brutal scent launched in 1944. It was released along with Piguet’s runway collection that featured women in masks, with toy guns and knives, conveying the image of the “femme fetale.” In short, this was a fragrance for the Cruella De Vils, rather than the timid innocent Cinderellas of the decade. This was followed by Visa (an autumnal fruity fragrance), which was redeveloped in 2007 by Aurelien Guichard. In 1948, Fracas was launched, referred to as ‘The Noir Perfume’ by Lizzie Ostrom, author of Perfume: A Century of Scents. This name pays homage to the 1940s noir temptress, best portrayed by Rita Hayworth as the terrifying seductive Gilda.

Piguet found producing collections very strenuous and felt it necessary to take a break after each one was completed. He worked until his retirement in 1951. A less than fairy-tale ending for Piguet’s fashion house, but his brand continued to launch fragrances right up until the 1960s. The brand is now owned by Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, who have made Piguet’s original scents available for purchase once again, updating them slightly with modern formulas.

This would normally be where they all lived happily ever after and ‘The End’ would be printed in whimsical swirly font. But in the wise words of Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashion fades, style is eternal.” So I aim to keep writing Piguet’s story by mixing modern topics and culture with the traditional qualities of his brand, to bring his extraordinary ideas and clothing style back to the forefront.

 

The Fact is: Fashion is Going Stale

I said it. Coming from a Fashion student, I suppose I should explain myself.

Making clothes and the idea of fashion are totally different ball games. Clothes made for the sole purpose of making profit shouldn’t be called fashion at all. If you ask me, that’s an insult to the designs that can express parts of the human experience that are sometimes hard to put into words. Fashion that can enlighten, evolve and devastate and have a story told with each stitch.

Some examples of fast fashion. It’s lifeless. You can smell the dispassion in the rushed craftsmanship, churned out with no real love or thought put into it. Fashion can be beautiful and expressive and a useful tool within society to say who we are without words – what are these clothes saying about us? It’s cheap and accessible,  but at what real price? Underpaid and exploited workers, tonnes of textile landfill and an ‘I want it now’ culture that acts before it thinks.

I decided to follow a career in fashion to make a difference. But it can be a lonely world sometimes. A world that is shallow and out for itself – occasionally it carries me back to my school days, where being at the top of the social food chain is all that mattered. What’s the point of wearing something if you don’t know where it came from, who made it and what it represents? If you don’t know any of these things, how could it possibly be self expression at all?

We can’t all afford the better quality clothes. But there are much better alternatives than fast fashion. Making your own, buying second hand, buying with the intention of making it last. I would love to see clothes treated as investments, not quick fixes.

Trend-following is not fashion. If you do that, where are you? Who are you? It can be hard to tune out the background noise and listen to what you want to be. Saturated advertising can numb our reactions to fashion, so it can be difficult to keep a clear head. 

But what is clear is that we need to bring the passion back into clothes – ask the questions. Because they do matter in the real world, they matter a whole lot.