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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with Laura Mackness

Laura Mackness talks us through the role illustration plays in her bold geometric designs and the aspects of fashion she finds the most inspiring...

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

Laura Mackness graduated from Louise Wilson’s stella MA in Womenswear Fashion at Central Saint Martins in 2009 with a breathtaking collection where the cut and block colour of the fabric stood as the background to the graphic prints and playful illustrations. The collection consisted of straight cut trousers and leggings, even appearing under the varied hemlines of the skirts! The graphic prints have since been developed into a collaboration with Weekday, which was launched earlier this year to much celebration. Laura is currently in New York developing a new project, but luckily had a few moments to talk to Amelia’s Magazine about the inspiration behind the MA collection. I cannot wait to see where this designer goes next…

The MA collection was incredibly illustrative through the choice of lines drawn onto the clothes. what role does illustration usually play in your design process?

It played a huge role in my MA collection as we worked tirelessly to make sure that the actual clothes were as close to my original drawings as possible, the weird proportions, placement of the print and particularly the width and angle of the shoulder. I am happy to say that what went down the catwalk was exactly the same as my drawings!

Subsequently, how would you describe your aesthetic?

I guess that you could say its minimalist/purist with a fun twist. An element of fun has always been essential in my design work, I don’t think that fashion should take itself too seriously! The minimalist/purist element is something that I worked on throughout the MA, as I already said I wanted my collection to be fun but I also wanted it to be taken seriously and be wearable and the minimal aesthetic seemed to offer up the perfect balance.

What first interested you about designing Womenswear?

A desire to design clothing for myself I guess is what first drew me to Womenswear. I also love the drama and the show of Womenswear that you don’t necessarily get with Menswear. I studied the BA Womenswear at CSM and subsequently went on to do this at MA.

Congratulations on winning the Colin Barnes Illustration Award during your BA! What is this award?

The Colin Barnes Illustration Award was something I was awarded whilst studying on the BA. It is an award given to students studying on the St Martin’s BA Fashion design course for their illustration. I was so surprised to receive it as I had always struggled with illustration until Howard Tangye made me realise that the way I draw doesn’t have to be the same way that everyone else draws! I owe him a lot for that!

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews an interest and a love for geometries ‘basic’ shapes – do these motifs often appear in your illustrations?

It does subconsciously I think, my drawings are often quite angular and square like! And going back to what I said about my aesthetic I am a big fan of pure, minimalist and clean things and what is more pure that a basic circle, square or triangle.

Do you draw outside of fashion design?

Not really as all my ladies (and they are always ladies) of course have to have great outfits on so I end up designing without even realising it. I don’t really have much time to do it anymore either which is a shame.

How would you describe your design process?

Backwards and Forwards, up and down, moments of genius and moments of disaster. Each collection is different and so forms its own process. I don’t have any hard and fast rules.

Who would you say informs your work, do you have a customer in mind during the design process?

I never have a specific customer. I collect images and build up a mood in that way. I am influenced by all sorts of things from all different sources. I see it as a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

How did your MA collection develop – from where did you inspiration come from?

I am a bit of a collector, especially when it comes to images and so the collection draws inspiration from many different reference points. The face, eyelashes etc. came from the work of François and Jean Robert, the hands were from some drawings that I found by Saul Steinberg and the shapes were from some of Jean Paul Goude’s work with Grace Jones particularly her ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ video. As I’ve already mentioned, once I have the designs they’re not changed at all and the development is all in making sure the clothes are just like the drawings.

Do you ever use re-cycled or up-cycled fabric in your designs?

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t in my MA, however I did explore using existing items of clothing etc a lot in my BA and it is definitely something that I would like to re visit in the future.

What fabrics do you enjoy working with?

I love wool jersey; in fact my whole collection was made out of it. I really like jersey as a whole, mainly because it allows you to do things without darts and seams, which allows the design to appear even more minimalist and clean.

Who are Francois and Jean Robert and what is Reggi – Secolo?

Francois and Jean Robert are Graphic designers/photographers who did the most fantastic book called Face to Face in which they photographed inanimate objects that appear to have or make different faces. It really is worth a look, for the concept but also for the clean beautiful look of the book itself.

As for Reggi-Secolo, this is a little crazy book of totally insane and genius bra’s, it really is quite amazing.

Who are your favourite designers and why?

I have long been a Martin Margiela fan; he was one of the first designers that really sparked my interest in fashion. I also love Yves Saint Laurent when Yves Saint Laurent was at the helm and Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel and of course Moschino when Franco Moschino was there. I also love Hermes for the fantastic quality and unwavering levels of good taste!

Could you describe your interest in ‘bad taste’ in our current cycle of fast fashion, and endless borrowing from the past? Or, more accurately returning to what were considered ‘fashion mistakes’ and re-inventing them, do you think what was once considered bad taste is now considered ‘good’ taste? Where is the line for you?

Good and bad taste for me is just a fascinating thing to play with. It is so easy to get it wrong and so hard to get it right and it can be the minutest detail that makes all the difference. I really couldn’t say where my line is, I think it varies depending on the object/image/garment etc that you are considering.

What do you think of twitter and the ever developing blogging network as a method of self promotion? Do you use either medium?

I think that Twitter and blogging are great if you know how to make the most of them and do them well, unfortunately I don’t and so I will leave it to the experts.

What was your experience of work experience, what do you recommend about the experience and what did you take away from it?

Work experience for me was essential and it was also the time that I really developed into a designer. It makes it all more real, you realise that these things that you are designing do actually end up being worn! I would fully recommend it to anyone thinking about doing it.

Will you be showing at London Fashion Week this Autumn?

I am afraid not, as much as I would love to I feel that I still need to get a bit more experience before I have my own label and so I am going to work in New York for a while starting in June where I have an exciting new project to work on. I have just finished working on and promoting my Weekday collection. The collaboration was a wonderful project for me to work on and I am so pleased that my designs are now available to a wider audience.

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