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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Designer Spotlight: Brooke Roberts- Part Two

Meet a groundbreaking women's wear designer whose work incorporates all things cool; from brain scans to African tribes with Australian wool thrown in for good measure!

Written by Rachael Oku

Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa Front cover - The 99Illustration by Naif Al-Mutawa courtesy of PagetBaker Associates

What do you do when your freedom of expression has been seriously hampered? What happens when an artist has to muster all the courage and strength in the world to plough on amidst censorship, dosage opposition, cheapest intimidation and threats? The Freedom to Create Prize aims to encourage and support artists all over the world who operate in a stifling climate where they are isolated. Created as “a celebration of the courage and creativity of artists around the world who use their talent to build the foundation of open societies, this site promote social justice and inspire the human spirit”1., this prize is unique in that it celebrates the power of art to fight oppression, break down stereotypes and build trust in societies broken by conflict, violence and misunderstanding.

image009Photograph of Moshen Makhmalbaf courtesy of PagetBaker Associates

There are more than 1,000 entrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America, eastern Europe and the Middle East and Human Rights advocate Bianca Jagger presented the main prize yesterday night to Moshen Makhmalbaf, the Iranian filmmaker dedicated to the Green Movement. “People of my country (Iran) are killed, imprisoned, tortured and raped just for their votes. Every award I receive means an opportunity for me to echo their voices to the world, asking for democracy for Iran and peace for the world.” Guests from the worlds of art and the human rights attended the reception in the grand surroundings of the Victoria and Albert museum. The prize is worth $50,000, but they give half to an organization that will advance the cause their work highlights. Representatives from Burmese refugee women’s group The Kumjing Storytellers who use giant paper maché dolls to represent their stories of ethnic persecution in Burma and the plight of migrants and refugees from around the world received the second place prize winner, The director from The Zugdidi Shalva Dadiani State Drama Theatre, David Alan Harris from Poimboi Veeyah Koindu and Sheenkai Alam Stanikzai were all there along with last year’s inaugural winner, the Zimbabwean dramatist Cont Mhlanga.

image002Logo courtesy of PagetBaker Associates

Set up by Richard Chandler, a billionaire New Zealand-born philanthropist based in Singapore, the arts prize shines a light into those parts of the world where creative freedom is not a given. This year alone, we have had the Obama cartoon in The New Yorker and Osama Bin Laden as a cameo on family Guy; there are societies in greatest need but these awards is a reminder that we must always remember not to take for granted the civil liberties we enjoy in this country. In 2006, a Kuwaiti doctor, Naif Al-Mutawa, launched a comic called The 99, featuring 99 superheroes, each based on a virtue expounded in the Koran. “Some of the more conservative places in the world weren’t so happy to let The 99 in,” he says.

Graham CrouchArtist Sheenkai Alam Stanikzai. Photograph courtesy of PagetBaker Associates

Women artists are showing strong pieces this year; Third- prize winner Sheenkai Alam Stanikzai has created an installation piece about the traditional suicide method of abused Afghan women: “I recognized the similarity between these ancient events and contemporary world events, so I decided to show my feelings about what is happening: more than 40 women are dying every day.” Pakistan’s Sheema Kermani entered a series of dance and theatre pieces about the veil, polygamy, sexual abuse and honor killings: For long periods, it has been almost like a life underground,” she says.

View-of-Installation-work-bInstallation by  Sheenkai Alam Stanikzai. Photograph courtesy of PagetBaker Associates

Judges in attendance included leading international human rights lawyer and jurist on the UN’s Internal Justice Council Geoffrey Robertson QC, BBC arts correspondent Razia Iqbal, Time Out founder and chair of Human Rights Watch Tony Elliot, and award-winning Anglo-Indian artist Sacha Jafri. Nick Broomfield presented the Imprisoned Artist Prize; Geoffrey Robertson QC presented the Youth Prize. And there was an enjoyable performance by Emmanuel Jal.

It is suitably symbolic that the awards ceremony took place in the UK, home of the Magna Charta as it shows that engaged artists are not alone in this fight. Prosperous societies are founded upon creativity. Britain has a history of encouraging artistic expression and is a leader in showing other countries how to build strong foundations for economic, political and cultural development in order to lead tomorrow’s world. Political cartooning is a great British institution that prides itself in rocking the boat and rightfully getting away with it! Freedom to Create is a worthy initiative; their desire to seek to improve lives by addressing society’s ability to support and sustain creativity is to be commended. In the end, everyone was a winner!

1. Press release courtesy of PagetBaker Associates
Incase you missed the first instalment (where have you been?) Amelia’s magazine caught up with London based women’s wear designer Brooke Roberts to find out about her inspired new collection.
7Sinnai dress (reversible) in exclusive silk/ glassino jacquard knit.

Can you tell our readers a little more about your SS10 collection?
Right at the beginning of the project I took a brain scan which took about 50 image slices through the brain. I then artworked the images with a CAD designer friend who helped to manipulate them into python skin effect, buy and repeat patterns that I then merged with Yoruban sculpture. To learn about this Nigerian tribe I went to the British Museum and looked at all of the sculptures and masquerade videos, site taking colour inspiration and texture ideas from their artwork. The collection is a mixture of medicine, science and Yoruban culture.

You’ve said that you take a lot of your inspiration from your work as a radiographer and with that in mind I wondered if you were interested in fashion trends and if you try to reflect current trends in your collections?
As a designer I can’t really ignore the industry behind my profession, but I try not to let outside influences take over my inspiration and vision. Trends are really important. I try not to follow them or reference them too much in my work. Trends happen to find their way into my collection one way or another, often from working with suppliers. For example my thread and fabric suppliers have their own seasonal trends, textures and colours for the season which I end up inevitably incorporating. I’ve also been known to look on WGSN from time to time.

13Exar suede washed denim jacket with ortho fringing, sinnai leggings in exclusive silk/ glassino jacquard leggings and silver and red gold skull slice earrings.

PB242088Exar suede washed denim jacket with ortho fringing (ortho fringing is made from metal plates that are used to straighten and repair bones within the body).

Do you have any design heroes?
I love Thierry Mugler. It doesn’t matter how many times I look at his work. I’ve got quite a few of his vintage pieces and I love wearing them! Rifat Ozbek is another I like and John Galliano is great too. It’s like a dream for a designer to work in a house like that (Dior) where you can create your own fabrics; it’s a beautiful fusion of craft and technology. I also love Alber Elbaz, he’s so commercially brilliant – I think most women want to wear his clothes! His designs are so romantic; I think he’s got a real sensibility with fabric and movement. I also love Gareth Pugh; he would be the young designer I like.

What are you looking forward to in the next decade seeing as 2010 is fast approaching?
I’m looking forward to just developing my label, growing it and evolving. I want to learn more, as in this kind of job you’re learning everyday and are exploring new ideas and techniques. I’m trying to work with the Australian wool industry to integrate Australian merino into my knitwear because it’s a beautiful product and I love knitwear so I’d like to explore it and at the same time if I can help out the Australian wool industry it’s a good move, especially as my family are wool growers!

19Silver and red gold spinning skull slice pendant- diamond set.

Lastly, do you have any strategic tips or advice for anyone toying with the idea of a career in fashion, with the ambition of going it alone as a designer?
You need to have a strong idea of what you want and what you want to be first. Then I’d suggest going out and finding the best experience you can so intern and put in a lot of hours. Learn, develop and once you feel ready to start a label get some good business advice and then apply for all the awards as a way of getting support. Just work really hard!
Brooke’s current collection is stocked at King and Queen of Bethnal Green.

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