You did your BA and your MA at the Courtauld, what led you to stay and what made you pursue dress history?
The Courtauld is a very unique place, and I enjoyed the atmosphere immensely when I studied for my BA. I also did one of the history of dress options on my BA – Re-presenting the Past: Uses of History in Dress, Fashion and Art – and I loved it. I always had loved fashion anyway so I thought maybe history of dress was the way forward. I then applied and got on the course!
What was your favorite part of the Documenting Fashion MA?
The Trip to New York was one of the many highlights of the course, but just being able to talk about fashion and to really get in depth about the subject with people who have similar interests and views was also really fascinating. It was great to have proper conversations and to hear other people’s interests, areas of research, and different approaches. I miss it already and it’s been less than a year since I left – it was a really fantastic time and I’m so glad that I did it. It was also great to be able to speak to Rebecca, who is such an expert in the field, on a weekly basis.
MA Group 2015 in New York
How did your research interests develop over the course of your MA and did they inform your dissertation?
I had always loved the work of Issey Miyake, in particular his Pleats Please line, but when I saw the Mario Fortuny pleated dress in the archives at FIT in New York, I got very emotional and realized all of these connections between his work and Miyake’s. I felt like I had found my calling in life! In my dissertation titled, Pleats and folds: modernity, technology and atemporality in the designs of Mariano Fortuny and Issey Miyake, I looked at the themes of modernity and technology and the use of pleating in the work of Miyake and Fortuny. Even though they are both from different contexts and time periods they both used technology in unique ways and were interested in these utopian, modern ideas that allowed women to not be restricted by corsets. They used pleats to create clothes that moved with the body in an entirely modern way but simultaneously referenced antiquity, whilst other designers used pleating purely as a stylistic technique. I wore pleats almost every day whilst researching and writing my dissertation as a ‘method’ way of getting inspiration. I still wear pleats almost everyday!
Issey Miyake 1995 Copyright: Irving Penn
Mrs. Selma Schubart wearing a Fortuny dress, Copyright: Alfred Stieglitz
Do you have any advice for choosing dissertation topics for any of us MA’s who are struggling to find our calling?
I would try to find something you’re really interested or passionate about and then find a different or more interesting way to approach it if its been looked at previously. Bounce ideas off of your classmates, you never know what someone has come across – they may know something very niche that could help with your research or even set you off in an entirely different direction. I would also look for inspiration everywhere you possibly can! Go to exhibitions, flick through books, follow people from the field on Instagram and you might find something you want to research. My virtual exhibition topic came from Instagram. Keep reading and keep your eyes open to absolutely everything!
How have your academic studies shaped your professional activities?
My studies, and the course specifically, really made me realize that fashion was where I wanted to be. I really wanted a more varied role. I interned in the Theatre and Performance department at the V&A after University, which I really enjoyed, and now I’m working at Nick Knight’s Show Studio and Live Archives, a private fashion archive that acts as a reference for designers and institutions. It’s very dynamic, as is Show Studio, which is Nick Knight’s contemporary fashion website that uses technology to push the boundaries of how fashion in presented. It’s nice to have two very different positions, but still fashion, always.
What does your work at the Live Archives entail?
The founder of the archive, Hoana Poland, started out in vintage shops and through her work she came across amazing pieces that were so unique that she couldn’t sell them on. She decided to create an archive that was constantly evolving and could be put to use, serving as inspiration for contemporary collections. The collection consists of “directional” fashion, so its mostly pieces from the 60s -70s onwards, but specialises in Japanese designers such as Comme de Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. The collection is shaping the future of fashion. The archive also does exhibitions –small, intimate ones that are trying to do something different to the big blockbuster shows. Their first exhibition was called ‘Yohji Yamamoto: SHOWSPACE’, where the collection was shown on live models and visitors could try on the pieces, which would be unheard of at a normal museum! The shows illustrate the more personal side of the fashion industry. It is really interesting work and I absolutely love it. I’m looking forward to some great projects that we have coming up.
Live Archives, Yohji Yamamoto SHOWSPACE, 2015