essay

ma womenswear thesis, london college of fashion

olivia rubens

 

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photography: brian rankin

makeup: martha inoue

hair stylist: arisa yamasaki

stylist: olivia rubens

clothing generously leant and given by the octavia foundation

 

ABSTRACT

            We, as humans, are conscious beings who have the ability to decide on how we perform who we are to others. Especially women, who for so many years have been constrained by social boundaries, are thus given even more incentive to have learned and developed performance as second nature.

We are forced to ask ourselves then: is it ever possible to know whether or not a woman is truly performing herself? We are shapeshifters, changing ourselves from one situation to the next, whether for belonging or for attempt at uniqueness, we may never know. This blurring of identity and embodiment of personas has been the focal point behind Olivia Rubens’s Collection I, Duplicitous Lives. Making reference to works by Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Nadia Lee Cohen, and Juno Calypso, to name a few, through eccentric primary research and a photoshoot of my own, values centered around sustainability, identity expression and cyber bullying with youth, and portraits of Victorian children and child pageants, this knitwear-focused collection was created to speak volumes, loudly and intelligently, through each intrinsic look and as a whole.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

            This collection could not have been completed without the Octavia Foundation, specifically Madison Sheedy, Rachel Harrison and Iain Burnett, donating unsold clothing to repurpose, and Conor Lynch and Harry for allowing me to organize a youth project that inspired aspects of the research and the collection. I’d like to thank Russell Peek of Offcut Studio, who shredded these garments for my textiles. The work of Jennifer Lienhard at AppleOak Fibreworks, dyeing my yarn and fabrics with natural dyes, and Bettina Wagner of Tine and Floyd’s yarn spinning, was crucial to infusing my ethos into the collection, similarly the collaboration with Manusa, one of my knit manufacturers, with the help of Alice Cappelli and Barbara Garducci. The construction and details are thanks to the expertly executed work of my manufacturers, Nora Wong, Ben McKernan and Richard Szuman at Loop Studio, John at Stoll GB, and Sara Martins at The Ribbing Company, and my machinists, Roma, Jola, Ann and Karim. The collection reached its full potential thanks to the criticism of my course leader, Nabil El-Nayal, tutors and technicians at the London College of Fashion. Recycled plastic accessories by Iris Vilu were essential to achieving the full vision, and finally none of this would have been possible without the generous funding from the Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute, and sponsorship from Filmar of their organic cotton yarns, and DenimX of their recycled denim and bio plastic fabric and sheeting. Thank you dearly to all those who have supported and collaborated for this Master’s collection.

LITERATURE REVIEW

            The backbone of the collection is supported by the sociological and artistic literature, as well as the visual references in galleries, in archives and in books, detailed  and reviewed in this section.

The research for this body of work began with photography of women, their facial expressions, and looking for ‘truth’ behind their depicted personas. Facets of femininity were explored such as extremes of expression, discourse and feminine identity, group identity, simulacra in daily expression, self-perception and self-portraiture by women. Throughout history, women and female artists alike have had to operate in a contradictory way in society so as to seem appropriate. Borzello notes:

From the Middle Ages, femininity was understood in terms of duties, accomplishments and permissible behaviour. […] A woman who practised as an artist had to operate in a context set up for men and to behave in a manner thought to be unwomanly (2018).

Self-portraiture rebelling against society’s norms was intriguing, questioning “more ‘realistic’ self-portraits as straightforward translations of reality” (Borzello, 2018). A collection by Dave Heath, A Dialogue with Solitude, at the Photographers’ Gallery piqued interest, showing people through extremes of emotion (2019). Heath notes:

I’ve always seen [the city] as a stage and I’ve always seen the people in the streets as being actors, not acting out a particular play or story, but somehow being the story itself… Baudelaire called the flâneur the one whose purpose is to endow the crowd with a soul (2019).

The same ideas emerge in photographs of women by Mary Ellen Mark, Maripol, Jitka Hanzlova and William Eggleston (National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2008, Maripol, 2006, Hanzlova et. al., 2000 & Eggleston, 2006). Initial questions emerged: is it possible to decode a woman’s emotions through clothing or to develop clothing that expresses just this? The clothing we choose to wear can define us as a type of language.  If we remove the wearer, can our emotions be translated without the human component?

Then, is it possible to tell if a woman is constrained by what she is wearing and how she can express herself? This was a further exploration of this disconnect between personality and clothing.

Lastly, what are the self-induced or enforced limitations of a woman’s eccentricities? Discourse, tradition, judgment and perception were analyzed in the reasoning behind a woman’s performance of her persona.

            Works by Cindy Sherman came into play as a multi-faceted research component, the first being her playing of several characters in her so-called self-portraits. In Cindy Sherman: a play of selves, she acts out a few people, including a woman’s aspects of her personality, such as her ego and her desire (Sherman, 2007). Living amongst strangers, we transmit the signs we want others to decode (Goffman, 1971). We are like performers on a stage (Goffman, 1971). This dark aspect of our existence, specifically women’s performativity, became the premise of this collection.

            Women could be performing to feel belonging in groups, seeking out acceptance by their peers while falling in line with the norm, seen in group photography by Neal Slavin, Mitch Epstein, and Martin Parr (Moore et. al., 2010, Epstein, 2005 & Only Human, 2019). In these settings, Slavin believes that “little things come out as they stand in a formation that have to do with who they are and what they want to show people looking at the photo” (Teicher, 2019). The second facet of Cindy Sherman’s work is the creation of types of women (Sherman, 2015). Vinken points out, “Her self-distortion also […] presents the standardization and calibration of femininity” (Sherman, 2015). Contrastingly, women could also be performing authenticity. A photograph by Mitch Epstein shows a group of similar women, one of which is carrying a magazine titled Authentic, perhaps mocking the idea that we think we are unique, but many of us are the same (Moore et. al., 2010) A mother is shocked by her daughter’s expression of authenticity in Tina Barney’s collection Players (2011). The daughter seems content with rebelling against the norm. An image by John Hinde with the caption “Our true intent is all for your delight” seems to encapsulate all these aspects (Hinde et al., 2002). We could possibly have to meet every person in existence in order to know every part of ourselves. Juno Calypso, a photographer, states that we, as women, only look at ourselves honestly in a mirror, which is why self-portraiture is so intimate and nostalgic (BFI, 2018). The recurring theme in her work, which also encompasses these ideas from all extremes, is artificial femininity: femininity to the extreme, paired with desire and disappointment, by capturing images of her face and body (BFI, 2018). Chloe Wise mostly paints faces of people and friends, due to the strength in facial nuances in decoding of personalities (Mellin, 2018).

            One question we might ask ourselves about others is whether someone is being fake or real. Chloe Wise criticizes the illogical use of binaries in her work through the use of phallic and yonic objects such as fruits and vegetables, as we use binaries to compartmentalize complex theories on human nature (Please!, 2016). I began criticizing this distinction between fake and real. Decoding can be complicated considering our tendency to transcribe a persona even onto inanimate objects such as a dolls. Laurie Simmons tells a story about two sex dolls through her series Love Dolls, depicted seemingly with emotion or lifestyle (Simmons, 2017). What does this say about our capacity to read a real human being? The goal of the collection became to illuminate this nihilistic aspect of feminine identity through a humorous lens, just as Martin Parr and cartoonists tend to do: “The good thing in satirical art or dark humour is that it doesn't only make you smile but can also disgust or shock people. It marks you whether you like it or not!” (Only Human, 2019 & Victionary, 2018).

            Cindy Sherman addresses many of these aspects in her self-portraiture. Vinken states that what captivates us about her work is:

These images allow us to recognize ourselves in them […] the viewer does not identify with the ideal woman as such, but with the women who seek to embody that image. […] these photographs exonerate us for our shortcomings (Sherman, 2015).

Sherman depicts recognizable people from media and our surroundings, and in doing so, “calls into question the narrow boundary that exists between the staging and the parody of society’s clichés, fears and abysses” (Sherman, 2015). Sherman’s work calls into question the nature of the self-portrait, equally representing the obvious masquerade of everyday life as a woman (Sherman, 2015). Nadia Lee Cohen, Juno Calypso, and Cindy Sherman all call to action the viewer to decode who these people depicted are (Cohen, 2019 & Calypso, 2019).

After the pre-collection, further fashion research was needed to inform the silhouette and design details of the garments. Upon finding a book, Kinder photo album, at Pitti Immagine Filati in June, 2019, I was interested in these humorous photographs from the 1880s to the 1920s of children, often serious, albeit with toys, posed as miniature adults, “a stiff formality masking restlessness (Dröscher, 1980 & Mager, 1978). Another facet of Cindy Sherman’s work came to mind: her historical series (2019). A portrait of Madame Moitessier by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres from 1856 hung in Cindy Sherman’s exhibition space in the National Portrait Gallery this year (Ingres, 1856). Sherman echoes the same gestures and poise in her portraits as other types of historical portraits, while she makes the artifice of them evident (Cindy Sherman, 2019). “This raises a question: if Sherman’s portrait is deceptive, to what extent is the appearance of Ingres’s model truthful, and how far also an invention?” (Cindy Sherman, 2019). These thoughts come to mind as well in the photography of children: “there remains a photographic record of children as they were – or perhaps as parents and photographers imagined them” (Mager, 1978). Do we have control over who we become or is this sculpted from the very beginning? This is the familiar argument about nature versus nurture. Even into the 1970s, “earlier children’s knits were designed to make them look and behave like small adults” (Scott, 1990). The silhouettes and details in this early children’s photography, as well as in Canada Knits, were used as reference for design development (Scott, 1990).

A similar, more contemporary reference is that of pageant kids, made popular in America (PageantStories, 2018). Children, mostly little girls, were dolled up with makeup, hair extensions and costly wardrobes to strut on stage in order to win awards (PageantStories, 2018). Many hours of practice with coaches and parents meant their lives revolved around this craft (PageantStories, 2018). How much control do they have over their identities? Silhouette, design detail and color reference were used from these documentaries (Real Stories, 2015).

METHODOLOGY

A number of further methodologies were used in the development of this collection. Primary research in galleries and museums was conducted from April 15, 2019 until the end of the development process: Chloe Wise at Almine Rech, Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery, the Photographers’ Gallery twice, Dorothea Tanning at the Tate Modern, the Tate Modern free exhibitions three times, Visions of the self: Rembrandt and Now at the Gagosian, Brave New World at Somerset House, Martin Parr at the National Portrait Gallery, and Pierre Bonnard at the Tate Modern (Wise, 2019, Sherman, 2019, Heath, 2018, TPG New Talent, 2019, Tanning, 2019, Tate Modern, 2019, Visions of the self: Rembrandt and now, 2019, Brave new worlds, 2019, Parr, 2019, Bonnard, 2019). Analysis helped refine the subject matter and research question. In tandem with this primary research, secondary research at the London College of Fashion, the London College of Communication and Central Saint Martins was conducted, as well as online, in order to seek out artists and photographers aligning with the theory, and to analyze the relevant works through text, video and interview.

Unobtrusive measures such as visits to archives and artifact analysis were essential to the design detail and construction research. In March, 2019, I visited the Central Saint Martins archive to analyze tailoring, knitwear and jersey construction and finishes on 10 pieces of clothing and accessories (Agatonovic, 2006, & Goldin, 2004). In July, 2019, I visited the same archive twice more in order to analyze corset drawings, advertisements, and patterns ranging from the Elizabethan period until the 1940s, and The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, two Alexander McQueen tailored and corseted garments, two tailored suits, and a paper tailored jacket by Hussein Chalayan in order to analyze further tailoring and corsetry construction (The Englishwoman’s domestic magazine: an illustrated journal combining practical information, instruction and amusement, 1860-1862, McQueen, 1997, McQueen, 2003, & Chalayan, 1994). In April, 2019, I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Clothworkers’ Archive to analyze knitwear and denim construction by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Ritva Ross, and Yves Saint Laurent (Westwood, 1984, Ross, 1972, & Saint Laurent, 1975). In July, 2019, I analyzed knitwear by Claire Boyd and Kenzo, tailoring by Alexander McQueen, a Victorian corset and parasol, a woven mask tapestry on a wire grid, and a harlequin printed Yves Saint Laurent dress (Boyd, 1973, Kenzo, 1990, Saint Laurent, 1975, Unknown, 1840s, Unknown, 1883, Walker, 1986, & Saint Laurent, 1975). Primary research was conducted in the vintage section and in the main exhibits at Pitti Immagine Filati for construction research on designer consignment clothing. This primary research was done in order to document further detail and construction reference stemming from my Victorian corsetry and children’s tailoring references, and it provided insight into construction and finishings for a luxury price point, especially through the attention to detail in Alexander McQueen’s tailoring and dress making skills.

Translating sociological theory into design – the blurring and performance of feminine identity – was challenging, and the work and process of Charlotte Hodes was essential in developing a process through which to design. This artist repeatedly draws the female form to distance it from its original aura (Westley, 2019). Just as people create themselves, this complex process shows that “the meaning of a work of art is bound up in the history of its making” (Westley, 2019). Moreover, “these figures assume their identity only in the context into which they are placed. Emptied of the artist’s subjectivity, they become malleable and polysemic” (Westley, 2019). Her process is especially relevant as it reiterates the same ideas as other works explored in this research, “Hodes’s depicted self is performed reiteratively as a process over a period of time and thus reveals the fiction of a fixed, inner, essential selfhood” (Westley, 2019).

By interpreting Hodes’s process, a methodology was shaped in design development whereby Cindy Sherman’s headshots were decoded into stories, and the stories into drawings (Rubens, 2019). These illustrations were then collaged, distancing the end result from the original aura of each persona (Rubens, 2019). Design development was done from the shapes, colors and patterns developed in these collages (Rubens, 2019).

Theory was also translated into design elements: the concept of ill-fitted performed exterior to true inner self, the concept of illusory fit from some perspectives and ill-fitted from others, such as in merchandising. The idea of a combination of personas and personalities was used, as well as corsetry and knitwear reference, and reference from clothing in Cindy Sherman’s photography showing artifice (Sherman, 2015).

Before developing the pre-collection designs, primary research was conducted in order to test decoding of people. The subject of the photographs made for this research was me (Rankin, 2019). Through secondary research in magazines such as Hello! and Women’s Health, as well as social media and observational methods in public such as participatory observation, ethnography and fly-on-the-wall observation, current types of women were referenced and developed (Reid, 2019, Sanderson, 2019 & Cindy Sherman, 2019). These women were of various ages: one pre-teenager, one woman in her 20s, one in her 40s, and another in her 60s, all created through manipulation with hair, makeup, clothing and mannerisms (Rankin, 2019). Objects and symbols in each series hinted to who they might be (Rankin, 2019). This collection of photographs was used to crowdsource short stories from the public about who these women could be, which were each different, showing that the decoding process differs from person to person (Rubens, 2019). In brief, Vinken points out:

The photograph reveals the gap between the imagined body image and the actual body image. It reflects the endeavour for perfection as a distortion to which the rich and the beautiful subject themselves in pursuit of perfection. This perfection can be achieved only at the price of […] becoming a foreign body to oneself (Sherman, 2015).

This gap is made clear through the humor and artifice in the elements in the photographic series (Rubens, 2019).

            Sustainable fabric, yarns, trims, dyeing and manufacturing sourcing through secondary research was conducted in 2019 at Premiere Vision, Unravel, Pitti Immagine Filati, the Knitting and Stitching Show, and the Future Fabrics Expo twice, as well as online and in the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins Material Collections.

            New fabrics such as recycled denim with bio plastic by DenimX and the upcycling process required extensive experimentation, as well as development of final knitwear designs. The denim required testing as the surface is unstable. After 10 coating tests, including growing bio plastic, eco-friendly furniture glaze did not alter the colour and had the best tactile quality (Rubens, 2019). Upcycling needed a mechanized process to shred the garments from Octavia, done by Offcut Studio. Experimentation with the Irish embroidery machine and the embellisher led to the final process being on the Irish, backed with knit and denim. On the Stoll, several knits were tested on the 14gg and the 5gg machines with Loop Studio, experimenting with argyles, masks, cables, lace, Solvron and lightweight knit design. Mesh, mohair fleece and argyles were tested with the Ribbing Company on the hand knitting machine, and crochet samples. Hand knits were tested and developed initially by Jemma Sykes, continued by Sofia Avotina and I, who made cables, argyles and mesh samples. Final knit design and color decisions were made from these tests. Yarns chosen through this process were traceable mohair from South Africa, naturally dyed mohair from the UK, traceable alpaca from Peru, naturally dyed organic wool from the Netherlands, organic wool from the UK, recycled denim, fine Egyptian organic cotton, linen and linen boucle yarns, as well as some elastic where necessary for lasting quality (Rubens, 2019).

            Lastly, a youth workshop was developed with the Octavia Foundation at the Reed in order to gage youth perception about identity expression relating to social media and cyber bullying. The first session was a focus group, where content analysis was used to analyze underlying themes, such as the exploitation of violence and bullying on social media platforms such as Snapchat, and the bystander effect. The main issues with this methodology were the lack of control over who came consistently to the sessions, resulting in an age range of 10 to 21 years old, and that the conversation focused more on cyber bullying without transitioning into identity expression despite the use of laddering to bring out their values and directed storytelling with framing questions. It was also difficult to get to know this youth group over a span of three weeks. Generative and exploratory research was used in the following sessions, giving them creative toolkits such as a framework to write out goals and affirmations, and to think about who they are and their beliefs through painting and sculpting using a cultural probe. The first goal was participatory action research, whereby they could think more consciously about how they express themselves and judge others, authenticity, cyber bullying and bystanders, and critically understanding their own values. The second goal was participatory design, where permission was given for me to use their artwork reflecting their values in my Master’s collection, painted on fabric using natural dye inks.

            During collection development, evidence-based design was done through market research, and value opportunity analysis specific to sustainable fashion and the luxury market. Extensive prototyping and research through design was executed to reach final decisions. Models in fittings worked with us to conduct desirability testing in fit, wearability and comfort, ergonomic analysis, evaluative research, experience prototyping, parallel prototyping, and considering personal inventories with my own wardrobe for styling and market analysis. Through this methodology, critical incident technique, both positive through happy accidents in design execution, and negative in holding onto unsuccessful design ideas for too long, was used to refine the best decisions and provide key changes in design choices.

DEVELOPMENT

In May, 2019, the pre-collection tailored jacket, vest, and jumpsuit were developed, as well as another top. These garments were all designed from the collages, and refined with design details ideated. The vest symbolized a mixture of personas, as well as the juxtaposition between fit and ill-fit (Rubens, 2019). The corset could be ascribed the role as one of the most fitted garments to the female body, which is one of the reasons why it is incorporated in the research and development. The vest, made of jersey, has the appearance to be a corset from the back and front right side, but on the front left, it is unstructured around the bust continuing down to an unfitted, flared hem (Rubens, 2019). Wearability due to the nature of a jersey corset was an issue and was resolved using elastic and Framilon. Finishing tests on contouring machines and at Loop Studio on Stoll machines were conducted, and final trims developed. Recycled plastic was tested in making underwire and boning, underwire being used in the collection, but this material lacked the strength for boning, so spiral boning was used instead, as well as metal spoon busks from Victorian references.

The jumpsuit is a fully fashioned knit piece and its main feature is the knit masks on the pockets (Rubens, 2019). Through development with shape, the challenge was to create a flattering knit jumpsuit to the female body, preventing stretching due to gravity, and ensuring the drape of the knit was impeccable. The panels were separately knit and linked together. Intarsia technique and finishings were tested with Loop Studio in May, 2019. The masks were linked to the pocket bags. Shape had progressed in exaggerating the appearance of it slouching off the body (Rubens, 2019).

The jacket exemplifies both illusory fit and juxtaposition of fit and ill-fit. Just as we do in selfies and in making first impressions, one must present one’s best angle (Borzello, 2018). Merchandising reference was used to develop primary research on the mannequin in creating fit from one perspective and not others (@julieverhoeven, 2019 & Rubens, 2019). These details were refined using various techniques on the back of the piece: grosgrain, bulldog clips, and hand tacking on an oversized jacket (Rubens, 2019). The front left of the jacket contains a corset pattern inlay, referencing fit, and the front right pulls and pleats, showing ill-fit (Rubens, 2019). Lastly, from the front, the jacket appears to be pulling from the closure around the waist, but it is perfectly fitted, creating illusory ill-fit (Rubens, 2019). The main challenges with this jacket were moving the armhole back towards the front, precisely keeping all the folds and tacks created in draping, refining the right collar from historical reference, and developing the lining.

The second top illustrates the concept of fit versus ill-fit, and the mismatching and combining of identities (Rubens, 2019). The garment appears as though a few garments have been stuck together into one: a jumper, a jersey top, and a corset (Rubens, 2019).

Regarding knitwear design, argyles were developed from initial primary research, lightweight knits from Canada Knits and from vintage knits sourced at Pitti Immagine Filati, knit mesh from pageant reference, cable knits from Sherman’s photograph, and knitted stories from primary research (Rubens, 2019, Scott, 1990, Unknown, 2019, PageantStories, 2018 & Cindy Sherman, 2019). With previous development and new research, new sketches and development were made from draping textiles on the mannequin (Rubens, 2019).

Knitwear reference was derived from the mask, from our compulsion to wear a metaphorical mask in concealing our true selves, and relating to Juno Calypso’s photography (Calypso, 2019). The reason for this is that the mask is intricately linked with the concept of identity and performing the other (Beirendonck, 2018). As Coppens states in Walter Van Beirendonck’s The Power of Masks, “with every mask I make, I look for my own identity. They represent everything I’m not and everything I should or could be” (2018). Masks also unite people so that differences fade away (Beirendonck, 2018). The mask is a powerful tool in both covering up and creating identity. Jacquard knits were developed using Solvron, a dissolvable yarn, in the eyes, nose and mouth, in order to create holes like a mask (Rubens, 2019). Work and experimentation with the Stoll technician at the London College of Fashion had been conducted since September, 2018, and refined for this collection beginning in May, 2019 (Rubens, 2019).

Research on tailoring, in reference to the tailored garments the children wore in the historical photographs, and on corsetry in archives, was carried out for construction, finishing and shape (McQueen, 2007, Anthony, Unknown & Waugh, 1950s). Corset patterns in archives were used in draping knits cut to these pieces in new and unorthodox shapes (Waugh, 1950s & Rubens, 2019). Illustrations of iron corsets in archives, as well as accessories found in photographic research were used as reference to create recycled plastic objects with accessories tutor, Mala Siamptani. These objects are used in accessories in collaboration with Iris Vilu, an accessories designer. Siamptani also assisted in deciding on finishes for the large beaded piece, with recycled glass beads created by artisans in Africa, hangers made from antique doll parts and laser cut wood, and the recreation of masks for accessories from a plaster mask of my face made for the youth workshop (Rubens 2019).

The youth workshop with Octavia was key in providing an underlying message for the collection. This is: be yourself, whether or not you fit into a box. Hand painting of phrases and values are painted into linings and onto basics in the collection to spread this valuable meaning throughout.

Design development following the pre-collection used the Victorian and pageant fashion references in tandem with the same earlier methodologies. The colour palette and knitwear ideas stemmed from the illustrations from primary research from the collage process in pre-collection, and the child pageant references. With the creation of new textile samples over the month of July, 2019, these principles were used in draping them on the stand to design looks using photography and Procreate on the Apple iPad, an illustration app that allowed me to collage and illustrate directly on my drapes. In going back and forth between this and refining details on paper, a lineup was created for hand-in on July 29, 2019 (Rubens, 2019). Due to the nature of the research surrounding identity, the idea was to have each look in the collection represent a persona, remaining harmonious through colour, silhouette, details, and textiles. This initial lineup after pre-collection was beginning to encapsulate these ideas, but was not satisfactory. Upon returning to the studio in September, 2019, it was evident the collection needed to be pushed much further, and this was done in design research and toiling, creating more contrast within the looks, and using impactful textiles to create show pieces. The lineups changed dramatically over the following three months (Rubens, 2019).

The working relationships with knitters – Loop Studio, the Ribbing Company, and Manusa, the latter who employs refugees and women with fragilities – required prioritizing certain garments over others in order to work with their timelines. From sampling with these companies and visiting their facilities in Italy, textiles were finalized and final garments created (Rubens, 2019).

A number of challenges arose in development. The first was that through the development of each look, pieces were made with a lot of detail as they progressed, and the basics that were originally paired with these looks were left out, which needed to be brought back in through styling. Editing is important and a challenge. The second main challenge was a personal one. Coming from a more commercial background after my Bachelor’s Degree, the goal for the Master’s was to get back to designing thoughtfully, challenging myself, especially in pattern making, and silhouette and detail ideation. With loud textiles, one needs to let them speak for themselves rather than overcomplicating with complex design. I was uncomfortable with this as it meant sometimes going back to a simpler silhouette. It is a balance I had to work on in designing the collection. The third challenge was finding an intelligent solution for tacking parts of the garments in places as this is not thoughtful design. This was done with inner structures or hardware, or was removed completely, and it has taken practice to not design this way compulsively. The next obstacle was designing different looks with various personalities, that can still be interchangeable in styling for the customer and buyer so the range works together. The solution was to focus on the textiles, colour and small details in construction that connected pieces together, and to repeatedly analyze my range plan. Another challenge was toiling knitwear as fabrics similar to the final fabrics could not be found in fabric shops. I upcycled garments from charity shops to patch together instead, but as they were different knits and there was no elastic in them, they stretched out of shape, and the stretch ratio was not accurate for production, so accurate fittings and preparation for production were a challenge but allowed for experimentation with proportion. Further, a designer needs to account for issues with manufacturing as these arise often, which they did. Pieces took longer than anticipated to make, so this doubled my budget and changed timelines, and upon dyeing the 2/28 organic wool machine yarn naturally, it was too brittle to knit, so replacement yarns were needed and quick solutions found. Lastly, although I followed my critical path, the biggest mistake made was telling my manufacturers my actual due date, when I should have told them it was earlier to allow proper time for finishings. Accessories design had also been challenging as this is not my area of expertise, but they were necessary elements from research to ensure the collection was developed as a thoughtful, sustainable and eccentric body of work.

On the subject of eccentricity, Olivia Rubens’s target market is just that, and believes strongly in thoughtful design, quality luxury pieces, authenticity, having the garments reflect core values and possess meaning. Although she has her feminine moments, she enjoys comfort and a relaxed and layered boyish look. She is artistic, despite her career not necessarily having to be a creative one, and is a woman off the beaten path that questions sameness. Why be like anyone else when you can be authentically you? She is neither limited by age, nor cultural background, nor by gender. Her values are important to her so she looks firstly for well-designed and exciting pieces, then equally for ethical and sustainable factors. The basics range, including polos, oversized tees, knit trousers, knit dresses, and leggings, can be worn by anyone as the knits, textures and values are widely appealing. Although Rubens’s range boasts so much color, these can be offered in neutral colors for marketability. These basics are sold from the £800 to £1,999 range. Mid-range garments, of which the collection is mostly comprised, are sold at the £2,000 to £3,999 range, and high priced garments with textile innovations and through collaborations are sold at £4,000 and up (Rubens, 2019). Ideal stockists for Rubens’s garments are Doverstreet Market London and Ginza, and Opening Ceremony. Most sales will be directed towards consumers so values and information can be directly shared and meaningful and lasting connections made. Competitors include ManéMané, Duran Lantik, Bethany Williams, Julia Heuer, Chopova Lowena, Otto Linger, Maria Ke Fisherman, Gala Borovic, Asai Takeaway and Charlotte Knowles.

CONCLUSIONS

            When referring back to the research question, Duplicitous Lives by Olivia Rubens does provide an answer: no. This is a seemingly simple answer and still leaves much in the air with regards to a truth to our personalities, but referring back to Chloe Wise, human nature cannot be compartmentalized with any straightforward answer. This collection answers the question by expressing the inconclusive, mysterious, dark and nihilistic aspect of this side of feminine identity. It exaggerates, mocks and alleviates questions we cannot answer. Instead of providing an answer, the purpose is to create a narrative, and as an activist body of work, provoke the public to challenge and even discover their values, all while being able to do it humorously.

            Following this collection, due to cost, price points, time management and saleability, it would be best to create less textile- and knit-intensive pieces to create a more balanced collection and some lower price points. In future, further experimentation will be done on repurposing and recreating new materials in a more scientific and intelligent way as this collection just touches the surface in this field, so new collaborations will be needed in other fields.

 

 

 

 

References

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Anthony, P. (Unknown)  TH.2017.387.M1-15. [Illustration] Central Saint Martins. Iron Corsets. London.

Barney, T. (2011) Players. Göttingen: Steidl.

Beirendonck, W. (2017) The Power of masks. Tielt: Lannoo.

BFI (2018) The Cut – episode six: artist and photographer Juno Calypso | BFI Player. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSsGqxiNtnc (Accessed: 18 April, 2019).

Bonnard, P. (2019) Pierre Bonnard [Exhibit]. Tate Modern (Viewed: 03 April 2019).

Borzello, F. (2018) Seeing ourselves: women’s self-portraits. London: Thames & Hudson.

Boyd, C. (1973) Animal skin. Clothworkers’ Centre. London.

Brave new worlds (2019) [Installation]. Somerset House. 11 February 2019 - 24 February 2019.

Burton, J. (ed.) (2006) Cindy Sherman. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Chalayan, H. (1994) Paper jacket. [Garment] Central Saint Martins. London.

Cindy Sherman (2019) [Exhibition]. National Portrait Gallery. 17 June 2019–15 September 2019.

Cohen, N. L. (2019) Nadia Lee. Available at: http://www.nadialeecohen.com/

 (Accessed: April 19, 2019).

Coopers of Stortford (2019) ‘Spring/Summer 2019’, Coopers of Stortford, (Spring/Summer).

Dröscher, E. (1980) Kinder photo album. Dortmund: Harenberg Kommunikation.

Eggleston, W. (2006) William Eggleston: 5 x 7. Santa Fe: Twin Palms.

Epstein, M. (2005) Mitch Epstein: recreation: American photographs 1973-1988. Göttigen: Steidl.

Goffman, E. (1971) The presentation of self in everyday life. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Goldin, L. (2004) FA.2015.678.1-2.CC. [Garment] Central Saint Martins. Knitted Pullover. London.

Hanzlová, J., Brinkemper, P. V. and Felix, Z. (2000) Female. Germany: Schirmer/Mosel.

Heath, D. (2019) A dialogue with solitude [Exhibit]. The Photographers’ Gallery, London (Viewed: 3 April 2019).

Hinde, J., Ludwig, E., Nagele, E. and Noble, D. (2002) Our true intent is all for your delight: the John Hinde Butlin’s photographs. London: Chris Boot.

Ingres, J.-A.-D. (1856) Madame Moitessier [Oil on canvas]. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Kenzo (1990) Knitting sample. Clothworkers’ Centre. London.

Linkman, A. (1993) The Victorians: photographic portraits. London: Tauris Parke.

Mager, A. (1978) Children of the past in photographic portraits: an album with 165 prints. New York: Dover Publications.

McQueen, A. (1997) White jacket. [Garment] Central Saint Martins. London.

McQueen, A. (1997) White trousers. [Garment] Central Saint Martins. London.

McQueen, A. (2003) Cocktail dress. [Garment] Central Saint Martins. London.

McQueen, A. (2007) T.72;1&2-2016. [Garments] Clothworkers’ Centre. Sarabande. London.

Mellin, H. (2018) Chloe Wise on painting her friends and the faces she sees in cantaloupe. Available at: https://garage.vice.com/en_us/article/bjpj9d/chloe-wise-studio-visit-portraits (Accessed: 20 April, 2019).

Moore, K. D­.; Crump, J.; Rubinfien, L. and Cincinatti Art Museum (2010) Starburst: colour photography in American 1970-1980. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.

Moroz, S. (2017) Chloe Wise is turning America’s food fetish into art. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_au/article/3kk9d5/chloe-wise-is-turning-americas-food-fetish-into-art (Accessed: April 6, 2019).

Murray, W. (1986) T.228-1999. [tapestry] Clothworkers’ Centre. Mask. London.

National Museum of Women in the Arts (U.S.) (2008) Role models: feminine identity in contemporary American photography. London: Scala.

Nixon, R. (ed.) (2019) ‘Royal exclusive’, Hello!, 1579 (April).

Only human (2019) [Exhibition]. National Portrait Gallery, London. 7 March 2019–27 May 2019.

PageantStories (2018). 60 Minutes Australia – beauty pageants. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ts_xEeB2mAc (Accessed: July 8, 2019).

Parr, M. (2019) Only Human [Exhibit] National Portrait Gallery (Viewed: 11 April 2019).

Please! (2016) Interview: Chloé Wise. Available at: http://www.pleasemagazine.com/interview-chloe-wise (Accessed: April 20, 2019).

Proença, M. (2019) TPG new talent [Exhibit]. The Photographers’ Gallery (Viewed: 7 July 2019).

Rankin, B. (2019) Untitled. [Photograph]. London.

Real Stories (2015) Pre-teen beauty queen (child pageant documentary) – real stories. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F20P2EjKj4 (Accessed: July 8, 2019).

Reid, S. (ed.) (2019) ‘Easter issue’, Yours, (May).

Ross, R. (1972) Plaza. Clothworkers’ Centre. London.

Rubens, O. (2019) Conversation with Laura Tribble, 18 July.

Rubens, O. (2019) Conversation with Lyndsay Roach, 19 July.

Rubens, O. (2019) Conversation with Pao Sittiarthakorn, 16 July.

Rubens, O. (2019) Conversation with Quirein Frederix, 8 May.

Rubens, O. (2019) Olivia Rubens [Logo]. London.

Rubens, O. (2019) Untitled [Illustration]. London.

Rubens, O. (2019) Untitled [Photograph]. London.

Saint Laurent, Y. (1975) Harlequin. Clothworker’s Centre. London.

Sanderson, S. (ed.) (2019) ‘Energy issue’, Women’s Health, (May).

Scott, S. A. (1990) Canada Knits. Scarborough: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited.

Singh, T. (2019) Untitled film stills: Cindy Sherman. Available at: https://www.distinguished-mag.com/untitled-film-stills-cindy-sherman/ (Accessed: April 30, 2019).

Shephard, N. (2017) Darlings of dress:  children’s costume, 1860-1920. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Sherman, C. (2003) Cindy Sherman. London: Serpentine Gallery.

Sherman,  C. (2015) Cindy Sherman. Edited by Invild Goetz and Karsten Lockemann. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.

Sherman, C. (1991) Pregnant woman. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/cindy-sherman-pregnant-woman (Accessed: April 25, 2019).

Sherman, C. (2003) Woman in sun dress. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/cindy-sherman-woman-in-sun-dress (Accessed: April 1, 2019).

Sheryll, L. (2014) Grace and Josephine. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/leslie-sheryll-grace-and-josephine-from-the-techno-voids-series (Accessed: April 5,  2019).

Simmons, L. (2017) The love doll. Available at: http://www.lauriesimmons.net/photographs/the-love-doll (Accessed: April 6, 2019).

Spicer, E. (2017) Juno Calypso: ‘male critcs don’t think women are funny, they don’t think women are capable of irony. They just think that women are silly and self-destructive’. Available at: https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/juno-calypso-interview (Accessed: April 6, 2019).

Stern, G. (1949) ¿Quién será?, Sueños #7. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/grete-stern-quien-sera-suenos-number-7-de-la-serie-los-suenos-del-espejo-idilio-n-degrees-17 (Accessed: April 5, 2019).

Tate Modern (2019). (Viewed: 01 March, 2019)

Tate Modern (2019). (Viewed: 03 April, 2019)

Tanning, D. (2019) Dorothea Tanning [Exhibit]. Tate Modern (Viewed: 03 April 2019)

TPG New Talent (2019) [Exhibition]. Photographers’ Gallery. 14 June 2019 - 06 October 2019.

Visions of the self: Rembrandt and now (2019) [Exhibition]. The Gagosian. 12 April 2019 - 18 May 2019.

Teicher, J. (2019) You’ve never seen group portraits like these. Available at: http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2014/04/14/neal_slavin_specializes_in_group_photography.html (Accessed: April 20, 2019).

The Englishwoman’s domestic magazine: an illustrated journal combining practical information, instruction and amusement. (1860-1862) B.5264.1-2. [book] Central Saint Martins.

Thittichai, K. (2007) Hot textiles: inspiration and techniques with heat tools. London: Batsford Ltd.

Unknown. (1770s) TH.2010.3.1-3.M. [illustration] Central Saint Martins. The Stay Maker. London.

Unknown. (1883) T.84&A-1980. [Garment] Clothworkers’ Centre. Corset. London.

 Unknown. (1840s) T.182-1965. [Parasol] Clothworkers’ Centre. Parasol. London.

Unknown. (1859) TH.2010.13.M. [Illustration] Central Saint Martins. Castle’s Patent Ventilating Corset. London.

Unknown. (Unknown) TH.2010.18.M. [Illustration] Central Saint Martins. The Corset, The Crinoline. London.

Unknown. (Unknown) Unknown. [Textile]. Private collection.

Victionary. (ed.) (2018) Off the wall: art of the absurd. North Point: Victionary.

Visions of the self: Rembrandt and now (2019) [Exhibition]. The Gagosian. 12 April 2019 - 18 May 2019.

Walker, M. (1986) Mask. Clothworkers’ Centre. London.

Waugh, N. (1950s) TH.2009.526.M. [Illustration] Central Saint Martins. Corsets and Crinolines. London

Waugh, N. (1950s) TH.2010.14.M. [Illustration] Central Saint Martins. Corset ceinture and corset Victoria. London.

Waugh, N. (1950s) TH.2010.6.M. [Illustration] Central Saint Martins. Corset de la Cour Francaise. London.

Waugh, N. (Unknown) TH.2010.32.M [illustration] Central Saint Martins. [corsets]. London.

Westley, H. (2019) Now you see me: self-representation in the work of Charlotte Hodes. Available at: http://aboutfaceconceptsofportraiture.com/essay/now-you-see-me-self-representation-in-the-work-of-charlotte-hodes/ (Accessed: April 4, 2019).

Westwood, V. (1984) T.182:1 & 2-2002. [Garments] Victoria & Albert Museum Clothworkers’ Centre. London.

Wise, C. (2019) Not that we don’t [Exhibit]. Almine Rech. (Viewed: 12 April 2019).

Wise, C. (2019) Oil paintings. Available at: https://www.chloewise.com/oil-paintings#14 (Accessed: April 5, 2019).

Woodward, M. (1901) TH.2010.49.M [illustration] Central Saint Martins. 1901 - Six sketches of corsets. London.