We were invited to the LCF‘s MA Graduate show at Victoria House. It was a wonderfully diverse show and all of the featured graduates delivered very polished and desirable work. We fell in love with the work of four graduates in particular. Each approached their particular discipline in a unique way and we were inspired by their methods as well as the results of their labours. Here is the first interview, in a small series, and we hope that you enjoy learning about some new creative talents who are imminently to be unleashed on the fashion industry.
Zoe Grace Fletcher‘s MA was in ‘Fashion and the Environment’ and she focused on knitwear, and more specifically the knitwear industry within the British Isles. The pieces shown, however, initially grabbed our attention from a fashion perspective with their amazing proportion, colour and texture. We then looked deeper into Zoe’s approach and learned the amazing journey that she took to create those pieces
So, over to Zoe…
I have always been obsessed with creating, making, doodling, knitting – anything to keep my hands and mind busy. Knitting was the perfect antidote – as a self confessed perfectionist I love having the total control of creating the fabric and silhouette shape at the same time. During my degree studying textiles and fashion the enjoyment of seeing the full journey of processes that went into creating a garment spurred me on to my final project. I became increasingly dissatisfied with the types of yarn available at reasonable prices, and didn’t understand why it was more expensive to buy British wool than wool and synthetic alternatives that had been shipped half way around the world. Delving deeper I was horrified to find that there was little left of what was once a great industry in Britain. This realisation spurred me to learn more about how we can sustain ourselves with the resources that surround us, to try and slow down the fashion trend of buying, buying, buying and take stock of the value and the craftsmanship that goes into each piece of clothing we wear.
My work evolves around the idea of slowing down the fashion cycle, Exploring the possibilities for drastic locality within the British Isles. To inspire, utilise and push the boundaries of British wool within the fashion sector, whilst inspiring a new generation to connect with and value their clothing.
Using 100% British wool that I have seen sheared (and attempted myself!), processed and spun locally, connecting with local experts and businesses to forge links between different design sectors, using natural plant dyes grown in Britain, and utilising traditional knitting techniques from a modern perspective, I hope to engage the consumer on a more personal level, and connect with them whilst showing the true value of their clothing in a fashion-led collection.
My belief is that to move forward, progress, and rebuild a once powerful industry that can provide local fashions and trends to local people, we need to look back to the past to see how communities worked together when the world wasn’t so connected. As well as seeing the importance of being interlinked globally with other nations, we also need to see the importance of being interlinked as transformed local communities.
To see a final collection of physical objects encompass many hard months of researching, learning, developing and making, as well as being able to pinpoint individual collaborations with lovely talented people throughout the designs was satisfying to see. Creating pieces in bold bright colours enabled me to challenge people’s perceptions of natural plant dyes and has spurred me on to think bigger and bolder next time.
What would your dream job be?
A creator of beautiful hand crafted pieces – knowing exactly where they came from and how they were made.
Possibly being an initiator for others to do the same and have a lovely platform for like-minded people to come together. As well as having the time to research and connect other designers and small businesses together to gain the best that we can out of our Great British resources – especially promoting the beautiful wool we have abundantly available, and continuing to push the boundaries of how it is used and interpreted in a fashion context to try and convert people away from fast throw-away fashion to loving one piece that can be dressed in many different ways to suit individual tastes.
I would love to experience many different areas of fashion design and see how sustainable thinking can be integrated into different sized business models – so I am open to many different research and design opportunities.
Who or what has proven to be your longest standing inspiration?
My local surroundings, friends and family constantly inspire me. Finding lovely people with genuinely amazing skills on my doorstep – that collaborate with me and teach me about subjects that go completely over my head as a designer, to create exploratory and unique outcomes always amazes me!
If not knitwear, what other creative discipline would you have chosen?
Since being really little I have explored every craft imaginable – I just love designing, making and seeing an idea come to life – I was never happier than when I was tucked in a quiet corner with some paper, pens, scissors and glue. I can’t sing, have no coordination or musical talent (except for a scratchy year on the violin) so it would definitely have to be an arty alternative that captured my imagination!
Can you see a place for sustainability at all levels of the fashion market?
Definitely, there are so many ways to incorporate a more valued fashion life-cycle, from up-cycling, customizing and buying vintage, re-skilling through education and workshops to encouraging people to treasure pieces for longer, combining a more ethical approach to production through providing a living wage and safe working environment within clothing manufacture, fair trade initiatives and organic approaches to raw materials, dyeing and finishing, combining technological advances within clothing, and creating valued pieces through traditional techniques and valuing craftsmanship skills whilst utilizing valuable resources effectively. Each different aspect overlaps and targets different areas of the fashion market- from high end to high street – so there’s no excuse!
What is the most exciting thing that you learnt on your MA?
That there is no one answer to ‘sustainability’, we have to continue to strive for more in many different areas, from bridging the gap between science and fashion, to seeing not only the importance of being interlinked globally with other nations, but also the need to be interlinked as local communities. Everyone on the MA had such varied opinions, principles and amazing skills that it was fantastic to work beside them, progressing such varied ideas and seeing such beautifully different outcomes all interlinking the need for change within the fashion sector.
What three words best sum up your aesthetic?
Practical, colourful, cherished.