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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Kingston University MA Illustration 2010 Exhibition Review

The Kingston MA in Illustration has bred some wonderful illustrators, including our very own Gemma Milly, Kerry Hyndman and Laura Callaghan. Plus many others...

Written by Amelia Gregory


Illustration by Jenny Costello

Charlie Boots’ hand-made, decease one-of-a-kind pieces, case made from reclaimed and vintage fabrics, health are an antidote to fast fashion and the over-hyped high street. And they’re reversible! I had a chat with Charlie about staying sustainable (but stylish), her love of vintage and fashion’s green credentials…

How did you end up as an ethical clothing designer – had you always planned to go down the ethical route?
I became a fashion designer at the age of 28, after wanting to do it since I was 10! I lived in Bangkok in my early twenties and would take my designs to the tailors to be made. This could be hugely frustrating, as a person’s interpretation of a design often does not match the idea (not to mention the language barrier). I realised I needed to learn to pattern cut myself, and so then went on to do a fashion degree at Bath Spa University. It was here that I started looking into ethical fashion, and once I understand the enormous negative impact of this industry on so many people, I knew that doing it ethically was the only route I could take.


Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

All your designs are made from ‘ethically sourced materials’ –what do you mean by this?
I use organic, fair-trade, vintage, re-claimed and sustainable fabrics. Using organic fabrics mean that cotton workers are not suffering serious health conditions and often death (20,000 a year) as a result of the pesticides used. Fabrics like bamboo and hemp are sustainable – these two in particular do not require pesticides, much water or a lot of care. 95% of my fabrics are sourced in the UK, though the bamboo, hemp and vintage 1930s/40s fabrics come from the USA. The kimono fabrics are from Japan, of course!

A lot of your designs are reversible – which I love! Is this another way to make your clothing more sustainable?
Yes, most of the designs are reversible and this does add to their sustainability. I finish almost all of the garments with couture ‘bound’ seams. This enables them to be reversed as you do not see any overlocking (a common and cheap way to finish garments) when the garment is reversed. This gives the garment a subtly different look. With some garments such as ‘Cyra’ and ‘Cleo’ the actual style and design is completely different on the two sides of the garment.

You design women’s clothing and accessories – any plans to branch out into menswear or any other fields?
I love designing and pattern cutting but only have time to do so much! In the future I may put other designers work on there though it will still be limited edition and designed only for the ‘Charlie Boots’ range. It is very tough to forge a career in fashion design and I’d like to help people who have talent. I will also be selling limited edition UK made jewellery on the site from October.

How are reclaimed fabrics different from vintage materials?
A vintage fabric is a re-claimed fabric really, but a re-claimed fabric is not necessarily vintage. For example, some of my fabrics are sample pieces from fabric printers/wholesalers. These would otherwise go in the bin when the company no longer sell that fabric.

Is everything on each of your garments ‘ethical’ – right down to the zips?
At the moment all the zips and most of the buttons are re-claimed. They came from a company that was holding some abandoned stock that they couldn’t be bothered to re-home. It was about to head for landfill and I came upon them by chance.


Illustration by Antonia Parker

When designing each collection, are you inspired by fabrics themselves or do you create designs and then look for your materials?
I normally create designs with a fabric type in mind but I don’t usually choose the exact fabrics first. Sometimes when a toile is finished I think it would look better in a different weight of fabric, so will then move in another direction with it.

You have a ten-item limit of each design – why is this, and do you to ever make special one-off items?
Some of the items I have made are actually one-offs. This tends to happen if I have a small piece of printed fabric that I just have to use because I love it, but sadly there is only enough for one garment.
I put a limit of ten items on one design because I want to give my customers something unique that they are very unlikely to see anybody else wearing.

At the moment your designs are only available online – why is this? Any plans to expand to selling your product in other shops in the future?
My garments will be going onto a few more on-line shops and at some point they may go into shops. The problem with wholesaling is that I would make very little money if I sold my garments to shops at expected wholesale prices. Everything is UK-made so this adds a lot to the cost of a garment.


Illustration by Aniela Murphy

Do you think the fad for fast, throwaway fashion is coming to an end, and being replaced by a need for wearable, ‘investment pieces’?
I hope so! But it won’t happen overnight. Fast fashion is still a huge part of Western culture. Primark makes more money than any other high street clothes shop. Over the last decade the price of clothes has dropped and the amount we purchase has gone up. Shops can have up to ten ‘seasons’ where there was once only two. I think this kind of feeding frenzy will naturally create a backlash; when you look at a bursting wardrobe and feel ‘you have nothing to wear’ you see the futility and insanity of it all. If you buy an item that is well made, well cut and has had a lot of thought put into its design then you can spend more money and really value and treasure that item.

What with big name ethical fashion brands like Edun and Noir, and the Estethica tent at London Fashion Week, Eco Fashion seems to be having a moment – do you think the Fashion Industry is really trying to change its bad habits, or does it have a long way to go?
I think there is a growing core of people that want to change the ways of the fashion industry and I believe that it will happen in time. Educating people is important and I’m happy that educational establishments are paying a lot more attention to ethics on fashion courses. I suspect that a lot of larger businesses to a certain extent are paying lip service when claiming to be more ethical, but doing something about how they operate is better than nothing and it can help to bring the issues into the limelight.

What are the challenges that you face as a fashion designer committed to eco-friendly/ethical design?
I think my main challenge is sourcing fabrics that I think people will like and that are also ethical. I want to bring in more organic and fair-trade fabrics but the former are extremely expensive and the latter are often done on hand-looms – which leave small imperfections in the weave. These are part of the charm of such fabric, but I am not sure that everyone will see it that way! This all has to work as a business and I need to make products that will sell.

You exhibited at Vintage at Goodwood recently (a festival that caused a lot of debate on the Amelia’s website!) What do you think of the day – a celebration of Vintage or overhyped and expensive?
I had the best time! Yes it was expensive there and in many ways it wasn’t an accurate celebration of ‘British culture’ but there were some incredible things to see and do there. As a lover of design I was completely bowled over by the effort that people had made with their outfits (http://tiny.cc/qsoqh)! I had a fantastic time and I will definitely go back next year.

Any more pop-ups or exhibitions in the pipeline?
Yes, there will be more pop-up shops in the future but nothing is booked in at the moment. Keep an eye on the ‘news’ section on the website though!

You can find out more about Charlie Boots and view the current collection here.

Illustration by Jenny Costello

Charlie Boots’ hand-made, online one-of-a-kind pieces, made from reclaimed and vintage fabrics, are an antidote to fast fashion and the over-hyped high street. And they’re reversible! I had a chat with Charlie about staying sustainable (but stylish), her love of vintage and fashion’s green credentials…

How did you end up as an ethical clothing designer – had you always planned to go down the ethical route?
I became a fashion designer at the age of 28, after wanting to do it since I was 10! I lived in Bangkok in my early twenties and would take my designs to the tailors to be made. This could be hugely frustrating, as a person’s interpretation of a design often does not match the idea (not to mention the language barrier). I realised I needed to learn to pattern cut myself, and so then went on to do a fashion degree at Bath Spa University. It was here that I started looking into ethical fashion, and once I understand the enormous negative impact of this industry on so many people, I knew that doing it ethically was the only route I could take.


Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

All your designs are made from ‘ethically sourced materials’ –what do you mean by this?
I use organic, fair-trade, vintage, re-claimed and sustainable fabrics. Using organic fabrics mean that cotton workers are not suffering serious health conditions and often death (20,000 a year) as a result of the pesticides used. Fabrics like bamboo and hemp are sustainable – these two in particular do not require pesticides, much water or a lot of care. 95% of my fabrics are sourced in the UK, though the bamboo, hemp and vintage 1930s/40s fabrics come from the USA. The kimono fabrics are from Japan, of course!

A lot of your designs are reversible – which I love! Is this another way to make your clothing more sustainable?
Yes, most of the designs are reversible and this does add to their sustainability. I finish almost all of the garments with couture ‘bound’ seams. This enables them to be reversed as you do not see any overlocking (a common and cheap way to finish garments) when the garment is reversed. This gives the garment a subtly different look. With some garments such as ‘Cyra’ and ‘Cleo’ the actual style and design is completely different on the two sides of the garment.

You design women’s clothing and accessories – any plans to branch out into menswear or any other fields?
I love designing and pattern cutting but only have time to do so much! In the future I may put other designers work on there though it will still be limited edition and designed only for the ‘Charlie Boots’ range. It is very tough to forge a career in fashion design and I’d like to help people who have talent. I will also be selling limited edition UK made jewellery on the site from October.

How are reclaimed fabrics different from vintage materials?
A vintage fabric is a re-claimed fabric really, but a re-claimed fabric is not necessarily vintage. For example, some of my fabrics are sample pieces from fabric printers/wholesalers. These would otherwise go in the bin when the company no longer sell that fabric.

Is everything on each of your garments ‘ethical’ – right down to the zips?
At the moment all the zips and most of the buttons are re-claimed. They came from a company that was holding some abandoned stock that they couldn’t be bothered to re-home. It was about to head for landfill and I came upon them by chance.


Illustration by Antonia Parker

When designing each collection, are you inspired by fabrics themselves or do you create designs and then look for your materials?
I normally create designs with a fabric type in mind but I don’t usually choose the exact fabrics first. Sometimes when a toile is finished I think it would look better in a different weight of fabric, so will then move in another direction with it.

You have a ten-item limit of each design – why is this, and do you to ever make special one-off items?
Some of the items I have made are actually one-offs. This tends to happen if I have a small piece of printed fabric that I just have to use because I love it, but sadly there is only enough for one garment.
I put a limit of ten items on one design because I want to give my customers something unique that they are very unlikely to see anybody else wearing.

At the moment your designs are only available online – why is this? Any plans to expand to selling your product in other shops in the future?
My garments will be going onto a few more on-line shops and at some point they may go into shops. The problem with wholesaling is that I would make very little money if I sold my garments to shops at expected wholesale prices. Everything is UK-made so this adds a lot to the cost of a garment.


Illustration by Aniela Murphy

Do you think the fad for fast, throwaway fashion is coming to an end, and being replaced by a need for wearable, ‘investment pieces’?
I hope so! But it won’t happen overnight. Fast fashion is still a huge part of Western culture. Primark makes more money than any other high street clothes shop. Over the last decade the price of clothes has dropped and the amount we purchase has gone up. Shops can have up to ten ‘seasons’ where there was once only two. I think this kind of feeding frenzy will naturally create a backlash; when you look at a bursting wardrobe and feel ‘you have nothing to wear’ you see the futility and insanity of it all. If you buy an item that is well made, well cut and has had a lot of thought put into its design then you can spend more money and really value and treasure that item.

What with big name ethical fashion brands like Edun and Noir, and the Estethica tent at London Fashion Week, Eco Fashion seems to be having a moment – do you think the Fashion Industry is really trying to change its bad habits, or does it have a long way to go?
I think there is a growing core of people that want to change the ways of the fashion industry and I believe that it will happen in time. Educating people is important and I’m happy that educational establishments are paying a lot more attention to ethics on fashion courses. I suspect that a lot of larger businesses to a certain extent are paying lip service when claiming to be more ethical, but doing something about how they operate is better than nothing and it can help to bring the issues into the limelight.

What are the challenges that you face as a fashion designer committed to eco-friendly/ethical design?
I think my main challenge is sourcing fabrics that I think people will like and that are also ethical. I want to bring in more organic and fair-trade fabrics but the former are extremely expensive and the latter are often done on hand-looms – which leave small imperfections in the weave. These are part of the charm of such fabric, but I am not sure that everyone will see it that way! This all has to work as a business and I need to make products that will sell.

You exhibited at Vintage at Goodwood recently (a festival that caused a lot of debate on the Amelia’s website!) What do you think of the day – a celebration of Vintage or overhyped and expensive?
I had the best time! Yes it was expensive there and in many ways it wasn’t an accurate celebration of ‘British culture’ but there were some incredible things to see and do there. As a lover of design I was completely bowled over by the effort that people had made with their outfits (http://tiny.cc/qsoqh)! I had a fantastic time and I will definitely go back next year.

Any more pop-ups or exhibitions in the pipeline?
Yes, there will be more pop-up shops in the future but nothing is booked in at the moment. Keep an eye on the ‘news’ section on the website though!

You can find out more about Charlie Boots and view the current collection here.
Love Amandine Gemma Milly
Illustration by Gemma Milly.

For some reason Kingston buried it’s student graduation shows in the depths of the Tent London exhibition during Design Week in London this September. Due to severe overcrowding at the opening party for Tent I was thus unable to attend the graduation preview, prescription so I have yet to meet graduating illustrator and Amelia’s Magazine favourite Gemma Milly.

I returned the next day to find a real mix of illustration on display, ambulance including some from other part time contributors to this blog, pharmacy including the very good Laura Callaghan (we wish she would do more for us!) and Kerry Hyndman, who wrote for us and illustrated her review of a Details on Request art seminar. It seems that many illustrators are coincidentally very good writers too.

Kingston illustration MA Gemma Milly
Gemma Milly’s exhibition space.

Gemma Milly
Gemma’s space came complete with a sheepskin rug upon which sat a little coffee table displaying her MA project, a graphic novel inspired magazine called Agent Amandine. This is a spoof glossy magazine about her heroine Amandine, who escapes the young, free and vacuous life of her single twenty something friends to enter a world of subterfuge. Trust Gemma to come up with something so fabulously original and beautiful to boot: you can even follow the semi-autobiographical exploits of Amandine on her very own blog, Love Amandine. Gemma is known for her wonderfully delicate and desirable female figures so of course her work is perfectly suited to fashion illustration – expect to catch up with her in my upcoming Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.

Gemma Milly Italian straw hat
Gemma Milly Amandine cover

Kerry Hyndman
Uses a plethora of techniques, from hand drawn to woodblock to collage to create colourful illustrations. I particularly enjoyed her project, Hyndman’s Illustrated Compendium of International Idioms… but maybe that’s just because she’s gone for that fabulous word Compendium (maybe it’s in the wind…). Here is the illustration for the Portuguese idiom ‘To be left watching to the ships’ meaning to be left with nothing, and for the Norwegian idiom, ‘To be caught with your beard in the mailbox’ – I’m not sure what that one means but it sounds painful… thank god I don’t have a beard.

Kerry Hyndman sailor
kerry hyndman beardpostbox

Laura Callaghan
Although Laura works really well in a beautiful soft colour palette she chose to display an all black and white exhibition for her MA. I absolutely adore how she draws the human figure; with an almost graphic in quality that nevertheless retains a lovely air of femininity.

laura callaghan MA show Kingston
laura callaghan MA show Kingston
laura callaghan MA show Kingston
New discoveries (click on their names to access websites) were:

Sheena Dempsey
Sheena is a brilliant children’s book illustrator who cunningly uses the scaling of objects to create an exciting narrative. She’ll be creating bespoke watercolours that would be an ideal gift for a child’s bedroom in the run up to Christmas – what a fab idea, hop on over to her website and order one if you want something you’ll appreciate just as much as your offspring (or possibly more…)

Sheena Dempsey detail

Suran Park
Until I discovered the Kingston University illustrator’s web page I was, at this point, about to have my customary gripe about the lack of online presence for some of the showcasing illustrators. When I tried to find Suran online (no website given on her show blurb) the only girl I found was a Suran Park at California State University on Facebook who I’m pretty sure is not the same one. Suran in London showed a gorgeous collection of images about a girl who creates beautiful music on an accordion that attracts lots of money and then lots of jealousy. Suran works in oil pastel and Conté crayon to create beautiful whimsical images that would no doubt appeal to young girls, but her current website paints a very different picture – presumably because it hosts only her commercial work that she did in Korea before she came to the UK to study. It’s a real shame she hasn’t updated it yet.

Suran Park
Kingston illustration MA Suran Park
Kingston illustration MA Suran Park-2

Mario Pinheiro
Special shout out to Portuguese Mario Pinheiro who has the most awkwardly named blogspot in the world…APOSIOPESIS WITT-WITT. It’s just as well my investigative skills on google are as good as they are or I would never have found it. I mean, why make it so hard on yourself folks?! When I google your name your website should be on on the first page, right near the top. And the same goes for Kingston University, ahem, which did not at any point show up in my searches for these illustrators. Sort out your SEO, please. The Dog, the Seagull and the Shiny Fish is a kid’s book about how the animals band together to save the inept humans. Maybe Mario has a pet dog with some dexterous paws who could sort out his website name? Oh woops, I seem to have changed your url to
mario-pinheiro.com
. Well I never how did that happen? Woof.

Kingston MA Mario Pinheiro

Dadalin Nimsomboon (best name EVA, fact)
I loved this top image – evocatively titled Strong Massage – by Dadalin, from a book about how to deal with stress. Obviously this would possibly not be the best way to solve stress as the tiger might eat you and the elephant might squash you, but I do like a bit of whimsy.

Dadalin Nimsomboon strong massage
Dadalin Nimsomboon paint nails

Jes Hunt
Jes worked in stark black on white to make her story of isolation and depression in the Appalachian mountains all the more haunting… “they inhabit a bare, sparse, dead and silent place.” As the relationships in a family improve colour creeps into her work. Very effective.

Dawn Front Cover- jes Hunt

Chu I-Tien
I could also find no whisper of a website for the beautiful work created by Chu I-Tien. “Lily is always alone. She always wants to have a sister or brother. Lily is always alone. She always checks her phone every five minutes.” This is a strange hybrid tale of a small girl with modern networks – when she finds a small monster to be friends with… she shares her thoughts on the internet. Psst… get onto twitter then Scarlett…

Kingston illustration MA Chu I-Tien

Jinyoung Kim
Another seemingly web free illustrator inspired by fantastical tales, this time of a forbidden love between a human and a dragon, if I have this correctly! Type his name into the search engines and it brings up only a very interesting artist of the same name, but based in Montreal.

Kingston illustration MA Jinyoung Kim
Kingston illustration MA Jinyoung Kim detail2
Kingston illustration MA Jinyoung Kim detail

Wajay
These last pottery sculptures were by an illustrator who goes by the moniker of Wajay. Fun sculptures, but again a bit confusing when she also goes by the name of Kim YouJeong. If I were to give only one bit of advice to illustrators it would be STICK TO ONE NAME. It’s just way too confusing otherwise. Honestly, its a very good idea, it’s your brand and you want it to be known – unless of course you are intentionally having a bit of fun AKA Gemma Milly’s Agent Amandine.

Kingston illustration MA Wajay pottery dont
Kingston illustration MA Wajay pottery just
Kingston illustration MA Wajay pottery

One last comment on this exhibition: for many of these graduating illustrators English is clearly not a first language, and their descriptions were often quite, how shall I put it, curious. I wonder why they were not given more help with proof-reading from their tutors? But then, why they haven’t been asked to maintain an immaculate web presence as an absolute prerequisite for graduating is another mystery to me…

I have also reviewed LAB CRAFT, the design stands and sustainable design at Tent London – just click on the links to read more.

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