One of the benefits of being a friend of the V&A is that you are invited to various members only events. Last night I attended a talk by Craig Lawrence, a young knitwear designer who uses unusual materials and techniques to create garments that are somewhere between high fashion and art.
As a boy Craig was taught to knit by his Grandmother and he developed his technique at Central St Martin’s and whilst working with Gareth Pugh. He said he liked knitwear because he found the process of creating the fabric for a garment adds a dimension which would otherwise be missing. Originally he eschewed the use of traditional yarn because of the cost and started to look out for interesting materials he could use instead. He found pound shops and DIY stores could supply him with black bin liners and barrier tape; anything so long as it came in a long strand.
Many of the garment he knits are made on knitting machines but others are made by hand using extraordinarily fat needles. Some garments are made using a loop stitch and it will take up to 20 minutes to pull each loop through to get the right texture.
Selfridges window – apparently the model was tipped like this to give emphasis to the mitts which were for sale!
He has exhibited in Japan and Hong Kong as well as London and has dress Lady Gaga, Bjork and Tilda Swinton.
I love that the V&A supports young designers like this and gives them a platform to display their work. Craig’s garments are beautiful, innovative and inspiring; full of light and movement as if they have a life of their own.
On Sunday I went to the V&A Hollywood costumes exhibition, along with what felt like half of London. Despite the crowds it was a great day out.
We started off by playing which of the films have we seen? And even though neither of us are great cinema goers we quickly found it was difficult to find a costume where we hadn’t seen the film.
The information about the designers thought processes was particularly interesting. For example Jason Bourne’s clothes were chosen because they were so ordinary. Usually the audience can pick out a character in a crowd scene because they are wearing a particular colour. In Jason Bourne’s case they wanted him to get slightly lost in the crowd scenes so intentionally dressed him in drab clothes. Harrison Forde’s hat in Raiders of the Lost Ark was based on an Australian hat but with the brim modified so you can get a better view of his face.
Where films had been remade (they had several of Cleopatras and a brace of Elizabeth I’s) you could see how the era the film was made in influenced the costume. Apparently contemporary films are the most difficult to dress because everyone knows about current fashions and you probably don’t want the actor to stand out from the normal.
The last room was were they showed the iconic costumes; Marilyn’s sunray pleated dress, Audrey’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s dress, Superman, the Blue’s Brothers and 007’s tuxedo. The last exhibit of all being the Judy Garland’s ruby slippers.
So what was my favourite? Well it has to be Meryl Streep’s costume for the song they sang through the credits at the end of Abba (was it Waterloo?). An all in one covered in sequins with tight trousers flared from the knee.
Last year, around the time I started sewing, I bought this fabric from the V&A website. It is a very pretty reprint of a Horrocks fabric, not as stiff as a quilting cotton but not as fine as a lawn.
I had thought to use it for a skirt but when it arrived I discovered that the stripes are horizontal not vertical. Internet shopping doesn’t always get you what you want; I couldn’t quite see myself wearing a skirt with horizontal stripes (although a lot of the Horrocks’s dresses were made with horizontal stripes). The V&A kindly offered to refund me the cost of the fabric but I thought it was nice enough to keep for something else. The question is what?
I’m thinking of Jasmine by Colette patterns which is very pretty, much prettier than my usual style. It is also cut on the bias which would mean the stripes would form a chevron across the top.
What do you think? Should I try this pattern or do you have any better suggestions?
P.S. I see the V&A have the same fabric in a pretty lavender colour way on special offer at the moment
One of the things I love about London is that there is always something to do. On Thursday my friend and I visited the Hayward Gallery and Tate Modern and then on Friday we went to the V&A. We saw so much wonderful stuff it’s difficult to know how to condense into a single post but my favourites (in no particular order) were:
Jeremy Deller’s video showing bats leaving their cave. It’s shown in 3D and it makes you feel as if the bats are swirling around you and is absolutely mesmerising. You can find it in the Joy in People exhibition at the Hayward Centre.
Brain Activity by David Shrigley (also at the Hayward) is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a long time. If you haven’t come across David Shrigley you should have a look at the film he made for Pringle of Scotland
Yayoi Kasuma is a Japanese artist whose speciality is spots and she is exhibiting at Tate Modern. There were several fabulous pieces in the exhibition including this room of wonderfully coloured pictures. The final installation is the “Infinity Mirrored Room – filled with the Brilliance of LIfe”. It’s very disorienting – stepping into the room felt like stepping off a precipice (I very bravely let my friend go first!).
Lastly the Golden Spider Silk cape at the V&A is just incredible. Yes it really is make out of spider silk (apparently it’s difficult to collect spider silk as they have a habit of eating each other) and yes silk really does come out of the spider that golden colour.