Brighton Fashion Week : Daring To Be Different

Between the 8th and 12th October KALTBLUT spent a few days exploring Brighton Fashion Week checking out the collections on show and meeting with new and upcoming designers from all corners of the globe as well as local UK-based artisans. Having never visited the seaside town of Brighton until last week’s Fashion Week proceedings I found its laid-back, quirky atmosphere instantly charming. The small independent boutiques, cosy cafes and vintage clothes shops provided the ideal backdrop for the Brighton Fashion Week event, and having rearranged my locks after a windswept morning on Brighton Pier I threw myself headlong into the networking event at Funfair Club, and took part in what I can only describe as a whirlwind interview marathon held in our very own KALTBLUT press room. 

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Ensconced within the mirrored mosaic walls I chatted with a number of designers taking part in the various events being held across the weekend, quizzed them on their inspirations for joining Brighton Fashion Week and the kinds of collections they planned to show. The creations of cute and colourful Iceland-born designer Rakel Blom were a real find, whose playful collection of digital prints will have you standing out from the crowd. Since graduating in 2012 Rakel moved to London to set up her own company. Armed with a workshop in Wimbledon, two sewing machines and loads of good ideas, Rakel not only designs the clothes but also constructs and makes every single item that you can buy on her website.

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On the Friday I sneaked backstage whilst the heated Sustain Debate took place over at Brighton University’s Sallis Benney Theatre. As I watched the afternoon rehearsals the atmosphere was cool, calm and collected as the models were put through their paces in preparation for the evening’s catwalk shows. The head of make-up, Alessia Mancini, created her looks alongside an expert team using ranges from Shu Uemura and Kiehl’s for the body and a combination of Shu Uemura and MAC for the face. Alessia described her vision for the models as: ‘a healthy look – it’s them, but it’s like an upgraded them. It’s all about the textures; nice and sheer complexion, earthy tones on the eye, little hints of metallic, buffing up to the brow and contouring with creams’. We also chatted briefly with Will Ackerley, Art Director of Electric Hair, who explained his inspiration behind the minimalistic layered ponytail designs used for the show: “we wanted to create a look that encapsulated what the product can do but also create something with a lacquered texture which has an origami feel to it at the same time.”

Later on that evening, KALTBLUT sat front row at the ‘Sustain Catwalk’ alongside the lovely ladies from Dash & Noctis Mag. The show aimed to foreground designers whose collections pushed forth the theme of sustainability in the fashion industry aiming to inspire with their concepts and highlight the environmental impact of the fashion industry by exploring alternative textiles and production methods in their designs.

After the show I nipped behind the scenes to have a chat with Catherine Hudson, a finalist for the EcoChic Design Award 2013 whose neatly-tailored menswear collection and muted colour palette had stood out for me on the runway. Her sophisticated collection draws on inspiration from designers such as Hussein Chalayan and Marin Margiela, and her BFW collection ‘Raw Canvas’ was influenced by Francis Bacon and 1940’s Zoot suits.

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KALTBLUT: When did the concept of sustainability first grab your attention?

Catherine Hudson: I first got into sustainability when I entered into the EcoChic Design Award and showed an 8 piece collection at Hong Kong Fashion week which really widened my perspective and my horizons. The sustainability aspect gives the collection so much more meaning, I’ve always liked my work to have a purpose, and sustainability is becoming more of a topic in the industry now even with the new fabrics that are coming through into development. The fabrics I’ve used for ‘Raw Canvas’ are end-of-roll fabrics from the manufacturer that I currently work for which would otherwise just sit there unused because the batches of fabrics become discontinued over time and are just lying around. I’ve been working there for almost a year and the fabrics that I’m using were there when I started and have never been touched so I wanted to use up fabrics that are already in existence as opposed to commissioning new ones.

KALTBLUT: Your previous collections focused on womenswear, how come your decided to focus on menswear in your BFW collection?

Catherine Hudson: Although I specialised in womenswear initially I worked in an East London tailors for the past year and from that it kind of swayed me to pursue menswear, but I’ve always had an influence from menswear in my designs. I really enjoyed designing for men, I find it quite witty and clever, you have less to work with and so it has to be more concise—whereas with womenswear you have all these features but also a bit more leeway, how I design I can be quite ambitious when I start designing and with womenswear I sometimes veer off but with menswear I focus my ideas more.

KALTBLUT: Can you tell us a little bit about the design process for the ‘Raw Canvas’ Collection?

Catherine Hudson: When I start a new collection my inspirations are usually what I gravitate towards at the time, my ideas jump around but the main aspect is always the ability of design and how I can play with that; people like Marin Margiela are the kind of designers I inspire to be like, there’s such an elegance that’s so on point so that’s what I strive towards. The pieces in ‘Raw Canvas’ are all hand-painted with water based inks so they’re non-toxic, just like using acrylic paints, and I incorporated all natural fastenings. My shoes were from a company called Ethical Wares who leant me their shoes for the show—they’re non-leather and handmade so there’s attention to craft and it was the perfect match to my collection.

KALTBLUT: Do you feel that the fashion industry as a whole are doing enough to foreground the sustainability concept?

Catherine Hudson: The wastefulness that’s going on is phenomenal, and us upcoming designers should embrace and pursue that otherwise there’s just an endless cycle and nothing moves on. It’s all about progressing, that’s where the longevity of present day design work is. You’re not being left behind and stubborn, you’re moving forward and embracing change. It’s going to be hard to change the mind of high-profile designers, but that’s why I think that upcoming designers have a responsibility to keep sustainable ethics in mind.

KALTBLUT: Can you imagine a time when suitability in fashion will become second nature even to big name brands?

Catherine Hudson: To be honest I don’t understand why it still has to be such a niche to make sure that you’re sourcing fabrics that aren’t destroying the environment. If you love something you wear it regardless of where it comes from, when people shop on the high street you pick out pieces that you really like but if you can wear something that’s been made without harming anyone and you can’t tell the difference in the design then isn’t that preferable? The beauty of the garment is the main focus for me and then the fact that the byproducts of that just happen to be sustainable as well only enhance it. I think it’s something that people in the industry need to work on but just keeping a topic that people talk about, at the moment it falls in and out of trends, and when you’re sustainable you source your fabrics from really interesting places which designers should realise can only further the concept of your collection as a whole.

Some circulating in the VIP lounge later I was back for round two, this time accompanied with my new front row-confidente—in-the-know stylist Camilla Ashworth. It was clear that this show was highly-anticipated, the energy in the room was positively electric. As the models confidently swept up and down the ‘Zeitgeist Catwalk’ it most certainly showcased innovation, and there was a whole host of emerging talent on show. I particularly enjoyed the standout menswear from headliner Milica Vukadinovic whose ‘HAIDUK’ collection combined moody grayscale shades with fierce attitude and rebellious styling. The knarly metallic detailing and layering of mesh and wet look fabrics in her pieces packed a punch as the show came to a close.

Louise O’Mahony is a Brighton based designer who has previously exhibited at Brighton Fashion Week’s Showreel show, this year launched a new collection on the Zeitgeist catwalk. Each year she appoints a theme she feels she can be influenced by, and transforms it into her own visual representation of that topic, creating a collection that is a focused and creatively charged accumulation of designs. Bursting onto the catwalk the folklore-inspired designs of her collection ‘Folklorico’ delivered an intense shot of vibrant colour amidst which she subtly weaves layers of daring textures, charming details and characterful eccentricity into her bold, feminine designs.

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KALTBLUT: It must be fun for you to show your work at such an exciting local event! Where did you get your inspiration for this collection?

Louise O’Mahoney: Absolutely! I moved to Brighton 5 years ago, and each year I produce one collection that takes a certain theme for inspiration and this year it’s folklore. I travelled all across Asia and I held onto these fabrics for a long time and was just waiting for the right opportunity to use them and decided this is the perfect project for them.

KALTBLUT: How did you first get into fashion design?

Louise O’Mahoney: I did a diploma in fashion design but the kinds of pieces I was creating were always a bit more out there so my tutors encouraged me to go to uni to study costume design. I spent 3 years working on that and then I went on to work in the theatre with costumes and did some things in the West End but was feeling a bit limited by the script so I went back into fashion and started to mix together the two—the experience from my costume design degree and my love of fashion.

KALTBLUT: Can you tell us a little more about your brand(s)?

Louise O’Mahoney: I have two labels, they’re both online, one of them is ‘Louise O’Mahony’ which is couture, costume and fashion design, that’s under my own name and that’s more avant-garde—I only do one collection for that a year, and then I have another label called ‘Oh My Honey’ which is more like 1950s-inspired dresses, a lot of wedding dresses; it’s also online and I ship all over the world.

KALTBLUT: Are you mainly working alone when you’re creating your collection? There’s a lot of detail in your designs, that must mean a lot of hours sewing! 

Louise O’Mahoney: Actually I have up to 4 other seamstresses working in the studio to make the collection. It’s not really seasonal work, but I try to fit to wedding season and if I find a new print that I like or a new fabric that I like I’ll start designing a new dress.

The next afternoon BFW took over the newly renovated Open Market—an iconic building in Brighton’s trading history—and I spent my Saturday afternoon browsing the stalls of BFW14’s Fashion Market and trying not to part with too many of my dwindling great british pounds! The eclectic offerings showcased a number of talented local designers who displayed their beautifully handcrafted accessories, couture clothing creations and imaginative wares. Below I’ve picked out just a few of my favourites for your delectation.

Twinks Burnett ‘Bewitchingly Bonkers’ www.twinksburnett.com

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Twinks Burnett is a seaside residing eccentric stylist and accessories designer. We had a little chat with her at the Industry Networking as she had just returned from taking part in Berlin’s Alternative Fashion week.

KALTBLUT: Did you enjoy your time in Berlin? How do you find it compares to Brighton fashion-wise? 

Twinks: The thing with Brighton is that it’s exactly the same as Berlin, when I was over there for the Alternative Fashion Week it was such a team effort and that’s what it is like here. It’s like a non- conformist, un-cliquey fashion family where you can do whatever you want. When you work in fashion like I do for styling everything’s trend-led and everything’s pushed in a certain direction and if you’re like “what if I don’t want to go in that direction?” then you feel like you’re not invited to the party and so we’re just like “fine we’ll make our own party!”.

KALTBLUT: Can you tell us a little bit about your brand? 

Twinks: Everything I make is made from found objects and toys, it’s all very whimsical, it’s very elegant but completely bonkers. I design all my own fabrics—and use anything I can find in my designs, disco balls, trolls, my little ponies, rainbows and things like that! The hats thing is my sideline and styling is my main focus.

KALTBLUT: What is your most notable achievement to date? 

Twinks: I graduated in June and I won the Fashion, Styling and Creative Direction Award at Graduate Fashion Week, that was really wonderful because you live in your own little bubble when you go to uni and I didn’t study styling originally so it was lovely to receive such a recognition for my work.

KALTBLUT: What do have planned for the rest of the year? 

Twinks: I’m moving to London next week so I’m going to be assisting at a magazine and working freelance doing as many projects as possible, I can’t wait to get stuck in!

Fancier Feather ‘Bespoke Milinery’ www.fancierfeather.co.uk

Fancier Feather takes inspiration from all things vintage to offer exclusively hand crafted, bespoke millinery with a one of a kind contemporary twist. The flawlessly designed headdresses encompass a sense of elegance and luxury through the use of divine new and vintage materials such as feathers, lace and silk.

We Creatures ‘Fabulous Headgear’ facebook.com/wecreatures

Bespoke, handmade and alternative creature costume and styling from Weird Kid Collective costumiers Ruby Bird and Naomi Bajina.

Merrymaking ‘A Wardrobe Of Playful Ideas’ www.merrimaking.co.uk

What began as a zero-budget start-up company by two friends in 2009 is now one of the better-known independent fashion labels on the UK festival scene, fore-fronting a distinctive fashion trend – The Animal Hood.

The fashion week finale was to be held on Sunday evening at The Sussex Masonic Centre and featured a number KALTBLUT’s spotlight designers. In contrast to the previous catwalk shows, the Showreel event cast theatrical design concepts in the spotlight featuring theatrical costumes, artistic choreography which exploded across the David Lynch-esque chequerboard floor in a flurry of immersive activity.

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The tantric closing performance from all girl urban tribe Haus of Sequana and the strong, measured menswear designs of Martin Across really stood out for me. Across each of the collections a sense of artful curation and intensity washed over the room.

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Yet without a doubt the most enchanting creations of the evening came from Vienna-based interdisciplinary artist Patrizia Ruthensteiner, whose work centres around costume design and construction. Constantly trying on a holistic form of making fields of dancing/movement, she is interested in the relationship between everyday fashion and stage costumes. Testing, stretching and questioning the borders between on stage and off stage, official and private, natural and artificial, she aims to blur and combine the boundaries. Whilst also questioning the claim of subject and object through her creation, as often they are transformable. The possibilities of clothes can vast, as they can be used as a static object, but also can be worn and used in a different context whilst inviting the wearer to not only wear the clothes but to interact with it. In her collection, ‘The Folly of Mankind’ she showed a selection of pieces which veered from the extravagant to the sublime with costumes made from all manner of unusual materials.

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KALTBLUT: What draws you to create costumes as opposed to traditional means of fashion design or clothing? 

Patrizia: I see myself more as an sculptural artist than as a designer and it’s more of a revolutionary anti-fashion what I’m practicing because it’s not supposed to be worn out on the street it’s more wearable objects, like anachronistic objects I find on the flea market and I transform into wearable statements. It’s more theatrical and the choreography is in those pieces, they transform your way of moving or you can interact with them in a way. The materials I use to construct those pieces of are often natural materials like birch bark, or grasses. I don’t think a lot about fashion when I do that, it’s more like questioning the borders of theatre, life and art.

KALTBLUT: Your designs are interacting with the body in intriguing ways, how do you set about shaping them into wearable forms?

Patrizia: I see the human frame as a method of transporting my designs, I find it difficult to design for something that’s only static, and it’s the movement that makes it interesting for me — you never have “it” as the piece is always changing with the movement within it and I think that’s more a philosophical view of designing—not accepting the idea that people always want to have something fixed.

KALTBLUT: Where are you usually sourcing your materials from? 

Patrizia: I’m mostly drawn to old objects and things that look really precious, when I go to the flea market and I find something then I think about how to make it into a shape that nobody else would have thought of, they just would have thrown it away. One of my costumes is made of deer bones I’ve been collecting since I was 14, around 5 different deers fallen in the forest. It’s a long term process sometimes, you have to be patient and wait and my process kind of forces me to wait, which is something which you can’t usually do in the fashion industry. That’s what I mean when I say it’s anti-fashion—everything needs time to come to fruition and you can never have the answer all at once. The spinning wheel design is questioning the very nature of the catwalk as a whole, as in fashion it’s all about easy solutions, fast outputs and I feel like I like to make a stand against this whole idea.

KALTBLUT: If movement is such a big part of your design concept you must find it quite difficult to photograph your pieces, how do you go about capturing them? 

Patrizia: I think you have to work with people who really have a feel for what you’re doing and then you will find a way together, they need to have a certain feeling of what the project needs—because every piece is completely different—and you need to work with someone who can understand the essence of the piece before starting to shoot it. There’s a whole story inside of my pieces, I made one costume which is basically shoes made of wheat but it looks as though the model would be standing in a corn field, so I make the field portable to wherever—whether you have it on a catwalk which is actually questioning the whole field (I hope!) or if you stand it in a particular setting and take a photo to make some kind of statement, so you can really use it how you choose.

KALTBLUT: You’re based out of Vienna, how do your roots influence your story? 

Patrizia: I was born in Vienna and that’s where I grew up, I spent a lot of time out in nature—my grandmother had a kind of castle surrounded by the forest and that’s why I think my connection to natural materials is so strong. I have to keep moving a lot, and I like to get out of the city‚ so I make these like long intense trips into nature, and that’s often where I find a lot of my materials. I really don’t like to be static and I think that’s something I put into my work.

KALTBLUT: Do you prefer to work alone on your designs, or do you like to collaborate with other artists? 

Patrizia: It really depends on the people I’m collaborating with, because for me it’s very interesting to find out how the people I’m working with will reinterpret the concept in question. I have collaborated with a very interesting audio composer called Tobias Leibetseder for the project and we recorded the sounds of the costumes because each material makes certain specific sounds and we have made a piece for each of those costumes and combined it will make up the soundtrack for the show on Sunday. It sounds like noise music, and I really like to cross borders with what I’m doing whether that be music, performance or dance.

Overall the eclectic and expressive nature of the event was refreshing and—in all honesty—not at all what I had expected from an experience of this nature. It is to the credit of event organisers Lizzy Bishop, Ellie Newman and Alex Thirlwell that the whole programme aimed to push boundaries at every turn, bringing together designers from all corners of the globe who shared a vision to create alternative, bold and creative collections which were not afraid to deploy stereotypes of what is expected from them as upcoming faces on the fashion scene—including a number of young and independent designers just completing their studies or starting their careers in the industry. We’re already looking forward to seeing what kinds of imaginative creations they’ve got up their sleeves for Brighton Fashion Week 2015.

Brighton Fashion Week Closing Party 
Photography Credits – Jean-Luc-Brouard

 

LINKS

www.brightonfashionweek.com

www.youtube.com/user/brightonfashionweek1

twitter.com/BFW_Zeitgeist

www.facebook.com/BrightonFashionWeek

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