Information File - Theme Project

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“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 
― George Orwell1984

'NOSTALGIC' & 'DYSTOPIA'

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PART 2 - TEST SHOOT

Having already started to develop our initial surveillance theme, we decided to spend our studio time on a test shoot, using pattern paper as a means to create a bold and striking silhouette.  From a fashion point of view, the silhouette is all that we were interested in, as the working concept revolved around a distant and abstract figure; no detail would be communicated through the final shot.   We did cut two arm holes in a square sheet of the paper, before crating makeshift sleeves from the excess.  We then set about finding locations within the CSM building that would be similar to those we wanted for the final shoot, i.e industrial, modern and vaguely 'dystopian' in nature.  The test shoot was a success, as it confirmed to us that our final idea was feasible, as well as allowing us to identify any changes that were required before taking the final shots.  The camera was positioned in as high a place as we could manage, and in the corner of the chosen space, so that it would emulate the position of a mounted CCTV camera.  From this distance, the paper garment looked incredibly effective, particularly when in motion as it reacted to movement in a way that fabric would not have done.  

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PART 4 - STYLING, MODELLING AND GARMENT CONSTRUCTION

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On the test shoot we had very much liked the effect that the paper sheet had created from a distance, and so wanted to continue with something that was equally as obscure for our garment.  We wanted a shape that did not fit the figure as fashion items generally do, that was white in colour so as to stand out from the oppressive backdrop, and that would conjure up emotions of nostalgia when worn.  We had, up to this point been more focused on the dystopian setting, and were now keen to bring nostaligia to the forefront.  As stylist in the group, I had considered the use of antiquated fashion silhouettes, using bustles, or extreme corsets to twist the silhouette in a old, (nostalgic), and yet bizarre, (dystopian) way.  However I felt that we could further abstract this way, and was more keen to involve a nostalgic item, rather than simply take this to mean 'ways of old'.  Our original word was NOSTALGIC; a human emotion, not concept, and so this would have to be communicated.  

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“From a philosophical point of view, white is important to us,” says the Maison, as they and everyone else we encounter from now on shall be referred to. “It is a very fragile colour that reveals the traces of time, and a white background is a pure canvas. From the Maison’s beginning, its interiors, showrooms and stores were decorated with furniture found in flea markets. To give a homogeneity each piece was painted or covered in white cotton."

'Clever but never pretentious, witty but never a joke, strange but never ridiculous'

'Probably the most extreme of the Swedish giant’s hook-ups, the entire collection consisted of killer catwalk looks, reissued as Re-Editions. The metallic candy clutch, the trompe-l’oeil bra-body and a coat disconcertingly similar to slinging a duvet over yourself and leaving home in it were instant hits that made the high-street bizarre (at long last). Warhol said in 1968 that in the future everyone would be world-famous for 15 minutes, and perhaps even he would be surprised to the extent of how his prophecy is coming true.'

http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/15478/1/maison-martin-margiela-clinical-precision

There are masculine shapes adjusted to the female body with the narrow shouldered jacket or the adjusted biker jacket; oversized clothing is represented with the oversized pea coat and blazer, as well as the adult sized Dolly cardigan. The processes of tailoring are explored with the pattern cut jacket; the ambiguity of trompe l’oeil is found in the trompe l’oeil evening dress, the body with integrated bra, and the invisible wedge pump; and then there are garments which have undergone transformation, such as the car seat cover dress, the duvet coat, the opened-up trouser skirt, the sock sweater, as well as accessories such as the candy clutch and the glove purse

http://www.luxuriant.lu/2012/10/interview-with-maison-martin-margiela/

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ABOVE AND BELOW - photographs of me wearing duvet as we experimented with sleeves, lapels and general shape on figure.  

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With these requirements in mind, we found an editorial on the duvet coat by Margiela, and thought that this had a lot of potential for us.  It is basically a square of fabric and so could be folded in the same way as we had done with the paper; it is associated with comfort, protection and safety, and so is an item of nostalgia and a sanctuary from the DYSTOPIA we would create as our background.  As this had already been translated into fashion circles before however, we were aware that we would have to make it our own.  I was keen for the garment to reflect the locations in which we were shooting, which still being recognisable as the same in each shot.  With this in mind therefore, we started creating a piece that could be continually reinvented on location, in a matter of seconds.  

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Initially cutting armholes in duvet to fit body, and constructing sleeves, just as we had done with the paper sheet in the test shoot, we created our first look using a duvet as our only material.  In the above photographs I am shown wearing the duvet in the most 'conventional' of our options; full length garment, with sleevs and oversized lapels.   

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So that the 'reinvention' of our piece could be quick and easy, we chose to have the sleeves as separate components to the body of the garment, this meaning they could either be worn, or not worn, as opposed to having to remove and reattatch them as needed.  We also chose to cut two sets of armholes; one at the top, and just so far apart as so the piece would fit me like a coat, and the other towards the lower edge, and placed much further apart, meaning the volume was around the neck and torso, rather than hanging full length like a coat.   With this re-positioning of the fabric, hoods could be created, or cape-like collars, while the armholes that were not being used conventionally, would instead appear to be pockets.  These few simple alterations ensured that we had a vast number of styles that could be chosen according to our surroundings.  

We also  began experimenting with  ALUMINIUM FOIL, a rather cliched futuristic image, but one that we felt we could use a tool for the editing process; the foil picking up the flash of the camera, and creating a bizarre texture.  We had tried covering areas of the duvet itself with the foil, however the effect from life was awful, as well as disturbing the clean, white shape the duvet offered.  We therefore moved to covering the body itself, which was much more effective.  

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PART 6 - EDITING AND FINALISING

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The above photgraphs show stills from the second half of our final moving image series, edited to appear taken from a 'hidden camera' perspective, rather than a surveillance camera.  These highlight details from the garment that the CCTV style images do not capture.  While the inclsuion of these images had not been our original intention, we felt that the duvet created some incredible shapes when manipulated, and so we wanted to convey these, as well as the general sillhouette.  

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Above is embedded the final series of gifs craeted in response to NOSTALGIC & DYSTOPIA as our theme.

I had very little to do with the physical editing of the images, this task being assigned primarily to the photographer, and then also in part to the creative director.  However, the concept for the edit had been a group decision, and so the desired look was decided before the editing began. We wanted a surveillance grid, as would be found in a security office, however we wanted each image moving, as if paused on an old VHS tape.  The images would appear in black and white, cut quickly from one frame to another, and occasionally cut out completely and 'loose signal'.  They would crackle, and have the figure move in a bizarre way, the audience not initially realising that the movements were the same repeating pattern.  The frame layout of the CCTV camera would show the same recurring date and time stamp.  Both this stamp, and the jarring movement of the overall image would relate back to an initial idea of 'chaos theory'.  As 'dystopia' is a futuristic concept, it's existence would rely upon the choices made in the present.  This would mean that such a state is avoidable, and the future could in fact be 'utopian'.  The same time and date show just a few of the countless possible future outcomes, as the same figure could not be in each one of these different locations at the same point in time.  The circular loop of movement would also allude to this, raising the question of whether we are bound to perpetually repeat a cycle, and end up in one, predetermined future state, or whether wear can break free and forge our own future.  

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PART 1 - RESEARCH

Recieving these words as our theme was interesting as they almost entirely oppose one another; NOSTALGIC meaning the love or longing after a past state, and DYSTOPIA a fearful and undesirable future. They offered a huge scope for development however, as an element of transition exists between the two.  

Our first thoughts as a group revolved around Brutalist architecture, the constant and unavoidable knowledge that we are being watched, inspired by the iconic dystopian text '1984', and the need for safety in a threatening future.  

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Above from book 'Rick Owens' photographed at CSM library, below Rick Owens feature in 'Oyster' magazine, edition 80, 'DISTORTION' photographed at CSM library

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"I like classicism... I like historic reference. I like something new with something almost ancient. I like [legendary costume designer] Adrian; Hollywood in the Twenties and Thirties. I like discipline and the idea of restraint. I was always anti the whole moving-and-manipulating-the-body-around. It's like telling someone that their body isn't right and needs to be redone. When I make clothes it's about using bias cut, jersey and drape around the body. It has always been important to me that the clothes are somehow affectionate." - RICK OWENS

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/rick-owens-the-prince-of-dark-design-2250838.html

We turned to Rick Owens quite early on in the research element of the task, given his dark colour palette and bizarre yet brilliant photography.  The second image started us thinking about perspective, ultimately leading to the CCTV view we settled on.  

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Given the DYSTOPIA theme, we began considering the future as a frightening concept from our point of view, but also from a past persepctive.  We turned to copies of ID magazine from the 1990s, so we could see if their future predictions had been fulfilled, and also to observe how much had changed in terms of what is expected.  We found the above pages of 'futuristic' fashions and collages.

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Inspired by the images we had collated, and the collages we had found, we decided that the best way to show our main ideas at this point was through our own collage series.  Our photographer prepared the above images to visually communicate our thoughts.  

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Photos taken fron AI WEIWEI , 'Art/Architecture' at CSM library- Begining to research architecture, particularly BRUTALIST/industrial buildings and locations.

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LEFT - Dora Maar, image taken from 'UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA', an exhibition book wherby photographs are cut with other photographs to create interesting collaged images, and RIGHT, photograph taken at King's Cross Underground Station, similar to the illusionary setting in Maar's collage.  (Begining to link research images to real life locations where we could shoot)

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PART 3 - LOCATIONS

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As we had established early on that locations would play a huge role in our final concept, this being the primary outlet for the 'dystopian' element of the project, we had assigned the role of location scout to one member of the group.  We were broadly looking for places with artificial light, harsh architecture and soulless features, and first found a car park that would satisfy these requirements; the Bloomsbury car park in Holborn.  (photographs above and below)

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We then referred back to our original research into brutalist architecture, and found the Institute of Education building in Russell Square, (BELOW)  The outdoor stairwell was particularly useful, as I was able to go below street level, and the photographer could get an excellent position from above.  While there was no harsh lighting at this location, the basement level was in shadow, meaning that we could use this and the areas of natural light to create an obscure overall mood when edited.  

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Our final location was the Barbican Estate, however en-route from Russell Square we caught the tube from Euston Square underground station, and found the platform, (PHOTOGRAPHED BELOW), suited many of our requirements.  We moved to the very edge, closest to the tunnel where the train would come in, and took some quick shots while the platform was empty, and a further few as the train pulled in.  The location did suit our theme, however we were not able to get the same perspective, as the camera could not reach the height it had in the previous locations, due to the platform being all one level.  These shots were therefore not particularly successful, however made for interesting research and experimentation.  

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The Barbican estate, (photograph shown immediately below), was perhaps the most successful location we had chosen.  We began on the stairs, with the photographer above, and then moved down to the street level, walking along the pavement of the road tunnel at ground level.  The photographer remained high on the estate staircase, and achieved some excellent images from this distance. We all felt these most successfully replicated the CCTV perspective we had been aiming for.  

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Above are further images (not my photographs), showing two areas of the estate where we did shoot; the road tunnel next to the estate (LEFT), one of the Barican estate staircases (RIGHT).  

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PART 5 - ON SHOOT

We were decided upon tailoring the look to each setting after the modelling process, though sure that the figure must still look coherant in the final image series.   The Bloomsbury car park was the first opportunity to trail this therefore and so we used tinfoil over the head to pick up the artificial strip lighting on the ceiling, and used the armholes towards the lower edge of the duvet so the volume was around the neck and shoulders.  This worked well, as the lights drew attention to the torso, and left the lower body in darkness.  The tinfoil additions also picked up the metallic elements of the space, such as the lift doors.  

Moving to the Institute of Education building, I was keen to abandon the tinfoil due to the lack of artificial light, and instead manipulate the shape of the lapels into a hood, replicating the brutalist shapes that stepped down from the roof of the building.  This also sheltered the figure even more, seeming to protect them from the harsh surroundings.  

We did not particularly consider the silhouette when shooting at the underground platform, as we were more interested in experimenting with the location itself, however at the Barbican estate, due to the long distance shot were working with, I decided that wearing the piece as a more traditional coat would be most effective; using the highest cut armholes, so the piece would hang at the full length, and wearing both sleeves.  This still allowed for some volume around the neck area, but provided a more striking overall silhouette when viewed at a distance.  

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ABOVE SERIES OF PHOTOGRAPHS, TAKEN ON LOCATION IN HOLBORN, RUSSELL SQUARE, BARBICAN AND EUSTON,  READY TO BE EDITED FOR FINAL IMAGE

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