07 October 2014

Tim Walker: Fashion and Photography

Tim Walker is a British fashion photographer known primarily for his visually engaging work with Vogue, Love and W Magazine. Walker is particularly acclaimed for his extravagant staging and romantic daydream motifs. He has shot a wide cast of visually striking people globally including Lily Cole in Whadwan Gujarat, India (2005), The Huli Tribe, Papua New Guinea (2007), Alexander McQueen London (2009), Tilda Swinton in Edward James Daydream Las Pozas Mexico (2012) and Karen Elson and Atlas the Lion on a Velvet podium at Shotover House (2013). Walker is one of the most influential fashion photographers in the industry today known for creating magical moments of uncontrollable beauty.

Susanna Brown, V&A Curator of Photography introduced Tim Walker at the in Conversation event with fashion muse Amanda Harlech and actress Gwendoline Christie at the Museum on Friday 19 September. Walker discussed the diversity of his profession; emphasizing how every shoot is different and explaining how photographers intentions change and the essential need for them to react to the moment and let go of pre-conceived ideas.

Walker gained success early after graduating from Exeter in 1994 and he was just 25 when he had his first fashion shoot for Vogue. By 1998 he had his work in the V&A permanent collection. Walkers publication Storyteller (2012) acknowledges his unique influence on contemporary fashion photography. Most recently his work has been included in the international display at the V&A in 2014, Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography which showcased the work of masters such as Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and contemporary visionaries including Steve Klein, Corinne Day, Rankin and Miles Alridge.

Through Walkers conversation with Harlech and Christie the audience was transported through a time capsule of iconic images, with Walker discussing the relevance of location and the importance of context as he described each shot in turn. Below are details of some of those images discussed.

Kate Moss & Marlon Richards, Haughton Hall Norfolk 2012, Love Magazine, Balmain
The house had originally been the Sassoon family home and there was a portrait of Sybil Sassoon painted by John Singer Sargent. Walker described how details like these engage those involved with the shoot and transform the setting; the house became a box of romance for Kate Moss. Walker explained that before the shoot he had been researching and drawing inspiration from the work of John Cocteau, using the models to create a Beauty and the Beast narrative.

Kate Moss reclining in Haughton Hall, Love Magazine, Givenchy
Walker explained the importance of being hypersensitive to the moment. Walker went onto make the comparison, acknowledging that photography is like the weather as light is uncontrollable. Although Walker spends a lot of time planning in advance, he explained that you need to have those plans to defy those plans and sometimes you [just] need to get on with it Walker explained that in order to progress one has to fall in love with the mood and states that emotion can be found in the quality of light.

Lily Cole & spiral staircase, Whadwan, Gujarat, India 2005, Stella McCartney, British Vogue
Stella McCartney based the design of the dress on the blue wallpaper, keeping the fabric in harmony with staircase.

 Lily Cole in earthquake damaged room, Whadwan, Gujarat, India 2005, British Vogue, Prada 
Walker had originally seen the image in a tour book, but despite the earthquake damage he was floored by the beauty of it.

A homage to Cecil Beatons image of debutantes wearing Charles James Couture, London 2012, American Vogue
Walkers homage can best be described as a love letter to Beaton with paper.  Through the use of the stark white it can be thought of as the ghost of Charles James with its magic, mystery and other worldliness.  The naive use of materials also gave it a contemporary feel with contemporary inspired dresses made out of paper.

Kristen McMenamy floating in a tank, Eglingham Hall, UK 2013, W Magazine, Vionnet
Walker explained that often the photographers and collaborators would build their own narrative based on the model or location of the shoot. As Kristen McMenamys boyfriend is a famous art collector, the shoot was based on McMenamy being a piece of art. Her make-up was done in a pre-Raphaelite way and they played with her power in front of the camera.

 Karen Elson and Atlas the Lion on a velvet podium, Shotover House, Oxford UK 2013, Love Magazine, D&G
Walker felt this image embodied the power and beauty of the animal.

By way of summation, through the event Walker revealed his perspective that the point of fashion photography is dreaming and transformation rather than selling. His diverse ways of working show that he is a photographer not to be forgotten in the 21st century.

Grace attended the Tim Walker: In Conversation event as a member of CreateVoice. To find out more about the opportunities with the V&A youth collective email create@vam.ac.uk 

Words by: Grace Radford
Image: © Tim Walker 

26 September 2014

CreateVoice Director's Meeting with the T/Shirt Issue

The most enriching and pleasurable way to discover works of art is when they are presented by the artists themselves. For our quarterly Director’s meeting, CreateVoice members had a great opportunity to meet the T/Shirt Issue, one of the V&A’s current Artists in Residence who revealed all about the synthesis of fashion, design, and technology in their new collection, inspired by their time at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Martin Roth, Director of the V&A, added a cherry on top by sharing his ideas on how such a collection contributed to the overall practice of the museum.

CreateVoice members at the V&A Residency Studios

This Berlin-based collective settled down in London temporarily after they were selected to take over the V&A Residency and work with the Museum's collections in order to come up with something inspiring and fresh for the visitors’ eyes, a link between the bygone and the modern times. The Residency Programme was a chance for the artists to escape from their usual working spaces and routine, and to become genuinely and absolutely absorbed by creating and implementing an art project over a sustained period of time.

Murat Kocyigit, Hande Akcayli, and Rozi Rexhepi are the creative minds that lie behind the T/Shirt Issue. All of them have graduated and have been working within the field of design and fashion ever since, building the philosophy and ideas behind the T/Shirt Issue around what they are doing. The main concept underlying their work is “to express a thought, a moment, a value or a fascination by translating technological evolutions into the aesthetics of a garment, turning them into narrative sculptures.”

Rozi Rexhepi from the T/Shirt Issue

We met Hande and Rozi, who introduced us to the residency studio they have been working in for six months, and listened to the story of how their project had happened. For this collection, the first thing to be done was to select Museum objects for scanning from the V&A treasures. Apparently, plentiful of options at the museum did not make the final choice very easy!

Perhaps the most immediate and visible achievement of the process emerged after finishing the 3D scanning with modern digital tool that, from a layman's perspective, looks like an ordinary camera attached to the computer. This camera and specialist software enables the designers to digitize and transform a subject into a three-dimensional prototype consisting of many triangles. It was then they gained the complete freedom to create, play, and shape the subject.

Following the scanning process, the printed and cut patterns were applied onto fabric and then the hand-sewing started. As one of the designers told us (really with the smile on her face), it required a lot of good energy, some volunteers and close-to-bleeding fingers!

Even thought the designers described and demonstrated the process step by step, we were allowed only to have a sneak peek as the final oeuvre is due due to be revealed during the London Design Festival 2014. The title of the final collection is Dream-Land. Which is rather inviting, but also tempting as we will finally get to see what we have heard so much about!

 The T/Shirt Issue are based at the Museum until October 2014. For more information on them and the wider Residency project visit http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/m/museum-residency-programme/
Words: Milda Batakyte
Images: © Victoria and Albert Museum

27 August 2014

CreateVoice hit Regent Street

In collaboration with Summer Streets, the weekly event hosted on Regent Street during July, the CreateVoice team and the Victoria and Albert Museum set up a pop up shop in central London on Sunday 20 July. With a fashion based theme for that week’s Summer Streets, the V&A continued celebrating their successful run of fashion exhibitions this year, namely Wedding Dresses and The Glamour of Italian Fashion, with a fashion themed shop and free Fashion Illustration workshops.   

The pop up shop was abundant with beautiful art books and merchandise commemorating the exhibitions, bringing the V&A shop to the streets notorious for high fashion. Understandably, it was popular with the crowds who were dedicating their day to a fashion extravaganza. As part of the pop up shop, CreateVoice were lucky enough to be joined by fashion illustrator, Stuart McKenzie, who hosted free fashion illustration workshops which were were open to everyone and ran throughout the day.

With the walls covered in posters displaying a range of his illustrations, from bold multi-media beauty illustrations to sketchy designs evoking the movement of catwalk models, there was plenty of inspiration. Stuart, who has worked for designers such as Vivienne Westwood, first encouraged the workshop to develop techniques to create a free and loose style of illustration. Asking us to forget perfectionism, we began by exploring different methods of holding our pens to create a series of sketches. He then progressed our illustrations by giving demonstrations, followed by a short amount of time for us to practise drawing with continuous lines and silhouettes. Stuart also helped us consider light and shade within our work.

With a range of people attending the workshops, from fine art students to engineers, we all soon grew more confident with layering and mixing media and methods. Continuing to look at form, we used fast strokes and lines to build up figures, a style Stuart described as often being used by illustrators who need to speedily sketch down designs as models parade down catwalks. This technique was perfect for using as a basis to then embellish with the large frills and dramatic cuts found in the world of haute couture fashion shows. To finish the workshop, Stuart taught us a couple of ways to illustrate fashion style proportions and add editorial style exaggerated poses.

It seemed that everyone who attended free classes thoroughly enjoyed Stuart’s workshop and found it to be a great insight in to how to develop a unique style using the techniques shown. The event proved to be a triumph, involving the Summer Streets audience creatively and reaffirming the V&A’s success in hosting some of the best fashion exhibitions of the year.

Words: Caroline Brown
Images: © Victoria and Albert Museum

For more information about getting involved with CreateVoice get in touch at create@vam.ac.uk 

20 August 2014

Disobedient Objects

Disobedient Objects, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s latest exhibition, opened in July to an audience eager to see how objects formulated and created for protest and political activism can be interpreted with an artistic stance. This wholly new directional exhibit for the V&A, focusing on social and political movements from the 1970’s to more current issues, explores objects and images which have played major roles in protest.

The objects on display were not all created for art nor would many of the exhibitors consider themselves artists, more often the objects were created in backlash, fury or for need of practicality. Although many these pieces are not produced as fine crafts, they create discussion and invoke emotional responses, as a lot of great artworks do. The objects become important pieces of art and history by the ways in which they raise and fight issues.

The exhibition itself creates a shocking impact, it walks you through a path of quotes from revolutionaries whilst the walls and ceiling are hung with protest signs, banners and large flags blazoned with statements of solidarity. The visitors are invited to take instruction leaflets on how to create a variety of protest objects, from lock-on devices to tear-gas masks made from plastic bottles. A vast range of materials are on display in the exhibition, folk art style embroideries are mixed with modern technology, such as the Flone by Aeracoop or an app game demonstrating against unfair labour. Simplistic and convenient design developed from recycled bottles and paper bags sit alongside high concept art pieces. 

One of the more conceptual objects, growing into a piece of iconic design, is the inflatable cobblestones pictured above created by the Eclectic Electric Collective (now Tools for Action). As curator, Gavin Grindon, noted during the press preview the cobblestones act in protest by undermining authority, creating a ‘surreal scene’ as the stones are thrown around and the riot police become engulfed by the over-sized objects.

With some of the pieces returning to the streets to continue to be used in protest at the end of the show, this exhibition is strung with current themes. As Grindon went on to say, the exhibition challenges the ‘stereotypes of what protest looks like’, of which it certainly does. Creating an eye opening and often harrowing display, Disobedient Objects successfully entwines the worlds of radical activism and art.

Disobedient Objects will be on at the V&A until 1 February 2015. Free Admission.

Caroline attended the Press Preview of Disobedient Objects as a member of CreateVoice. For more information on the CreateVoice programme contact create@vam.ac.uk

For a chance to meet the curators and hear more about the process of staging this fantastic exhibition, come along to our August CreateInsights meeting this Friday 22 August at 18.30 (more info here)

Words: Caroline Brown
Images: © Victoria and Albert Museum

13 August 2014

CreateInsights: Being a fashion journalist with Vogue's Lauren Milligan

'CreateInsights' are monthly talks put on by the Create team to give young people a free insight into working in the creative industries. For July's session, we were lucky enough to have British Vogue online's news editor Lauren Milligan come to talk to us about careers in fashion journalism.

Lauren is a great example of how it's possible to end up in the career you want through alternative or non-traditional routes. She described how she had always been 'genuinely tragic' when it came to fashion, giving us an anecdote about her bedroom 'supermodel shrine', yet went to university to study English. Having worked in fashion retail during her degree, after graduating Lauren took an opportunity to become assistant manager at Armani in Glasgow. From there, she met the CEO of All Saints, who took a liking to her confident and enthusiastic attitude and invited her to head office. She was soon appointed web manager, where she says she learnt everything she could as fast as possible in order to perform her best in her new role. After the PR Manager left, she stepped into that role; again, learning on her feet. Eventually, she left her job to freelance, and one day accompanied a friend to the leaving party of the then-News editor at Vogue. Deciding to pitch for the job, she sent in her eclectic CV and writing samples, and landed herself the position she's now been working in for over five years.

Lauren spoke about the enthusiasm and dedication needed to make strides into the fashion industry. She touched on internships, generally seen as an essential step on the fashion career ladder - as important as these experiences are, many are unpaid, something which she acknowledged makes them impossible for some people if they aren't financially well off or their parents cannot support them. Instead of giving up if unable to afford to intern, aspiring fashion journalists should be writing in their own time, showing they can cater to different audiences, producing pieces and pitching them to magazines and learning whatever they can about the industry. Also important is appreciating differences in print and online work - on the Vogue website, pieces are shorter and snappier, whereas print is ideal for longer features. She noted that a fast turnaround is essential to web content, and the fact that she was the only candidate to return writing samples on the same day was one of the reasons she was hired for the Vogue role. Her honesty about the pay rate of the fashion industry was refreshing, too; as with most arts-related careers, most people won't be making a fortune, but loving your job can be much more satisfying than a hefty pay check.

Particularly interesting was her citation of the book 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg. In a room full of girls aspiring to work in the fashion industry, she made the point that girls and women are often less likely to speak up in the workplace due to differences in the societal expectations of men and women. For example, studies suggest that in men, ambition is often seen as a positive quality; but in women is seen as something more negative. Lauren encouraged us to speak for ourselves and advised us not to be afraid of 'looking silly' or being rejected; instead, to be confident in our abilities ("if you believe you can do it, other people will too") and if necessary, some 'slight blagging' sometimes helps! Lauren also kindly took the time to speak to each of us individually about our plans and career paths, which was a fantastic opportunity.

See Lauren's work at Vogue Online
Read an interview with Lauren here.

August's Create Insights will be held on Friday 22nd August at 18:30. Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood, co-curators of the recently opened Disobedient Objects exhibition at the museum, will speak about the challenges of being a museum curator and what it's like to stage a major exhibition (more information here)

September's Create Insights will be held on Friday 19th September at 18:30, where we'll be hearing from one of the designers participating in the world-renowned London Design Festival, which is based at the Museum each year (more information here)

Words & image: Laura Blair

05 August 2014

Making it Happen

In November 2013 we worked on a project - Making it Happen, which involved discussing various issues that young people in the arts face across the globe. The project was in partnership with young people from Bradford, Dundee, Rio de Janeiro, Birmingham and London. The project was also a part of our larger event, Making It: Careers in Art & Design, which ran at the museum in the same month. For our previous blog post about Making it Happen, click here!

Carlos Jimenez, a photographer who also works for the museum, followed us through every step of the project and put together this short film, which was also supported by London Area NADFAS.

Hope you enjoy it.

Words by Yashraj Jain

22 July 2014

Making a fashion statement in Italian style

The Glamour of Italian Fashion exhibition takes us through the impact of Italian fashion from 1945-2014. I felt privileged to attend the press preview representing CreateVoice, witnessing how Italy became one of the leading countries in fashion design during this period. Not only does the V&A exhibition showcase a collection of over ninety glamorous garments, but we are given an educational trip about how to rule the fashion industry - Italian style.

When there is bad news, make it good news

The Second World War has just ended, Italy is stricken with poverty, and the world is seeking something new and exciting for Fashion after Dior’s New Look from 1947. Italy used fashion as a means of recovery during this period, climbing to the top of the trend setting ladder and becoming one of the most influential countries in regards to style worldwide.

It’s ok to start small

It’s hard to believe Italy’s fashion empire began with Giovanni Battista Giorgini’s first fashion show in Florence, 1951. He held the show in his own home and convinced designers across Italy to showcase their pieces alongside his own, with all parties benefiting by contributing to this new emerging culture. Designers involved who made a name of themselves included The Fashion House Vanna, who were known for their tailored women’s suits; Capucci, who became known for his inventive sculpture style and Germana Marucelli who became known as the ‘cerebral seamstress’.

Connect and Network

Giorgini started to receive attention from the US and across Europe including Paris, London and Berlin but this attention did not happen overnight. Giorgini was a true believer in what we would now call marketing, he wanted the world to know what Italy could do. The exhibition captured the value of hard work to Giorgini, displaying letters which he sent, including one to journalist Irene Brin and a letter to a department store notifying them of his events. He also formed personal relationships with clients, organising parties and events to create a name for himself prior to his fashion shows.

Reach the World

It was only a matter of time before Giorgini’s fashion shows attracted global audiences. Carmel Snow, editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Irene Brin, the American fashion magazine’s Rome Editor brought Italian fashion into a larger readership by featuring the work of Italian designers in their well read publication.

Some of Hollywood’s biggest films from this period were also shot in Italy, and the costumes were made by Italian designers. Loyal clients from this time included Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Maria Callas. It seemed Italy could not escape the public eye.

Another significant event from this period, was American author, Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, where many of the outfits worn were made by Italy’s couturiers. Mila Schön, who created garments for this event, has two of her pieces exhibited. These are precisely decorated with sequins and beading which gave an elegant evening look.

Gowns by Mila Schön from 1966, at the V&A’s The Glamour Of Italian Fashion

Leave a Legacy

Today Italy is known for its manufacture of top quality fabrics and material; including wools, leathers and silks. Made in Italy has become a stamp for quality fashion. Italy continued to leave prints on designers, influencing even today’s top fashion houses including Armani, Mani, MiuMiu and ­­­­Cavalli. As a whole this exhibition demonstrates the making of a legacy.

The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 runs until 27th July 2014

Find out more about this exhibition on the website and the exhibition blog.

Words by: Piarvé Wetshi 
Images courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum