Oma is a Korean fashion and a textile artist currently based in Seoul.
After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Textile Design from Sangmyung University in Seoul, she moved to London in 2005. There she graduated from the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts with a B.A. in Fashion & Accessories Design. In the London years following her studies, she started to work as a textile designer with Michio Koshino. She then went on to work with Alexander McQueen for the next 2 years. She decided to follow her own path in 2010 by establishing her brand.
The latter is marked by a distinct philosophy of fashion. It embodies the humanistic values incarnate in what we do and the way we do it, along with respect for the environment and traditional handcraft.This ethical approach led her back to her roots: in 2012 she opened her studio and showroom in Seoul to offer a slower and more responsible fashion than is conventionally available, that connects with the traditions and skills of ancient Asian textile practices through contemporary design.Through the Korea Craft and Design Foundation, the Korean Ministry of Culture requested her cooperation on leading the ODA project in Laos in 2013.
The project intends to accelerate growth of the art and craft industry, and consists in providing consulting services in design, technical support, working conditions and systems to the local craftsmen.Strengthened by her experience in Laos, Oma developed her own network and partnerships with local artisans primarily based in Asia.
She kept enhancing her works by exploring diverse artistic practices including weaving, dyeing, and painting. The result is a small range of bespoke pieces with a unique textile-led design. Their appeal lies in the subtlety of the texture, a timeless aesthetic and materials of lasting quality.High-end ethical global fashion is set for steady growth as discerning consumers become increasingly demanding regarding the sustainability of what they wear. Oma clearly understood this, and creates clothes that are not influenced by seasons or trends, and can be worn for any occasion.
Thus, her creations are ultimately sublimated into a form of artistic expression.In 2015 she was requested by the Korean Ministry of Industry to act as the artistic director of the ‘Korea Sewing Master Festival’ in Seoul. Following which she was offered the opportunity of a solo show in September 2016 by the prestigious Gana Art Gallery.This exhibition was Oma’s first attempt to present, along with clothes and garments, the new direction of her work. It is based on installations and design pieces created with specific techniques she has been exploring and developing during the recent years.
Oma will now be developing her clothing brand on an international level through strict choices of stores and galleries, and collaborations with high quality brands for capsule collections. Through this process she is establishing herself in contemporary art and design, bringing her craft skills and savoir-faire to a new dimension of creativity.
blue and you
Look around you - on the street, in old photo albums, on television, in magazines and books or online: what you will find are blue jeans. Everybody has a pair of jeans in their closet, a symbol for freedom and equality.
In 1871 invented by Jacob W. Davis in partnership with Levi Strauss & Co, this garment was originally designed for cowboys and miners. In the 50’s jeans became popular among teenagers, especially greasers, followed by the hippie subculture in the 60’s and youth subcultures of punk rock and heavy metal
in 70’s and 80’s.
Denim is created by a special weaving technique that produces diagonal ribbing that distinguishes it from cotton duck, another twill fabric. One side of the textile is dominated by the blue warp and the other side by the white weft threads that causes blue jeans to be white on the inside.
The blue color comes from the natural dye Indigo. Unlike other natural dye, indigo will take with each washing bits of color as well as bits of fabric away. This process leads to that ultimate soft jeans that feels like a second skin.
Dutch fashion designer Sophie Hardeman puts denim in a different light with her collection Hardeman. After finishing her studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie she worked as an assistant for Bernhard Willhelm in LA, currently she is based in Amsterdam.
With her gender free collection ‘Out of the Blue’ she brings the standard jeans to a new ‘abnormal’ and sexy standard. She combined, modified, deformed and recycled jeans to transform them in an avant-garde denim collection. “I like fashion because it speaks to everybody,” she said. “It’s a very visual, understandable language in which you perform. That’s why I work with denim, because it refers to everybody.”
Hardeman loves to work with ‘real’ people: she found her models on the street and in the studio she works with people who are unable to apply for real jobs due to their social background. “I want to create a social environment where fashion is made for and by those who refuse to conform to commodity culture. I want to ignore the mainstream fashion system entirely."
Bamboo van Kampen
Bamboo van Kampen, 26, is an all-round creative specializing in visuals and colors; she forms half of the Berlin-based duo Arturo Bamboo
Melissanthi Spei is living in London, she graduated a few years ago from MA Fashion Artefact at London College of Fashion. She creates awesome contemporary and sculptural garments. Part of her identity as a designer is to use industrial materials for something historical and old through the exploration of traditional arts and crafts and their projection to contemporary aesthetics.
Cecile Poignant met Melissanthi and asked her questions about her work and « A long farewell to all my greatness », her latest project. Enjoy!
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I am one of the quiet ones! People might sometimes think I am too nice or too naïve because I am very humble. I have high standards and aspire to meticulous presentation of my pieces, but when it comes to words I am a disaster! I know what I want and I want to get straight to the point. I feel more than I can explain in words; my emotions are more than words can describe and this is why all my vividness and darkness becomes my work. As a person I am very calm and creating is my way out.
What is your relation to Fashion and is clothing the most important media for you?
I knew I had an artistic vein since I was very young. At the age of twelve I got really fascinated with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha, I love the way they represented the female body as so fragile yet so powerful. I wanted to do something that could still be very artistic but would revolve around the body. My background is both art and fashion. I studied womenswear and learned all the technical parts of garment construction but I don’t like following rules, I like making my own rules. This really evolved when I went to do my Fashion Artefact master’s degree at London College of Fashion. I think this really made me push myself and feel that there were no boundaries to what I could do. I have worked in different fashion companies since then but I feel I need to have my own voice and carry on what I do; I need to be able to create. The new project A long farewell to all my greatness has a lot to tell and it is the first project that has both art pieces and more wearable pieces. I would like to carry own making art pieces but also be able to see my work being sold.
Why are you so interested by folklore?
This is something I grew up with and is a very strong element within my family. My father is a researcher and writer focusing on ethnographic and folklore elements within Greece and as a child I remember him always trying to do his best to maintain the traditional carnivals in Greece. A lot of tribes from different places around Greece would visit Athens once a year during the carnival season and would perform around the city. At that point I was really young and embarrassed about how wild and vulgar (the whole carnival is about fertility and the traditional songs don’t beat around bush!) they behaved but now, thinking back, it is amazing to be able to perform in such a way, free from everything. Unfortunately this no longer happens in Athens as the funding is very limited for these kind of things but people are still very eager to collaborate and promote their local festivities. Hopefully this is something I would like to contribute to in the future.
What are the key elements of your work?
New textures are definitely key elements of my work. The more I evolve the more risks I take and I have learned to trust my instincts during my design development. Everything I do is based on instinct. I am a very logical and practical person in my professional life but when it comes to my work I want to only work with emotion and then I know I am doing the right thing. Metallic colours and materials are also a key component. I am trying to use really intense and dark inspiration but mix it with very feminine features, marrying the darkness with elegance.
Would you say that history is your main focus?
I think this started subconsciously through my project Death is a dialogue, that was the first project, in which I slowly started realising that this was my purpose. It made so much sense to explore this further through new projects. I love mixing traditional elements with poetry or literature. So far my work has been related to my cultural roots very strongly and I this is something I will always try to explore, although I would love to be inspired by different cultures in the future as well.
How would you describe your last project « A long farewell to all my greatness » ?
From the beginning this project was an exploration of my cultural roots. I am from Greece, and grew up there, but it was only after I left that I came to appreciate these roots. Now comes the time, after living in the United Kingdom for almost a decade, to acknowledge the fact that my roots have been blended with others and now I am becoming a hybrid between cultures that overlap and try to overrule one another. The title, a quotation from Henry VIII, by British national symbol William Shakespeare, shows that this mixture of cultures gives hope for something new while never forgetting the past. This was formed through a series of five neckpieces and three headpieces in black and gold shades, creating a very regal effect.
Materials used are a combination of handcrafted religious trims and industrially made rayon fringing. Different manufacturing processes all come together with handmade techniques. This project has been created with lots of recycled and leftover materials and only a few key materials were sourced from scratch. The main reason for this was that there was that I had absolutely no budget for this, only the need to create and evolve. This for me was also proof that artists can be resourceful with the smallest amount of materials, equipment and space as possible while still producing a very successful outcome. Everything was made by hand stitch after hand stitch, loop after loop, with lots of patience and lots of love and belief in the purpose.
What would you like people to feel about your creations?
I want people to relate to them and be able to dream and escape through the pieces. Each piece is made with lots of thought and I want people to be able to go to a fantasy world and escape from reality.
How do you see yourself in the future?
I think in the future I would still like to work for other fashion labels but also I would like to teach and support young designers. Apart from my design projects I would like to carry own with researching and finding other artists and designers influenced by folklore elements, whether it is from their own heritage or from a different culture they love to explore. I would like to be able to maintain a balance between working for the fashion industry but also still be part of this dreamy world by being more culturally aware of what is going on around me. I think sociology of fashion is definitely an aspect I would like to explore further.
open source fashion manifesto
The voice of Martijn van Strien, a designer, thinker and a speaker, is a rare one among the fashion industry. Calling for a change, Martijn van Strien’s projects aim to challenge existing norms and practices in the industry, showing different alternatives to the current reality. “Fashion and garments have the potential to make us proud, we can’t let our joy be spoiled by a sense of guilt over how their are made nowadays”, he explains. Testing radically different approaches to garment design, production and consumption, van Strien uses modern technologies to bring innovative ideas to the fashion world, promoting sustainability and open possibilities.
Fascinated by science, architecture and style, and inspired by open-source philosophy, van Strien strives to create a “circular future for the fashion industry”. His recently released publication “Open Source Fashion Manifesto” (2016) is an insightful statement of his vision.
The Manifesto, written in collaboration with Vera de Pont, addresses designers, businesses and consumers, offering a new point of view on fashion and expressing the urgent need in creating a more sustainable, fair and technology driven global system.
The shared vision for an Open Source Fashion, as described in the manifesto, offers a new perspective on how clothes are perceived and worn, suggesting an online based community where designs, materials and instructions are shared, allowing consumers to take an active part in the creation process.
“I want to stay relevant, have a voice. I want to be worn, and also re-used. I want to be designed to last for more than just one season. I want to be enjoyed by everyone without polluting our planet. I want to be produced by people who are happy and proud of what they make.“ (“Hello”, the opening monolog by “Fashion”)
The Manifesto opens with a quick review of the fashion industry and its malfunctions as perceived by van Strien; massive growth, massive consumption, massive disposal and a waste of resources. The gloomy introduction is followed by an elaborated text that takes the reader step by step through the possible revolution; “Show My Origin” promotes curiosity, transparency and sharing information. “Make Me Yourself” calls to involve consumers in the creation of fashion to add value, “Download Me Here” offers new ways of fabrication using digital formats, 3D printing, laser-cutting and easy access to designs.
Addressing the question of long-lasting products and minimizing waste, “Make Me Last” suggests a shift to “on demand” production, re-use of materials and modular garments that can be re-assembled. “You Made Me, Now Change Me” discusses the core qualities of the “procumer” (producer + consumer) while “Innovate Me Collectively” questions the current role of the designer, offering a new perspective on the designer as a connector, or facilitator within a community. Lastly, “Own Me Together” explores an interesting social model - a new era of common property and self organized communities with full responsibility over the life-cycle of the products.
To illustrate the vision of the “Open Source Fashion Manifesto”, Van Strien and De Pont created a unique tapestry for the outside of the Nieuwe Instituut building. The Outdoor Tapestry is developed at the TextielLab Tilburg and contains specifically selected yarns that make it fully weather and temperature-proof.
The tapestries contain three messages: ‘Make it last’, ‘Download me here’ and ‘You made it, now change it’. The time of day and type of light that hits the tapestry determines which message is visible. For this effect each phrase is woven from one high-tech yarn, either coloured, glow in the dark or reflective.
In addition to the manifesto, van Strien took part in the Fashion Revolution Week, offering the public all of the studio’s digital garment designs for free.
Lior Fisher Shiloni
Annamari Nagy, the founder and creator at GRANDPA menswear, launched her Autumn/Winter 2016 collection to a receptive Hungarian audience immediately after her Master program diploma from Mod’art International, Paris.
Born and raised in Kisvárda, Hungary, Annamari is inspired by the male figures in her family - an older brother, charismatic father and legendary grandfather - influential people that form the base of her collections. “I grew up in a male dominated family.” she explains the roots of her design aesthetic.
Annamari’s collection is based on a strong emotional connection to her close familiar community, threaded through time and generations. The traditional techniques of hand-knitting and crocheting, combined with modern, minimal shapes and volumes add to the idea of tradition passed from one generation to another. Her clothes manage to create the feeling of wearing our parents’ or grandparents’ clothes, carrying warm memories from the past.
Grandpa’s latest collection, presented on the 6th of April 2016, was inspired by the noise, colors, energies and surreal dimensions of her father’s garage shop. All the patterns, shapes and volumes reflect to the workwear of a garage, adapting oversized pockets, exaggerated sleeves and collars, or even trousers.
The photos and styling really caught my attention, especially the combination of a mature gentleman wearing work gear. Your first two collections were also “manual labor”, with humour and elegance in both; are you planning to continue this theme?
Yes, I am absolutely sticking with the workwear theme. I am really enjoying it.
Your collection has wider appeal than it's affectionate brandname.
The brand is definitely not age-specific. It is for those men who can look fantastic everyday, because they require no particular effort. It is for men who are true to themselves.
What are the future plans for the brand?
I would very much like to bring the collection to Paris, hopefully already in SS17.
Where else abroad you would like introduce your designs?
In a Scandinavian country. I am very attracted to their environment, their attitude to life, and how strong their design philosophy is.
What kind of future collaborations interest you?
I like slightly unconventional pairings, like music & clothes. I think it could be interesting to compose music and design clothes in synergy according to the same theme.
photo: Andris Zombori
assistant: Sára Tóth
model: Sam Scott Schiavo & Lóránt Nagy
“There is no limit to cuteness” is the motto of Niels Peeraer. Hearts, bows and candy pink are all recurring motifs in Peeraer sophisticated work. The Belgian fashion and accessories designer reaches the peak of sweetness through his handbags and accessories, laughing in the face of monochromatic minimalism.
Peeraer, a graduate of the Royal Fashion Academy of Antwerp, now based in Paris, explores the contrast between masculine and feminine through the tension of the rough materials and the soft heartedness of his designs. His “feminine” pieces are often presented on male models, creating a playful mix of colors and textures.
How do you relate to the concept of gender in your creation?
I design genderless objects. I want everyone to be able to relate to my label, regardless of gender “boundaries”. Personally, I managed to overcome the “block” of buying womenswear at a young age, but it is not as easy for everyone. There are often physical differences in the human body that force us to comply with some standards, but this is not the case in accessories or bags. Most of time, it is a just mental image that people have and creates that boundary I refuse to acknowledge.
So you avoid categorizing what is feminine and what is masculine?
In my head it is much more fluid. Femininity for me represent the search for beauty, and delicacy. Pure ‘masculinity’ doesn’t interest me at all. I like to see things as combination of opposites.
Your brand is quite unique in that sense, playing with contrast concepts and perceptions. How does the idea of “cuteness” mitigate these contrasts?
I want to combine “cute” design aesthetic with handmade products that have real value to them, keeping in mind the practicality of the volumes and wear. Most “cute” items are made from poor materials, while brands that focus on high quality generally do very minimalistic designs. I try to balance the two worlds - my design aesthetic and quality of the products.
Which materials are you currently working with?
I’m mostly doing what I’m doing because of my love for leather. The way it moves, bends, the strength of it. But especially I love the natural beauty of the material and how it ages over time. In terms of metal, I previously worked with brass, but have now switches to gold plated metal in order to elongate the durability of my pieces.
And what are your main inspirations?
Anime, illustrations, the image of the ‘lolita’. My current mood is usually highly reflected in my collections.
How do they evolve from season to season?
In a very organic way, as I design from my heart. My collections will reflect a specific state of mind, but will always grow from the same place, my mind. The way I work can not lead to a situation where collections clash completely with each other. I think it is more of a continuous work, like one long story. When it is fashion week and I have a new collection, you peek into a specific moment in that story line, but it keeps evolving throughout the rest of the year.
So how do you create innovation in your story?
I’m not sure there is, or can still be, real innovation within the fashion industry. As a designer I am more interested in reaching beauty than in finding the next new thing, as there will always be something newer to replace it. The innovation in my work relies in trying to keep traditional handcraft contemporary and up to date.
Is there a room at all for trends in your work?
Honestly? I really work organically. I prefer to have a beautiful handmade piece, with real value that comes both from the materials and from the heart. It is more important to me than designing according to trends. As I see it, following trends means giving an expiration date to your work, so I prefer to create timeless pieces.
I do understand though why for many brands it is the way to stay relevant, but it is just not the way I want to reach my customers. I believe this way of thinking is a very prominent characteristic of Belgian designers.
What is the message you are seeking to share through your creative practice?
« There is no limit to cuteness ». I want to capture innocent happiness, even for people who are not really into ‘cute’ things. I am looking for that ‘ooooh’ moment, or lighting up the mood. I love that. I have no intentions to to shock people, but to light up the day of the wearer and passer by, even if just for a little while.
Lior Fisher Shiloni
Nigerian-born fashion designer, writer, afrobeat artist and attorney Walé Oyéjidé and tailor Sam Hubbler are the duo behind the Philadelphia-based menswear brand, Ikiré Jones. Combining West African aesthetics with Neapolitan tailoring, the brand strives to create collections that tell a story. The fashion editorial for its latest collection, After Migration tells the story of African asylum-seekers living in Italy.
While in Florence, Oyéjidé noticed that locals perceive African immigrants as peddlers, vagrants or outcasts. The migrants, who have fled their homes to seek asylum in Europe, are subjected to ostracism in their adopted countries. To reframe the migrants as real people and not invaders, Oyéjidé employed men from a local migrant shelter, to model in his Fall 2016 collection.
Oyéjidé, the creative director on the shoot, said he felt it “was important for many reasons to put- the migrants- in front of the camera, not as props, but to convey their unique perspectives.”
Incorporating the models into the editorial also gave Oyéjidé a platform to highlight other issues such as the lack of African models in high fashion, the negative representation of migrants in global media and the shortage of employment opportunities for migrants settling in new places.
This post was originally published on the creative platform of Design Indaba
Photography by Neil Watson of 10Leaves - Creative Direction/Design by Walé Oyéjidé
clothing & digital culture
DRKN is a clothing label about street fashion that promotes gaming & digital culture. They work with European textile manufactures to create edgy, unisex, dark clothing with clear references to gaming. The main inspiration comes from Counter-Strike and you can see how that is reflected on the label through their jet-black bomber jackets, pullovers and vests that feature the game’s train map as a geometric camouflage print.
“Darkness represents the anarchy of the online worlds we live in and it also a consequence of the inspiration we get from all the dystopian worlds we find ourselves in when we play games. The darkness is our world—our heritage.” DRKN Designer Erik Bjerkesjö
DRKN got together people that are « globally connected in this subculture », and that can « apply their power very quickly ». It is about time this huge segmentation of the market - that just keeps on growing - had a label that truly represents them.
« What striked me the most with DRKN is that we are entering a new market, where basically no one is. With this collection, we offer an alternative to most clothing brands out there. We do not have a traditionally defined cultural or social heritage and we have no preconceived idea of who our customers are in the real world. Instead, we want to inspire people to embrace the values of the virtual world and encourage them to not restrict their imagination and become whoever they want to be.
I have been focusing on creating a unisex brand identity. Any person who, just as us at DRKN, feels that they are part of a very dark and chaotic world, partly due to the online worlds they live in, will understand our inspiration and what we fight for. We want to show the world that games matter and that gaming culture, as well as people dedicated to games, should be taken more seriously. Gaming is actually a really cool and interesting lifestyle. With this collection we want people to be able to express that passion and achievement. We are also really into science fiction and how the world is being changed by technology. We believe in a world where humans are much more enhanced by technology, which is something you will be able to see us work with in the future.
We do it by giving people the opportunity to express their online identity through their DRKN clothing, in a way that makes them proud of who they are. The DRKN brand is in itself connected to gaming and digital culture and then we have a lot of pieces that contain direct references to games, ranks and achievements. We also give our customers the ability to customize their look with different patches based on their favorite game, team and rank. Any brand targeting youth culture should definitely consider the online world and how people build and want to express their identity.” DRKN Designer Erik Bjerkesjö.
Runway pictures: Photo courtesy of www.bon.se | Styling Qhris Magsino | Hair & Make-up Martin Sundqvist
Lookbook: Photo by Alex Wessely | Styling by Qhris Magsino
We are online anarchy
The world we live in is marked by the darkness and anarchy of online worlds and science-fiction. Our identity is defined as an ongoing process, where everyone is equal, restricted only by the limitations of one’s own curiosity and ambition. The ever-increasing number of people living in online gaming worlds is now in the hundreds of millions, and counting. Old truths by which the world is organized are quickly losing their significance.
We shape future society
As the online experience continues to merge with the offline existence, we believe in a world that blurs the lines between reality, fiction, genders, generations, ethnicities and social classes. We believe that gamers are pioneers of future society. Together, we can achieve anything. The darkness is our domain, its terrain not yet fully charted, an unmapped landscape with potential to rewrite the future.
We do not fear what must change
In an era of capitalist intrigue and surveillance we side with the anonymous anarchist who wanders beyond the limits imposed by others, in the spirit of the black mask. We believe that broad-minded technological progress is the only the way to enhance mankind. We welcome the time when robots walk among us as equals.
We are unrestricted
As creative minds, we refuse to acknowledge superficial boundaries and rules set up by others. Rather than being limited to one specific product, DRKN is many things. At our core lies the power of human imagination, no longer restricted by past notions of who we once were, but instead set on creating new understandings of who we have the power to become. This is the world now. It belongs to you.
Lydia Janis Caldana
Lydia Janis Caldana is a trend forecaster with a creative background and both eyes on the future. Amazed by the opportunities new technologies bring at an exponential rate, she uses her abilities to predict movements and change to help companies, governments and disrupters be in charge of a more sustainable, inspiring and tech-solutioned world. Lydia keeps a blog about technology, is the LatAm correspondent for The Future Is Already Here, a think tank for a better world, and co-curates Ello’s official community about tech, culture and innovation, Ello Future.
“Recycle is not a sexy word”, states Dana Cohen, an Israeli fashion designer which recently graduated from Shenkar College in Tel Aviv. Cohen (26), winner of 2015 Fini Leitersdorf excellence award for display of creativity and originality in design, is looking for new ways to revive thrown away garments. She manages to do so in an innovative, inspiring collection based on textiles she created by reconstructing second hand knits into beautiful abstract fabrics.
How did you come up with the concept of “Worn Again”?
I was captured by the idea of sustainability while I was living in Amsterdam as part of a student exchange program with AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute). I was looking for ways to create garments from existing materials and wanted to design a collection that would send a positive message. I noticed I have many unused textiles at the studio and that triggered the idea. I wanted to take what people consider as ‘waste’ and bring it back to the realm of fashion. The next step was researching the process of mass production and understanding where I can source materials for the collection.
What triggered you to work with old, thrown away garments?
People perceive recycled products as unattractive or invaluable. I wanted to challenge this perception, giving those garments a “second chance” and promote the idea of reducing textile waste. It was during the recycling process that I suddenly felt that by working with used garments I am able to touch people’s past, and turn it into a future.
The collection consists of different approaches to pattern and shape. What were your primary sources of inspiration?
The stripes and argyle patterns are taken from the more traditional sweaters. I used the symbolic geometric shapes which are associated with old, forgotten garments. But my main inspiration actually came from the process itself. The samples I produced reminded me of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. I decided that each color combination would “quote” one of his paintings, which let to a rather abstract result.
Which types of materials compose the collection?
The collection combines two textiles; recycled knits that were thrown away, and the knits I designed myself.
I used the old knits to create different industrial materials like isolating material, and incorporated them with the ones I knitted myself into a whole “new textile”. This transformation between the knits is purposely visible, and illustrates the recycling process.
And how did people react to the idea of recycling textiles?
At the beginning everyone were very skeptical about the result. They thought the result probably won’t look good enough for the runway. You know, the word ‘recycle’ isn’t very sexy but it holds an incredible potential. I had a feeling I could make them change their minds, and I am glad I trusted my intuitions.
True, people often perceive waste as devalued, useless. how do you see it?
I see waste as a valid material, so why can’t we treat it just like any other textile? Reducing waste should be something we all thrive to, not just in the fashion industry. Eventually, we all want the world to be a better place to live in, so why not do something about it?
Do you think we could apply this process of “transformation” in large scale commercial production?
This is exactly the challenge I am facing these days. The transformation process is almost impossible in a large scale production, but I am trying to find ways in which recycled textile could be incorporated into mass production for various purposes.
Where do you see fashion going in terms of up cycling and the use of waste?
Fashion brands are definitely becoming more sustainable. Major companies like H&M lead environmental friendly initiatives and there is a global awareness in the industry.
And finally, if you could you choose 5 words to describe the collection…
Original, soft, textured, sustainable, positive
make it rein
“It is a tough industry out there, and to be honest, one that seems built on a dying model, thanks to the digital age we are in,” comments Rebecca Morter, one half of London based fashion house: Rein. An echo, resoundingly in tune, with the overarching sentiment outlined in Li Edelkoort’s Anti-Fashion Manifesto: asking the fashion industry to suit-up, and accept that the once entrenched, tumultuous turnover of “fast-fashion” systems are obsolete, as we embrace a brave new world of personal expression, within a savvy, socially connected, digitally driven, marketplace; one with increasingly elevated expectations. Here, #ootd and #fwis hashtags become the building blocks of brand stories, and for the consumer, self-actualisation is as valuable as any monetary currency: the “statusphere” of aligning oneself to a cause, or belief, by wearing and sharing; clothing as a vehicle for expression, that goes beyond the aesthetic.
On top of this brave new world, and fuelled with genuine altruistic passion to celebrate the female form - and the explore the relationship between body and clothing - are Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson: Co-Founders / Designers at London fashion house, Rein. We talked to them about their experience of setting up a newly established brand, and their unique, compelling backstory.
Who or what inspired yourself and Gemma to « make it rein » ?
We graduated in 2013 and were lucky enough for our collection to receive a great wealth of press: worn by Lady Gaga, EVE, Charlie XCX, Little Mix, and so on. It was around this time that we decided to continue making garments focusing on empowering women, especially the strong, incredible women who had already worn our pieces and really brought them to life. We began exploring how the clothing could act as a voice; to challenging the socially acceptable, women as a victim to the male gaze, and how the pieces could empower through both revealing, and concealing, the body. We were lucky to be offered a spot to showcase at London Fashion Week Showrooms, and from that point we officially founded REIN, showcasing our first full collection, in February 2015.
With Rein being created for, and inspired by, women, do you feel aligned with / influenced by, the sense of « girl gang »culture that feels particularly of the moment?
To an extent, yes. We are all about empowering and uniting to give women strength and wholeheartedly supportive of women succeeding. However, for us, it’s about full blown equality, not man-hating. Rather, striving towards an ‘equal playing field’’ feel, where women, where everyone, has the same rights / voice / responsibilities / expectations.
You have a growing fan base of musicians and artists. How important is music and that scene, to your brand?
For us, music has always been at the forefront where there are powerful, exciting people. The artists that we are drawn to are those who stand out; are experimental and unafraid to be themselves. I like to think that our collections are balanced, offering a spectrum of innovative and original garments, from day to evening. From the wearable, to the outlandish and statement pieces; it’s these pieces that come alive when mixed with theatrics, performance and music.
As a young company, how has your experience been establishing a brand, in London; the good and the bad? Do you see your future long-term in the city?
It’s been a crazy process! A huge learning curve, full of trial and error. We only properly launched this year, in February, so we are still in the stages of setting up the brand, and it will take time before we can settle into a company routine.
It is a tough industry out there, and to be honest, one that seems built on a dying model, thanks to the digital age we are in. It has its pros and cons, but ultimately you become caught in a catch 22. It’s the best time to be a new brand, because you have direct access to your customers, via social media, and you can build a following; test and learn without having to go via wholesale stores. However, this takes time to grow, with a lot of focus on digital platforms, and shouting above all the noise from everyone else. The customers want to know you are in stores (that they can buy you easily) and on the other hand, the boutiques are reluctant to order from new brands, as business isn’t great, unless they are one of the few who have adapted well online like, net a porter, even asos; they want to see hype, and a strong social media following, before taking the risk. So, you can see why it’s such a crazy vicious circle! It’s about figuring out where you can fit into this.
London itself is the heart of innovative, edgy fashion. It also is the only city, in my opinion, that values the purpose and concept behind the artistic decisions you make as a designer.
Your collections, although sexy, have a real stealth mode wearability about them; the sense that women can just get dressed and get on with the business of « living », while wearing the clothes. Was the balance of looking great and practicality of clothing important, in your design process?
We want the garments to be versatile. The silhouettes are classic, simple, and wearable; pieces that form the look and remove the need to worry about how the desired look will come together. The applications and techniques we use are innovative, different and unusual; this is our brand’s purpose and backbone. We want the women that put on our clothes to feel strong, confident and special. We want to give them the opportunity to wear clothing that is different and exciting, to take a stand on their own individuality. Neither myself, nor Gemma, have time to spend hours getting ready, and we think that reflects the vast majority of womens’ lives, so it’s important to us that the pieces are comfortable, versatile and long-wearing.
A lot of people worry that laser cutting is very fragile, but when using the right materials it is very durable and strong wearing; even enough to be put through the washing machine! Our knitwear is made from a sustainable possum wool, because it contains fur, the knits are very lightweight. They prevent odour from sweat, are washable and so much more! In every way we can we use the most forward thinking materials and techniques, and preserve comfort and practicality in the process.
Do you have any rules to live and design by: what keeps you focused?
Focus comes from the motivation of knowing exactly what you want. I’m not so good with rules, Gemma tries to enforce the same rule every season: « No drinks in the sample room, end of story. » Somehow, I’m always the one forgetting and breaking the rules; not a great role model for our interns!
Keeping true to REIN’s purpose is always at the forefront: “creating clothing to empower.”
Becky Willoughby is a UK based Fashion Writer and Digital Content Curator with a passion for cutting edge, young independent design. She contributes to magazines and trend agencies, focusing on cool kids and cultural innovation. Excited by all current and emerging symbiosis between visual and material futures, she CoCurates Ello’s official community about tech, culture and innovation, ‘Ello Future’ and is a Staff Writer for Fizzy Mag, in Germany.