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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Pre-London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Interview: Cooperative Designs

This week Amelia's Magazine discuss influences and techniques in the run up to London Fashion Week 2010 with exquisite knitwear designers, Cooperative Designs

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

Photograph by Matt Bramford

After being spellbound by Cooperative Designs’ last two presentations (see here and here) at London Fashion Week.

Amelia’s Magazine are delighted to have had the opportunity of interviewing Annalisa Dunn and Dorothee Hagemann, ed the designers behind the fantastically experimental knitwear. With London Fashion Week just around the corner, page we discussed their previous presentations and what it was that first attracted Cooperative Designs’ to wool…

In recent years Knitwear has seen a massive resurgence on the catwalks, adiposity what first attracted you to the material?

We both learnt to knit from our grandmothers.

Knitwear has such a unique position in the fashion world, its both textiles and fashion. As you design the fabric you affect the structure and form of the garment. The whole process gives you such control and ensures that every piece is unique.

As the designer you choose the basic materials, the way the yarn is spun, then the way the fabric is knitted and then the way the garment is structured and put together. Its a long, time consuming and expensive process, but its very rewarding.

illustration by Stuart Whitton

What are the influences behind the graphic prints, that often appear on the designs?

We met on the Fashion MA at Central St Martins. Although our MA collections were very different, they both had strong graphic elements. It made sense to develop this style together.

What was the experience of studying Knitwear at St Martins?

We both studied Knitwear on the Fashion MA. It was a great experience, it made us tough, confident and it gave us such great experience of working to deadlines, taking fierce criticism, and continually pushing ourselves to improve. It was a stressful but exhilarating process.

What is the decision making process behind the colours of your collections?

We use our primary research as the means to develop the colour palette. Our references are normally from art sources: Rodchenko, the Bauhaus, De Stijl, Memphis, to name a few.

Once we have edited our research we focus on the graphics and colours we find most exciting. We use computer programmes and hand drawings to develop the graphics, and then we have to redesign them specifically to be knitted. There are so many technical limitations in knit, finding ways to work around them are what makes the discipline so exciting and challenging.

Photograph by Amy Gwatkin

What is the relationship between the jewellery designer Corrie Williamson, and Cooperative Designs?

Annalisa: I met Corrie at Brighton University, where we both studied on the BA. We became friends and ran a stall at Camden Market together! When Dorothee and I started the business, we both decided that cooperating with other designers was really important to us. We both loved Corries work, so it made sense to incorporate it into the collection.

We all meet up at the start of the season. We give Corrie a ridiculously conceptual brief, which she then attempts to make some sense from. She then goes away and develops initial samples of materials and shapes. We then meet again with our stylist Elizabeth Cardwell, and the whole process continues.

Photograph by Amy Gwatkin

What techniques do you use to make the garments? Is the outcome influenced by the equipment you have access too?

Absolutely. We specialise in combining really traditional techniques such as intarsias, jacquards, handknits and fairisles with new technologies. Working with advanced yarns, machines and some incredible factories means our garments can really push the limits, whilst still remaining very recognisable as knitwear.

Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

Your clothes have been described as ‘architectural’, how does the design process begin usually for Cooperative Designs?

Our clothes have the architectural aspect because of their predominantly 2D forms. As Dorothee has more of a womenswear background then me, she has developed a process she calls Primary pattern cutting. Pieces are designed as flat graphic angular shapes then left to drape and distort on the body. This process particularly suits knitwear, as it has such great drape and stretch properties.

What is your relationship to the Bauhaus?

We are big fans! We have been speaking to them about a potential collaboration, that would be really exciting for us.

Photograph by Matt Bramford

I loved last year’s down the road from Somerset House with the ‘Zine, the video and the live show in the basement. Does staging a presentation allow more freedom, than if you presented a catwalk show?

Definitely. With a presentation we have the opportunity to design the entire event, we try to encapsulate the feel of the collection as an real experience for our guests. This season we are showing at the Groucho Club, and we have some really exciting plans!

How did the ‘Zine develop?

The Zine developed because we asked our friends and colleagues to take portraits of our collection in their own individual ways. A ‘Zine seemed like a great way to give everyone a little reminder of these portraits to take home. We worked with Amy Gwatkin our photographer to make a really handmade, Lo Fi photocopied zine. We really enjoyed the collaborative process and the end result, and it would be something we would love to develope for the future.


Photograph by Matt Bramford

What are Cooperative Designs currently working on?

We are working on the new collection and getting all the plans for the presentation into place. We have just finished designing a collection for Autumn Winter for Italian super brand Stefanel, the collection should be dropping into stores really soon. We can’t wait to see the collection on the high street all over Europe! We have also just developed a capsule mens Tshirt collection, which will be previewed at LFW, details will soon be revealed!

We have also recently launched an online shop! We are offering archive pieces, show pieces, and special one offs from our collaborators. We are hoping to expand this shop and offer more collaborators and more products as we develop.

The photographs by Matt Bramford are from Cooperative Designs SS10 collection show at London Fashion Week 2010.

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  1. [...] gave an interview to Amelias Magazine, for their Pre London Fashion Week coverage.  See here for the full [...]

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