The Making of A/W 20 The Artisan
We are often asked how our collections come together, the inspiration behind what we do and all the ins and outs of running a locally designed and produced fashion label. I thought it would be the perfect moment to talk about our current Autumn Winter 20, as it has all the hallmarks of a JUDE collection, with unisex shapes which flow together in interesting ways and tell a story of fluid, artisanal dressing for the free spirited individual.
Our A/W 2020 Collection, titled The Artisan, is a celebration of our evolution as modern artisans in the art and craft of clothes making. In this body of work, we pay homage to the maker, highlighting them as the hero in our sartorial journey, telling our audience stories behind the handcrafted processes which go into the making of their garments. The collection has a languid bohemian vibe, with each garment gently balancing angular tailoring with asymmetrical drape. We took inspiration in the luscious and melancholic palette and textures of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movement, giving the wearer of our pieces a sense of warmth and luxurious comfort.
With all these references swirling around in my head, I go about sketching the shapes I have in mind. All the while, I reflect on what my customer has in their wardrobe and the next thing they might like to add to it. Ideas for garments start springing to mind: a coat inspired by a cosy blanket, a utilitarian long shirt with a multitude of pockets for the urban traveller, a fitted knit tunic studying the effects of drape on the torso with detachable panels, a sculptural top playfully referencing the folding of origami. It becomes easy to add too many design ideas into a single garment and each seam, design line and feature has to be carefully considered so as to add a layer of functionality and aesthetic balance to the piece and not be merely decorative.
The essence of the maker comes to life in a childlike attitude towards putting shapes, textures and colours together in a seemingly naive way, while amplifying artisan techniques and bringing them into focus, an over sized outward facing Hong Kong seam for example.The effect is that of an impressionist painter, loosely bringing disparate elements together to convey a feeling or mood. In this way, the hand made nature of our pieces come to light.
I often view the fabric sourcing process as a painter choosing his palette of colours to tell a story. In my many trips to fabric suppliers, apart from behaving like a kid in a candy store while viewing and touching hundreds of swatches of fabric, I have slowly developed a balance of bringing together a technical knowledge of fibres and how they behave, with an inner instinct for selecting the fabric I feel is just right for a style and relating it back to the big picture of the collection. It may sound cliche, but the fabric has to 'speak' to me - telling me how it will fit into the wearer's wardrobe and if it will become a valued addition. Needless to say, hours are spent poring over fabric choices at our studio!
With the collection sketched out and sources of fabric pulled together, we start on the pattern making, cutting and final sample construction of each style. This is a painstaking yet exciting part of the process where I can start to see the whole vision come to life, from an abstract concept on paper to a finished garment which can be worn and loved. Stephen our pattern maker interprets my sketched designs, taking them from a level of idealisation to the reality of a garment which has practical functionality and can actually be constructed. Finished patterns are handed on to Tamara our design and production assistant for sample cutting, where she expertly cuts them in a sampling fabric which is close to the actual chosen. I always sew the very first sample or toile myself, as I want to know the ins and outs of how the garment is put together and what could be improved for production - I am old school in this way.
Taking that finished sample off the sewing machine and fitting it on the body always give me a thrill, as this is where the piece really shows us its true character, going from a flat hanging shape to three dimensional sculpture. The fitting and alteration process can go from surprisingly straightforward, to complicated and tedious with much back and forth, depending on the complexity of the design and sometimes also a stroke of good luck.
The pattern making and sampling stages are so important to our work as they really bring a vision to reality. We would love to give you more insight into this process in another post, taking the creation of a single garment as an example, as it is just so fascinating.
In the campaign for this A/W 20 Collection, we really wanted to weave a tale of the maker, the muse and the artisan process of clothes making, bringing the idea of handmade into focus. It was very interesting to shoot a campaign at the toile stage of our collection, we had never done this before.
Working with photographer Daniel Mallia, filmmaker Claudia Sforzati, performer and muse Victoria Haslam and stylist Tamara Leacock, we set the scene at our studio, creating an abstract vision of the designer at work. The sewing machine was placed centre stage, against a draped backdrop of calico, rolls of fabric, and tools of the trade. The viewer enters a secret realm, going behind the scenes into an intimate space where the artisan is plugging away, undisturbed by the outside world. Taking our unfinished pieces and flipping them inside out to show inner construction and raw seams, the designer drapes panels of cloth on his muse, watching as they morphe into their desired form.