A couple of years ago it came to my attention that Basso & Brooke, the super cool clothing brand famous for their bold and brilliant prints, were running a dressmaking workshop. The workshop involved a champagne breakfast, a morning spent designing a digital print and the afternoon spent sewing the printed fabric into a dress. How exciting, I thought, a catwalk brand opening up their processes and inviting people to make their own 'versions' of the brand's signature garment, truly from scratch. How ambitious, I thought too, to fit all this into a day, after consuming champagne for breakfast!
Most full-day sewing workshops in London cost somewhere around the £100 mark, but when I looked at the price of the Basso & Brooke workshop, I did a double take. It cost £3,800. In a roundabout way, that moment spawned the fabric design competition that I ran with The People's Print earlier this year, and blogged about here. The idea was to conduct a vast experiment into totally bespoke, totally accessible clothing.
|Lou Davis - Indian Adventure|
|Amelie Regrepsillik - Adventures can be found everywhere|
|Rachel St - Deep Sea Mountian Goat|
This experiment has been an adventure from start to finish. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who made dazzlingly creative patterns and entered them into the competition. I hope everyone that contributed enjoyed their own adventures in collage. You can see all the entries here. Above are three designs that I personally loved. I would love to make a shirt in any of these fabrics.
After much deliberation, we picked three designs that we felt best met our original brief.
I was hoping that I could tie the three fairly disparate digital prints together with styling and accessories. A key inspiration was Mat Maitland's animation for Kenzo, where animal prints mix with psychedelically coloured patterns. If you haven't seen this video, watch it now, you won't regret it.
So I could decide on the appropriate fabrics to get printed and exactly how much of each to order, I dropped the designs into illustrations then sent the files off to be printed at Be Fab BeCreative.
It was very exciting to receive the package of fabrics. The designs looked so much more lively on beautiful, bouncing woven fibres as opposed to a back lit computer screen.
The first fabric I cut into was the 'Underworld Discovery' print, drawn and collaged by Momoko Fukuhara. I did my very best to match the patterns. I like to think that May Martin, judge of The Great British Sewing Bee, would be proud of me!
Spot the pleated skirt! This is the 'Wild Pink Desert' design by Clemence Riviere.
I made leopard print bias binding for the neckline of the grecian dress.
The collection was slowly coming together.
I introduced some Kenzo-esque elements to the clothes by endowing the cropped cape with tiger print innards...
...and the hoody with a zebra print lining.
This is the wildest of the three designs as you can see. It is called 'I have no fear of heights' and was made by Kerrie Curzon, who is actually a friend of mine from school. I have to say, I didn't influence the choosing of this design at all as I was conscious of my connection with Kerrie. I let Melanie and Emma at The People's Print choose their top designs first and this came up in all their selections. What a corker!
The bright, almost lime-tinged yellow really influenced my styling for the shoot. Right after I took this picture the world grew dark, the sky rumbled and the heavens opened to tip rain upon London. Surely this is proof of the awesome power of design.
I jazzed up a few props for the photo shoot. This chair cost £5 from a cake shop on my road that very sadly closed it's doors and needed to offload all it's candy pink furniture.
I used heavy duty paint to give it some zebra stripes.
My sewing room became something of a prop cupboard for a short time.
To push the theme of adventure that we had given our collage competition, I had decided to create three worlds in which to set the shoot; desert, jungle and sky. I made clouds for the sky scene using pillow stuffing and foam board.
Here are the fluffy white clouds in my back yard.
Who wants white clouds when you can have pink clouds?
I can't claim any kind of artistic originality for making these clouds. I actually got the idea from my place of work, Bag Books. The workshop manager there, Sophie, has a very creative sculptor's brain and invented a candyfloss page for our story about a trip to the fairground. We paint the stick with a candyfloss scented oil for a truly olfactory experience.
I also made a cactus with a little help from Bag Books. I used the ban saw there to cut out a shape from forex, which is a sort of thick plastic sheeting.
I made the spikes out of black cardboard and stuck them on with double sided tape.
And finally; shoot day. I pinned fabrics to the wall and floor to create a pattern overload. My model is Charlie George, a dancer who I spotted whilst she was blindfold drawing at a zine fair. If you are curious about this event, click here! I must say it is much easier to ogle potential models when they are blindfolded, though whether this is ethical I'm not sure!
Once again, Bag Books influenced the shoot. I love the fabric we use to make giraffe necks for our story about the zoo, so bought some of my own online. When it arrived it was a lot smaller than I imagined it would be!
I took some of the pictures myself and some (the better ones) were taken by Hailey Ford, who's lovely photography you can see here.
Searching for a drop of water in the desert.
Below, Charlie is posing like a cactus whilst wearing the DIYC tulip skirt and shrug (instructions for the shrug will be available online one of these days, when I find the time to tidy them up).
This shrug looks quite good I think, but it's made of a hideous fabric, entirely covered in beads that are glued onto the base textile. This was extremely hard to sew and left tiny beads all over my house. I don't usually bitch about fabric, but I've seen this stuff on sale in a few fabric shops in London and would like to warn off anyone who is tempted. The remnants of this beast have been banished to my basement.
We conducted a white-wall shoot alongside the 'scenes' shoot to get some nice clean images of the fabric designs. It feels good to pose like a cactus!
Clemence's 'Wild Pink Desert' collage includes an image of her sister, looking though a huge pair of binoculars.
I wanted to include some binoculars in the shoot but couldn't find any, so made some out of cardboard, sticky back plastic and a black and white picture of a desert.
I also painted a white pattern onto these wedges in an effort to leave no surface un-decorated. If Charlie would have let me tattoo leopard print onto her skin I probably would have done it.
Sadly, I didn't make this transparent raincoat, I got it on eBay from China!
So the adventure concluded, with the DIY prints incorporated into DIY outfits up on the DIYcouture website to serve as DIY inspiration.
For anyone keen to design their own fabric, the great tutorial by The People's Print is up online and free to download. Spoonflower and BeFab are both accessible printing companies, working their hardest to provide short-run fabric printing services to individuals. Making 100% bespoke clothing is a great adventure.
And just for fun...