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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

London Fashion Week A/W 2011 Preview: Ada Zanditon

Ethical fashion designer Ada Zanditon shows her new A/W 2011 film presentation on Friday 18th February 2011 and I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the collection. Here's part one of my interview with this inspiring designer.

Written by Amelia Gregory

AmeliasMagazine_LFW_Ada-Zanditon_ArtistAndrea
Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 sneak preview by Andrea Peterson. I asked a variety of illustrators to interpret one piece from the new collection… so read on to see what they did!

Ada Zanditon looks somewhat confused as I pile into her live/workspace at the same time as the morning influx of interns – maybe I’m a new, rather overgrown one? She is still in her pyjamas, having recently emerged from the space beneath a cutting table that currently serves as her bed.

This season Ada will not be putting on a catwalk show; instead she will show a film presentation alongside the collection on mannequins. “What you can do on a catwalk is dictated by how big your budget is,” she explains. “Lagerfield puts on amazing shows but the cost of production is huge. One reason why everyone loved McQueen was because he put on an event; a moment that could be referenced from then on.” Ada feels that a film or presentation can offer a much more immersive experience on a tight budget.

Ada Zanditon LFW Preview by Danielle Shepherd
Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 LFW Preview by Danielle Shepherd.

Last season’s show at Victoria House was intended to be interactive, with people circulating around the models. In fact it became more like a salon show as soon as the pesky photographers formed a bank across the room that guests were afraid to cross. “But the fact that it wasn’t a normal catwalk set was exciting – now it’s time to go to the next stage.” This season movement will be shown on a screen and the audience will be able to feel the details up close without fear of interaction with any live humans. “I’ve learnt that people won’t walk up to a model when they are in full hair and make up because it is too daunting.”

The night before our interview Ada was filming the A/W 2011 presentation at Netil House just off Broadway Market. On the wall above the table where the interns are busy cutting out invitations there is a model – I correctly deduce that Georgiana from Bulgaria is in fact the star of her new film. “It’s much better to fit a narrative around one person,” she says. Ada was able to exactly fit the garments to Georgiana, chosen because of an active interest in her concept and aesthetic. “She also has ability to act and move elegantly and gracefully. I feel she embodies the aspirations of my customers.”

Ada-Zanditon-AW11-by-Yelena-Bryksenkova
Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

Ada’s great grandparents were from Ukraine and Lithuania, but her mother was born and grew up in America, with the result that Ada has dual nationality and got to spend holidays in fashionable Martha’s Vineyard, where her parents bought a house before it became popular. “Of course now it’s full of rich yuppies… which in a way is good because they look after the beautiful landscape.” Ada herself was born in Crouch End in north London before the family moved south of the river. Secondary school was by all accounts not a fun experience – even though she knew she wanted to be a fashion designer from the age of 5 her school pushed her in an academic direction that she felt uneasy with. As a result she didn’t do art A-level but instead took photography GCSE and attended life drawing classes.

With the encouragement of an art teacher who spotted her potential she went to Morley College to produce a self generated portfolio which she took to her Art Foundation interview at Kingston University. She was promptly offered an unconditional offer. “They were so warm and impressed that I cried in the interview – I was just so happy that someone finally understood my work.” Afterwards she did a degree at London College of Fashion and then embarked an internship with McQueen where she learnt “a hell of a lot”. She was there for a total of four seasons, working almost all of the time. “It’s a tough industry – you can work 9-5 and achieve something mediocre or you can put 100% in and achieve something beautiful.”

Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 by Dee Andrews
Ada Zanditon A/W 2011 by Dee Andrews.

The new A/W 2011 collection is called The Cryoflux, embodying in its name frozen landscapes and the idea of change. It was inspired by the polar regions, mainly Antarctica, but also the climatic changes experienced by people living in the Arctic. Ada became fascinated by the ice cores that are pulled up to show our climate history in intimate detail, and extremophiles, mostly microscopic organisms which exist in extreme conditions such as the polar regions. “But I didn’t want to be too literal in my translation – after all we’re experiencing extreme conditions both politically and economically as well.”

For further inspiration she looked at the doomed Robert Scott expedition of the early 1900s, for which the explorers were clothed in heritage clothing from great British brands like Mulberry. “I combined the romantic world of beautiful tailoring with an icy modern aesthetic. For instance I looked at broken ice floes in a constant state of flux.”

Ada Zanditon
Ada Zanditon in her studio in Whitechapel.

I wonder if Ada will model a bit of clothing from the collection so that I can get it illustrated but she baulks at the suggestion because she doesn’t design for herself. “I’m quite scruffy… but my designs always come out elegant and polished,” she says. “I want to create wearable stuff for my customer and not myself because I am quite a specific market of one.” Her collections are instead inspired by an interest in architectural design and illustration. She likens it to the work of Monet. “He doesn’t look like a waterlily. And lots of male designers don’t wear the frocks that they design.” As part of the designing process she loves meeting and learning more about her customers although she’s eager to assure me she’s not a slave to them, and concepts will always be important.

Ada Zanditon by Donya Todd
Ada Zanditon in her studio by Donya Todd, who chose to put her in one of her S/S 2011 designs anyway.

The collection features lots of British wool but the silk is not organic because it is much harder to source than good quality organic fair-trade cotton. “Most silk is Chinese even though it often claims to be Indian. I’ve looked into using Peace Silk [which doesn't kill the silk worms in the process of manufacture] but the trouble is that you only get a smooth continuous unbroken fibre if the worm is killed. My customers want quality and I don’t want to compromise that.” At present Ada feels it is more important to focus on the bigger picture when it comes to sustainability.

There are only a few print designs in the new collection, which were printed locally in Bermondsey. “I feel that winter is usually more about sculptural details, so I tend to explore the cut. Print tends to be for S/S. But you can get sick of tailoring!” Ada can’t imagine living somewhere where the climate doesn’t change on a regular basis and she is looking forward to designing for the next S/S season: think big and loose, “like a million layers of air”.

Ada-Zanditon-S/S 2011 by-Maria-del-Carmen-Smith
Ada Zanditon S/S 2011 by Maria del Carmen Smith.

This season Ada had her choice of slot at LFW, so naturally she chose to show on the first day. The main theme of her presentation remains firmly under wraps but expect a narrative inspired by the solar system and in particular by Europa, which is a moon of Jupiter that experiences particularly extreme conditions. “I like the outside perspective; seeing things from the viewpoint of the other. So I imagined a superwoman extremophile who evolved under the surface of Europa and goes on an exploration of Antarctica.” The film is directed by twins Andrew and William Ho, who had lots of passion and enthusiasm for her subject. “I love their elegant aesthetic.” As well as an “interesting” soundtrack guests can expect a surprise immediately as they enter the venue between 1-2pm on Friday 18th February. I can’t wait… and I shall report back on my findings.

Ada Zanditon features in my new book: Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration. Part two of this interview will go online tomorrow and digs deeper into Ada’s theories on sustainable practice.

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