Audiovisual Cultures episode 53 – Costume and Clothes-making with Amy Jones automated transcript

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hello and welcome to audio-visual cultures the podcast that explores different areas of cultural production I’m Paula Blair and I’m delighted to be joined in a session by Amy Jones to talk about her work as a costumer and designer and maker of bespoke clothing many thanks to supporters at /av cultures please listen to the ends for more ways to donate and get in touch for know I enjoy this really illuminating discussion with a mate my name is Amy Jones and I am the founder of the art wear Emporium which offers a bespoke clothing service specifically a sustainable clothing service as well and then I am also a freelance costume designer and maker I it’s important both financially and then also in terms of inspiration to have two main areas that I work in and I find one often tends to influence the other quite a bit and stops me getting sort of in a rut in terms of design really because I find with a creative subject such you’ve got to be able to give it space to grow and in true self space to grow as well otherwise you can suddenly end up you’re a design hen on a chalk line and you’ve been very sort of restricted for a long time I’ve always been drawn to period clothing and vintage clothing in general I find that often inspires the modern pieces which I design and then also sometimes depending on the production that might be designing or making for you can really go to town and do some sometimes really authentic sort of period stuff as well it’s all of course it’s a bustle dress really fun stuff like that do you have a particular specialism or a favorite area so we could may be taken to first all your children equally I suppose irrespective of what I’m designing what I’m making the core aspect which really usually interests me is the textile and yes it tends to be what informs the design really there’s nothing I love more than going to fabric warehouses and feeling all the way along all the different fabrics and holding up and seeing how they move and they drape and nine times out of ten it is the textile which inspires what its gonna turn into for instance next year I’m planning to move into a van and live in a van and have my studio still I’m learning to drive it’s a little bit scary but before I’d even thought at the size of van I wanted or anything like that the first thing I saw was the fabric which I wanted for the upholstery right it’s just up in the box up there and everything is like I’d be perfect you know figure out the fact I cut dry you know I’m not sure if this is the way of life me know I found the fabric it must be right it starts from the fabric yes whether it’s how it feels or how it looks sometimes both I’ve been known to walk past even charity shop windows sometimes there can be a mannequin with the top way in the shop and it’s something about it the catches my eye one time it was a silk top and it was a really unusual color combination it was a that kind of slightly pink slightly brown mink sort of color that you get combined with a copper oxide green mm-hmm and it’s a color combination I don’t see very often but just it’s literally just out the corner of my eyes let’s go investigate for that then it’s both how it looks and how it feels as you say yes and there’s something about with what you’re doing with the costuming it’s so bodily as well as the tea not just with the ham yeah that’s actuality it’s how it feels actually on the body it is yes and often I’m I’m not really much of a fan of the two dimensions as you will see I personally as you are now on my work table I’m working on designs for The Snow Queen which Northumberland theatre company are taking on tour from the end of November and it’s unusual for me to actually put full designs down on paper to communicate to someone else usually I’m just communicating to myself it’s a quick sketch on a back of an envelope and let’s get on the stand really I prefer to work in three dimensions really to sort of hash out the idea rather than try and work it out in two dimensions I find I can I can work better with the fabric because I like to sort of it sounds a bit strange but collaborate with the fabric really like I make some decisions but actually it makes certain amount of decisions as well and I find that’s one of the things that stops me getting too much you know design rut as well I’m not actually fully in control of the process but that’s okay really and you sort of start moving the fabric around and it sort of says no I don’t want to go there and it doesn’t feel right oh let’s go the other way then and then it you sort of see some lovely folds and it starts to sit how you want it to sit and sometimes it alters the design from initially what you had in mind and you think Oh you can do this much better than I can you know what you’re about and you know and you learn from the fabric as you work with it as well the banshan to think about this um so you’re working on costumes for a theatrical production I am yes but you also make this book closing yes so you’re dating very much as people’s identity in their presentation and that sort of thing and how much is there a collapse between how people perform themselves and their everyday life and people having to wear costumes that are very maybe from buoyant or have to have some sort of meaning and a theatrical performance do you find there’s a slipperiness between those or do you think they inform each other a bit maybe I’m just going too hard on that similar thought process that goes through both with the bespoke clothing it’s more sort of in terms of day to day life or or an event that somebody wants it for where’s obviously with theatre side things it’s a character that you’ve been given rather than your own character but I would say there’s a similar thought process that goes through both even though the outcome is often very very different one of my tasks as a designer is to whether it’s getting out of the individual because it’s a spoke contractor in the two of us or digging information out of directors which is not easy often because they don’t even quite know what they want until you put it in front of them they go yes or hmm maybe not in everything so yes it’s teasing out that information really out of either party really to distill what they want from the garment which will portray the character how do you go about designing costumes would you’d be doing it for the whole cast or is there a team of people doing it but this particular production I’m doing it’s quite a small production so I am the entire costume team right yes I have the option to have some freelancers come in if I need extra pairs of hands but basically I’m a one-woman ban on this one which was a little unexpected there’s a little bit of a miscommunication at first between myself and the set designer and everything and both of us were pretty sure that she was doing all the design and I was doing the making for the costume and not so that’s or change the dynamic but in some ways I prefer that there’s just a bit more consistency in terms of you’re not having to wait for the designs to get to you and everything before you can crack on with the making of them so timewise that helps quite a lot yes it’s quite a small cast it’s only four actors and there’s probably about eleven twelve parts between them so the challenge is because Northumberland theatre company tend to tour around small rural areas and its small theatres which they’re all usually at community centres so you haven’t got big wings and spaces for people to change and everything so they tend to the actors who aren’t in that particular scene they come off the stage they’re at the sides of the audience and they just change their sit down watch whatever is going on and then go back on again when it’s their time to come back home it’s interesting how you take that into account with the design process because you can’t have them stripping off at the side of the stage you know it might somewhat distract the audience so yes they will have to have a base costume and then transform in terms of what they’re adding on for that particular character which they go not so that must be a big thing to factor in is how quickly can they get out of something and into something yes indeed and they haven’t got anybody to help them either with it in fact the snow Queens dress is the one which is the biggest challenge with that because I’m intending it for it to be three costumes combined into one and you lift layers of it and you change into a different character just get that sort of magical aspect and everything so it’s gonna be quite weighty but in terms of changing everything she’s got to be able to get in and out of it herself and relatively quickly as well I read a few years ago that the RSC get around this problem by using magnets Oh which is very handy and I’m going to Nick that right here because corset tree lacing would take too long hooks and eyes would take too long velcro is very noisy zips can get stuck buttons can take too long as well so you have to have something which will hold the dress how you want it to sit nice and fit it but you can literally peel it off and take it off straight away so it’s finding those kind of solutions really which work well with the design which is often the challenge yeah and being a maker actually informs the design process I find I find of for quite a few years I’ve strayed away from being a designer because I haven’t felt that I’ve had enough knowledge in terms of making process and it is true the more you make the more you learn about different shaping techniques what works what doesn’t and just at that point I’m feeling more confident to get into the design side of things because I’m feeling I’m going to design things which will actually work rather than someone gives you this crazy sketch an intersect well how are you gonna get in and out of it we’re just putting there in and staying the rest of time in there so these sort of practical aspects have to come into it well yeah yeah and it’s something that audiences wouldn’t really think about very much no and no it’s really nice to hear some of the details of is autumn indeed in a clever way so that can be done I suppose in another saying that would probably be with both theatrical costumes and everyday clothes is durability yes very much so I mean I had a design meeting last week with the director and the production designer as well and they said please make them durable because we’re going on tour with the ease of slip right double stitching all around I did some work first Scottish ballet at one point apparently a ballet dancer can rot through elastic in three weeks it literally disintegrates into powder just because they’re sweating so much into the costumes so when you’re working on a ballet production if you’re a hoarder of assistant there’s a lot of repairs that need to go on quite often so that was quite interesting would you stay on the big send for the full term of a production if you’re the maker and the designer than if you need to do repair sure to somebody else usually it depends on the size of the production quite often you have making wardrobe and you have running wardrobe so the making water up to do all the making and the designing and everything and then as the run starts they hand the whole lot over to running wardrobe and they have to do the repairs and the cleaning and make sure it’s all organized ready for the run basically the production which I’m working on the moment it’s quite a small company in this case the actors and the stage manager are in charge of their costumes for the run and it’s quite small cast as was that’s quite manageable I’m taking that into account in the design process all of the actors will have basically cotton t-shirt and leggings or con Titian trousers underneath that will be what gets washed regularly and there I have two sets of that just in case they’re doing a show one night in a show the next night or a matinee and an evening just depends so there are two sets each so you can get through that and then everything else kind of goes on the top doesn’t need to be washed really so that helps in terms of work during the run and in terms of durability as well if you’re not having to put something through the washing machine every night it’s going to be more durable as well it’s quite a bit yeah and as the cast and size and things get bigger and bigger and bigger you know that’s why you meet armies of people you know it’s great watching stuff like Downton Abbey for example when the credits come up it’s three pages of costume goodness it’s like a smaller army up and going to get inspiration from things like that I do yes yes the two that I watched most recently I found inspired me quite a lot work one called Gentleman Jack all right yes I don’t know if you watched it it was beautifully done and actually they did a historical period which you don’t see very often you’ve got the Regency period Jane Austen all the dresses which are kind of just under bust and then flowing down it’s a classical style but this is just after that and the waist lines have gone down again and you’ve got these big leg-of-mutton sleeves and these full skirts but you haven’t quite got into crinoline yet which is more Victorian it’s about Ben right in the middle basically of that century just before Victoria comes to the throne it’s not actually a period which visually I like very much but since watching that it was beautifully done the cut and the fit and the choice of coloring and the locations and the dressing of the rooms it all works really really well someone really paid a lot of attention so it’s and then the other thing was it’s the red princess or something like that was a Catherine of Aragon in the years before she married Henry the 8th you really see a sense of different age groups and different cultures coming into that because she came over from Spain so she’s wearing a Spanish farthingale which is a very different style to what was being worn in Britain at that time and that really made her stand out but then you have the grandmother patriarch of the whole family and Margaret Beaufort and she’s very much in old sort of more immedi evil styles of pre Tudor style more sort of long robes so it’s nice seeing the differences of nationality and then also the differences of age come into the costume as well something I’m watching now is also Regency but the old woman in the play she’s wearing more late 18th century so with your fitted bodice and your full skirt rather than the waistline I’m coming up to underbust I think it makes very well-rounded production because you even as you get older you tend to gravitate more to what you wore when you were a young woman or in your middle years I’ve noticed that we’re doing bespoke as well people find a style I suppose somewhere between 25 and 40 depending on if they have children if their figure changes because that will often change their style in terms of what they choose for themselves but if their figure mostly stays the same for the most part they tend to have fixed on what they like for themselves around about 30 I suppose then that’s back to that question of identity and feeling at what point of your life do you find I mean I do and holding on to that yeah and I feel like we I suppose socially we have this sense of when you get older you’re supposed to dress like an older person but if your body his age but you still feel like the younger you yes dress like that you know is that something that you well my target market is mostly women who are 40 plus you look at the high street and go I don’t feel very comfortable wearing that now it was fine when I was in my twenties and even in my thirties just about but no it feels too young the necklines are too low the hemlines are too high it’s just not what I want to wear but then they look at the brands and they find actually the styling is virtually the same it’s just the price tag is higher and then you look at M&S which is fine for when you’re walking the dog where you’re in the garden but it’s not what you sort of yearn to wear in terms of something that you feel looks really stylish on and it sort of leaves them in this kind of no-man’s land really they’ve got the money to spend and the urge to spend it as well they actually want to buy nice things to wear but there’s just nothing that’s really grabbing them and often the women that I’ve come across who are like this they’ve got the kind of thing of that the high street doesn’t really cater to you know they’ve had a few children Fitness might have gone by the by for a few years because being focused on various different things but they’ve still got an attractive figure it’s not but they’re acknowledging that’s not the figure they had in their 20s so I suppose identity kind of comes into that a bit more the other thing I’ve started recently well it’s in the melting pot it’s gonna hopefully be coming out soon is a wardrobe streamlining service which particularly with women who have got mostly more into their 50s and their 60s they’ve accumulated a lot of clothing and still when they’re going to go out for the day or go out for the evening the bedroom is strewn with clothing and and like I have nothing to wear and my aunt was getting this problem a lot she’s very petite but very curvy a lot of change over a small area basically and nothing really quite fits it’s all too long in the leg doesn’t come in enough at the waist and she’s been spending money for years on clothing and nothing quite works and so she decided to take a stand against this and she said Amy I’m not going to be buying clothing anymore I’m gonna get you to make it I’ve got a patron and quite a challenging one as well but yeah she comes down from Edinburgh for a few days and we have alterations we have alteration holidays and she sits usually where you are sitting now and I’m on the sewing machine or at the cutting table we try it on we do the fitting we do alterations and put it back on and everything as I said I did this wardrobe streamlining service with her to sort of trial it out really it took the best part of two days and she tried on every item of clothing she had and we talked about it in terms of why she bought it what she likes about it does it fit as it is if it doesn’t fit is it just a case of a small alteration and then it’s a very useful item to have in the wardrobe or and I suppose this is where identity comes in more is it relevant for your life as it is now because you might have bought it when you know you had an office job and it was important to be you know sort of clean lines very smart and everything but in her case she’s retired now and everything and I’m saying is this relevant for your life now when would you wear it within your day-to-day life that you have as we speak now and quite often she was just mmm I don’t think it has a role anymore and there was nothing wrong with it I hadn’t worn out or anything but it’s just not relevant anymore so we had Keith Chuck and alter different piles and it worked out very well and and even now when I talked to us she said you know it’s totally changed she’s been able to group things in terms of outfits in what goes with what and she could just go to the wardrobe have a little rifle through and pick something out and it’s a lot less stressful so that’s a side of things which I’m wanting to develop because I don’t think she will be unique in terms of needing a little bit help with that sometimes you just need someone to be ruthless and say that looks horrible on you check it out there was a bit surprised at first but I imagine I would probably need something

you just need somebody to go that’s not working for you no this is something you could do if you don’t want to lose it but yes it might be time to say goodbye yes or do something to make it then fit in yes really old wrinkles or something I’ve been trying to learn to do lately myself because I’ve got so many cause well it’s more my sisters had a lot of fluctuations in her weight and I’ve had a lot of her clothes because said have you hit her anymore but they don’t quite fit me either I’m so I’ve been trying to do things to the your elastic waist so that they don’t fall down all the time yes I don’t like wearing belts and just little things like that it’s a really useful just having ideas for what you can do but yeah possibilities that just because something’s come off the rocket doesn’t mean it has to stay like that no it doesn’t know I’ve had a few things which I’ve sort of dramatically reworked sometimes for myself my mum found this beautiful Nicole Farhi wool and silk skirt in a charity shop and it was all cut on the bias and it flowed really nicely but she bought it for me when I wasn’t there and it fit my waist okay but it didn’t quite fit my hips really and it never did I never quite satin the zip always rippled and everything a bit and I sort of hid it with things there because it was a nice skirt to wear but the fit wasn’t quite there and it was because it was a mass-produced item there was no seam allowance there was nothing I could let out to make it fit a bit better and they ended up not wearing it really and it was a beautiful piece of fabric and I thought right all my clothing has to earn its place in my water it has to work hard and anything that’s lacking gets everything also if I’m because I make clothing I make for myself as well as often I am my my best form of advertising really has me walking around and stuff so I’ve got to the point if I want something new something has got to go I’m not prepared to make that sacrifice then I can’t have something new because otherwise you know wardrobe you can just spread and spread spread and and I live in a very small flat and I will soon be living in an even smaller van so large wardrobes is not an option really you’ve got to have those key items work well and you know in fact most ways you don’t even need a mirror you know you can just put it on go I suppose then that can take us on nicely to the issue of sustainability because that’s something you’ve been working really hard towards yes we’ve been thinking a lot lately about clothing West I’ve become very fascinated by artists who use textiles and sculptural work sort of things oh there’s an artist called tau Lewis she uses scrap denims and bits of clothing that people have thrown away or from thrift stores and charity shops and stuff and she use them to make really huge handsome sculptures and welts and things yes they’re really incredible and that they usually have some sort of message about clothing West there’s a beautiful quote that she did that’s a seascape that’s a coral reef and Wow so it is really gorgeous message if I was going west and polluting the oceans or things throw away and using discarded clothing to do that yes so there’s that issue of clearing out your wardrobe but what then do you do with the waste the things that you don’t want you know can they be used or something else and also how do we cut dine in the first place so that’s a really good scheme that you have for yourself so I’m not allowing you things yes I am done with all of these things yes definitely she have tips for people for how to do bad you have to be ruthless about it if you want if that’s the route that you want to go and not just think oh well just one little extra t-shirt won’t make it you know too much because it’s never just one it’s two it’s three it’s four it’s a dress it’s a jacket at the code and suddenly your wardrobe is bursting at the seams wardrobe organization I think helps a lot I think there’s been a number of people who do channels on this on YouTube fitting things into small spaces usually and everything when you have got a lot of storage but I think it’s also quite good in terms of outfits as I did with my aunt when we went through our wardrobe putting things together so you can literally just go to it and you know what you would wear in that combination because 9 times out of 10 we tend to gravitate you know we’ll have more than we actually we’re really but we’ll tend to gravitate probably about a maximum of 10 outfits I think regularly so my tip would be sort of be honest you know divide your water what do you actually wear what do you wear regularly what it’s always in and out of the wash and put that to one side and then honestly look what you have left and yes there’ll be some pieces in there just that you think oh yeah I’ll wear that for an occasion so yeah should definitely have that it’s very useful dress but it’s not something I’m wearing all the time but you know if I have weddings that come up it’s a failsafe one I know that’s going to be a good one but then you might have various items of clothing that I’ve just been sitting there for quite some time that you just don’t really wear them in which case send them to charity and someone else might instantly fall in love with them and it’s just the piece they’ve been wanting for their wardrobe I believe there’s also a scheme in this particular city there’s a few cities it goes on in you can donate I think it’s linked to one of the charities I think it’s shelter or something like that and you can donate clothing dye to them and they divide it up basically clothing that you’d wear interviews quite a lot and people who are homeless who are looking for jobs and everything and they get an interview but they think you know I’ve got nothing to wear for interview you can go to this particular warehouse and you can look through what they’ve got and put an outfit together and borrow that for the interview and I thought that’s a really good way of repurposing clothing that you might not wear anymore rather than just putting in charity shop I think the West End refugee service might do something something right well yes yeah I think the last time I was here I saw you had him an amazing skirt that was put together from those scraps ah yes my approach is sustainability I see bespoke it’s very much a sustainable practice because you are only making what a person Commission’s you for at that time you’re not making excess stock which is just going to sit there not be sold and have to be repurposed in some way I very much see that as a sustainable practice but in addition to that I am still making clothing and you still get a lot of scrap and waste from that as well so it was probably about two years ago I was noticing how much I was doing a lot of making so back to back and I was noticing just how much there was in terms of offcuts as I’m making you was end up with quite a lot of off cuts but a lot does get thrown away and I was making a lot of items in Jersey fabric and that time as well and I thought there must be something I can do with this and at the time I thought I’ll shove it is your back and put it to one side and have a think because I know there’s something there but I just haven’t you know touched on it yet and then I had an idea of making a zero-waste textile basically so all these pieces would be put together and you have to line them up correctly so that they all stretch in the same way in everything it’s quite arduous work really there’s quite a lot that goes into it which explains why the fashion industry doesn’t do it really because they would have to charge so much for it whereas that’s one of the advantages of doing a spoke being a one-woman band you know I can take a bit more time to do these things and then I can charge accordingly because the joy there is it’s completely and it changes all the time depending on what I’m making on what new scraps I’m making and so that goes into the mix and it’s just this ever-changing organic textile and then when I go to take a pattern piece to cut something out of it’s like the dress you saw for example again it’s that sort of I’m influencing the design process a certain amount but so is the textile and I tend to fold it in half to where I’m gonna lay the pattern piece lay it out cut it out and then it’s quite you get a little thrill really when you take the paper off and everything unfold out and you see just where which colors have just that’s where they’ve hit in terms of where they’ll be on the body I don’t tend to try and control that okay at all as you know not at all I don’t even place anything in particular I just see where it’s gonna go yeah and actually I think it’s one of those things if I did try to influence it it would look a bit contrived where is because I don’t and I make a point just stepping back and that’s just how it’s gonna be you get some really amazing results and I’m planning to do the same with a fabric which is non stretch as well so I can make coats and jackets from that as well that’s what my next collection is going to be and it’s called a where the idea of being aware of the waste that is produced and putting it to good use not just discarding it and not taking responsibility basically for I think it’s all our responsibilities it’s all our duty to take responsibility for the waste that we all contribute to producing because we are the consumers all these things are being made for us all the waste is being generated in order to provide us frankly with more variety than we really need yeah I think yes I think particularly in this our generation and everything we have gotten used to far too much choice much more than our parents had and I think a lot of us are reluctant to give it up really I didn’t come from a very wealthy background so choice was always limited anyway and finance was always limited to so in a way I’m not an atypical consumer it’s always been a bit frugal and because it’s been frugal for so long that’s just life really I think if I won the lottery tomorrow it wouldn’t stop me you know going to Vinci sails and all that sort of thing I won’t have to worry about the rent and that would be nice but a lot of things I do which minimize waste they’re more intrinsic to me and my identity rather than something I do because I haven’t got the money I think it’s so drilled in now let it go I understand that that’s Queens and that’s really important to remember those roots yeah hi successfully you might become it’s really important to remember where you come from I always think about my mum when she was a child she only ever wore things that my grandmother made for her you know and that was so normal and that’s really not that long ago in history that no that’s what everybody did yes and I it is too easy you know that I suppose society of fast fashion yes I mean I’m looking straight across at TK Maxx at the moment Sports Director I’ve decided to advertise them and the whole high streets right in the streets you know you can go and get three t-shirts for a tenner or somewhere you know as I often know you gonna wear them as you say and and who’s had to pay a price along the way exactly are you to have that cheap accessibility sure as hell not gonna be the big company that you’re buying it from they’ve made sure they’re covered that’s it yeah it could be some kid in Bangladesh sure yes wherever it’s really important and that I suppose that’s really why I wanted to talk to you so much was because you’re edging into that but it’s also fascinating from a design point of view not only of the scrap pieces all coming together and make a new fab yes it’s very enjoyable to work with and it very much ties back to a textile being the primary influencer for me really in terms of what I make and how I make it’s always the fabric the catches my eye and everything so it’s it’s very nice to be making a textile which is completely unique yeah as well I can’t even recreate it again yeah you know once that section of it is gone I can’t remake it at all that’s also something else which is quite key to my work as well a genuine unique quality I don’t think I ever really repeat anything exactly even for myself there are a few styles which I’ve repeated but I change things about them or I change them according to what textile I’m using quite often as well and then I suppose that carry Sir Ian – who has even made four that’s a different body every time and even that body will change yes yes there is an aspect of discovering the wheel each time in some ways you discover a bit less the more you do it I would say that’s one of the things with bespoke it’s always new it’s a new person it’s a new body it’s a new fabric it’s a new style which keeps it interesting but sometimes it can be a bit challenging especially when someone is determined to have something made in a fabric that is not suitable for it and you’re attempting to talk away from it you cannot make that garment in that fabric and it work it just won’t I can’t force it to do something it won’t want to do it’s very much like an oncoming tsunami you’re not gonna win that one if it’s not gonna do it it’s not gonna do it you will have to adjust or go to higher ground whichever is broken I suppose on that oh thank you northern sustainable fashion revolution that was very illuminating I was one of the featured designers and then I also went to a number of the talks and found out some very worrying things about viscose fabric production yes I have now since that lecture which I went to wish Louisa Rogers did I’ve actually stopped buying this goes altogether even though it is basically a natural product because it’s made from beechwood might often the chemical processes that you have to go through in order to make the fibre into a quality that you can actually spin it and all this sort of thing it’s very very toxic both to the people who work with it and to waterways where the excess sort of chemical products tend to be disposed into and they are trying to refine it and improve it but it’s on those things that it’s a slow process and I imagine it’s a challenge to find chemicals which will do what your old toxic chemicals will do but without being quite so toxic you still need them to make a certain effect upon the raw fiber itself so I can understand the industry having problems changing into more sustainable practices and with that in mind I just decided maybe I’ll just rule out this whole side of fiber altogether and I much prefer a cotton Jersey anyway and we’ll Jersey and silk Jersey sort of thing anyway the sight of sustainability which I’m trying to build more in my practice is the fabrics which I sauce because at the moment a lot of them that I’ve got are remainded fabrics which I’ve I have been given or I’ve found in fabric warehouses but as they ran out I’m wanting to replace them with fabrics which I know for sure are sustainably produced and across all their levels as well because quite often they’ll talk about the fiber going from the field and being made into yarn and that’s you know well considered but in the process of it going from being yarn into a fully formed fabric sometimes that area of the process can have been completely ignored in terms of sustainability and toxicity to both water and individuals as well animal cruelty can often come into that side of things well getting it so it ticks all the boxes all the way along the line to the point that it rides with you my goodness it takes a lot of research proving quite challenging and I’m coming to the conclusion that’s the easiest way to ensure that a lot of those boxes are ticked is to go with small production houses there’s one that I discovered just earlier this year I went to a future fabrics Expo event in London with a friend who’s another girl who was one of the featured designers in the northern sustainable fashion revolution in order to sort of discover any sort of new fabrics which are coming out and everything which are more sustainable because sometimes it can be quite hard hunting on the internet actually find what you’re looking for in that side of things and I came across the company well it’s a type of fabric called Bristol cloth and it’s all made within 12 miles of all the production areas are all within 12 miles of each other so it’s not being flown here and there and across the country and all that sort of thing or even internationally and the farm based outside of Bristol and they provide the raw fleece and then that is spun into yarn and it’s taken to another company which diet with all’s of natural vegetable dyes and then it goes through a small weaving company in Bristol and they weave it into the final cloth and it’s beautiful stuff so I’m more going down that route trying to bring us many new sustainable fabrics in because also the more we buy them as well the cheaper they’ll get at the moment they’re quite expensive yeah especially if they’re being made in this country it’s got to be made with the wages in mind which are applicable in this country rather than what is in the Far East which is obviously cheaper so yes it is all quite expensive at the moment you know some 95 pounds a meter that’s a lot both for me and for me to put onto my customer but the more that we buy it the more that we endorse it then the cheaper it will get that’s of a route in terms of my textiles which I’m wanting to move towards possibly even getting undyed textiles as well dyeing them myself that’s the other side things which I’m looking into but I’ll have to go and do some courses I think on natural dummying and fixing and all those aspects of it to make it viable so it’s interesting to always be increasing your training as well I’m not sort of I’m a designer and a maker and and now I’m done with all that learning stuff and everything no no definitely not I will probably be learning until the day I drop it’ll probably be what the Paris’s is in her it’s a setting yeah because the more we learn about how all the systems work yes the more horrifying it is and you know what do you think how can we break it but unless you say it’s perseverance like anything I am afraid that the core problem comes back to the core problem with everything whether your subject matter is the environment food fashion jobs whatever it is the problem is there are too many of us yeah and that is what makes all these industries so polluting because they happen to produce so much quantity in order to keep themselves both economically afloat and keep up the demand there just are too many of us really and it’s the problem irrespective of the subject area when you stop having babies standard yes yes when capitalism has its benefits but it’s the whole system in place on a global level yes and it’s that that is partly behind driving people having so many babies because it’s marketed it is such a great thing and then you have to buy all these many things for your babies and all this amount of time yes you do and then they will become babies will become workforce and the cycle will repeat yes so nothing smaller I suppose thinking about prices and stuff because you know obviously there are so many people who can’t afford very much and that’s where fast fashion has got its niche because it’s like fast food you can have these things with handing over very little money but if they only last a few weeks because you’re having you aware of them all the time and they don’t really survive the wash I mean it’s assertive quality of clothes are you the first couple of times you wash it it’s already you can already see the wear on it yes but it’s so difficult for so many people to go that extra mile to pay the extra money to get something that’ll really last for years yes yeah it’s a cultural difference as well really because we’ve been brought up with so much choice and yes it’s been too cheap for too long really people think well that’s what it costs on no it’s really not if that same t-shirt that you’ve just had three quid for was made in this country if the textile was made in this country and the T shows cut and put together and finished in this country you’d be paying significantly a probably about five times more for it it’s a false economy really in that respect it might be nice to talk a little bit about your marketing and how you market your work because you mentioned earlier that you often are doing it by wearing it and you’re in a lot of the photographs of your work and my first encounter with you is during the late shows and it does something rather beautiful you have a couple of dancers in your clothes I did yes one of my other passions is Argentine tango and for that particular event I thought it would be a nice way to bring people in also designing dance wear is a little bit different to designing day to day where you have to take different things into account and everything in terms of comfort and movement so it’s a slightly different aspect to clothing as well my marketing is a little bit patchy in places like many creative types it’s the side which they either are not interested in or don’t really know how to go up out starting with I would say I’m sort of a mixture of those two things I do wear my own stuff so yes I am very much my own advertising I permanently have business cards on me and a lot of building my businesses profile over the last few years has been people saying I love what you’re wearing where did you get it and I go I made it this is me I do everything it’s helped to spread the word I mean I open I started the art way Emporium in 2012 when I was working as a costume technician for Cumbria University and it’s the most steady wage I had ever had and I had enough space and I thought right I’m gonna do this I’m gonna make it official in terms of HMRC you know I’m gonna be a real person but you know tax and all that sort of thing it’s taken a long time to grow it in that respect and also with the advent of social media coming up as well in some ways I was reluctant with some of it I was mainly using Facebook for quite some time with it I just recently ventured onto Instagram so many people have been saying to me all you have to get on Instagram and everything and I thought I’m gonna have to bite the bullet aren’t I that means I’m going to have to get a smartphone Oh shuddering at the idea still to this day nobody has that number for that smartphone yes no it does not exist it is merely a mini computer because there is no other way I can get onto Instagram so I have to have it it serves its purposes but it is not going to pervade my life and turn me into someone who is constantly absorbed by a screen because that annoys me somewhat number of times you’re sort of sitting on the metro these days new look in front of you and it’s a lost long line people absorbed in various different sized screens with headphones in makes me want to sort of throw little things if they notice they seem so in a trunk so you’re not gonna get them out of it at all but yes I am starting to get into social media a bit more and Instagram hasn’t been as horrible as I was expecting it’s being in some ways it has in fact helped me to connect with a whole range of people around the globe you know people sort of following me from you know America and Australia and China Wow you know I wouldn’t really have come across people in that same way without that and various things I started using Twitter a bit more as well and I thought how does this hashtag lock work because I was trying some things that’s like oh this is how it all works and that’s how I found out about the future fabrics Expo event that I went to in London I found out about it through Twitter and through the company who launched it called the sustainable angle and this is interesting oh when’s this oh my goodness it’s a week away I’m not gonna be able to afford the train fare and everything but it turned out quite cheap and I got on to my friend Hannah as well I said shall we go for it and she said yes surprising usually she did this a bit more about decisions like that’s like no we’re going we’re going to London next week oh my goodness this is a bit sudden really but no it was very interesting event found out a lot more there I had a chance to network more as well yes it’s just finally getting to that point that it’s tipping over and it was a couple of years ago I felt it really sort of start to change where a friend that I know very well her daughter-in-law to be specifically asked for me to make her wedding dress and that was the first time that it hadn’t been someone directly connected to me it was one step removed and it was someone specifically asking for me I didn’t have to do any sort of promotional marketing to get it and everything and I thought oh this might be just starting to change a little bit and about eighteen months ago I managed to secure some funding as well because problem I was having was I was working in the bridal industry very hard time and then I was doing hardware Emporium hard time as well and it was though it was a rocket kind of hovering just off the ground but it didn’t have enough you know propulsion to really get it to fly I just got it off the ground but it wasn’t gonna go anywhere until I could plow the full five to six seven-day week into it really to get it to really move a family member said you know well I’ll fund you for two years and so you don’t have to worry about the bills or anything and you can plow over time into promoting it and taking on more commissions because you’ve got the time to do so and then I could save that money and then once the funding runs out then I can start living on it so I always have at least a year’s worth of income kind of in hand while I’m working on making the income for the following year I mean it’s still a little bit on a knife edge but it seems the only sort of viable way that I can live doing what I want to do as well rather than having to sacrifice so much time just to make ends meet which I think it’s a problem for my generation is kind of having quite a lot yeah at the moment the amount of time that has to be ploughed into just being able to make ends meet

it does surprising how how well rested you have to be to be creative and the number of people who think well you could just go and do it just like I go and do my office jobs not so much if only in some ways it would be much easier but some days you’re just not in the right mindset for it or you’re overtired and you really can’t be creative when you’re overtired either or there’s just other things buzzing around your brain which you boring things like admin laundry or you know things you just need to get done and out of the way before you feel you can relax and process and concentrate on that sometimes I need a little snooze in the middle of the day I call it a creative snooze and just sometimes I need to knock out my conscious brain and let my subconscious sort of work through things I sometimes do that when I’m trying to work out how to do a design I’ve got it in my mind but not quite sure how to translate it into three dimensions because it’s a bit complex and I find that can make a big difference yeah what about the NIA Mart where Emporium because there’s a suggestion of wearing art and you see being quite bold but saying I make art that people wear yes well I decided on that after in fact art where is is a area of clothing it was very much inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris and all that side of things I think he was the one who famously said you should have nothing in your life that you do not know to be beautiful or believed to be useful and I thought yes actually people preferably boats if you can get both in the one item I would have thought at the time when he and all the guys were doing their thing and everything their wives were sort of exploring different sort of sides of fashion much more it’s not talked about a lot for that I would say that’s very much the root of art where as such at a time where bespoke was the norm you had everything which was made to measure for you and everything and you get some beautiful historical textiles from around that time too both made in this country and then also imported but I decided to adopt it from the point of view of doing bespoke and the idea of making something which is unique and really stands out because a lot of the women who I was talking to at the time it was not only that stuff didn’t fit they were just bored with what they were looking at nothing was really grabbing their attention in the way that you know you’re walking along you get those little boutiques and you go that’s nice anything they weren’t getting that wow factor anymore they weren’t getting some that returns their head either for the cattle for the textile for whatever reason yes I wanted to bring that into the design of the samples which I do and often I use samples in order to inspire people in terms of what they might like for themselves it was a few years ago I made a dress one of my collections and my mum was the inspiration for it she often used to say oh you know when you’ve got parties going on in summer and it’s nicer weather and everything sure I never know what to wear everything’s almost to strappy and she doesn’t want her arms out or it’s too short and she prefers something long it was always sort of a pain really and I thought right if I was going she didn’t Commission me to do this but she was the inspiration for this design I thought right summer dress which covers your arms is a nice neckline to show off a necklace a bold necklace because she likes a bold jewelry it’s full length but doesn’t feel really formal because it’s full length and I came up with a design which I called the pick up dress because it’s very long dress and then you pick up areas of it and then you sew them so you get loads of areas when you get loads of interesting ruching details as well which for an older figure if there’s anything that you want to draw attention away with that particular figure it’s a very good technique to you so you can have a few extra rushes around the stomach area if they’re just like all we don’t like my tummy or anything or if they say haven’t got as much of a curvy bum as they would like you could put a few more rushes around it’s just like I will invent you a bum dress you have more bun and it would see ya which then and a lot of its to do with illusion work as well because if you make your bum look more curvy it makes your waist look more narrow as a result so yes or playing with that it’s really interesting a lot of designs come out of that too do you find it’s quite an empowering thing to give women especially back a better control over how their body can look to other people through the clothes yes very much so yes especially if they’re a bit tentative at first when you sort of help them and guide them along and then they turn up for their first fitting and they see the item of clothing on the stand and they go oh it looks even nicer than I thought it was I was a little bit nervous at one point but actually it really really works yes I know I knew it would yeah I think it empowers them quite a bit more when they can have an influence over what they choose for themselves and guiding them into choosing it for their lifestyle as well they often seem quite relieved at the end of it to be just like Oh finally got something I know it’s gonna work and I know it looks nice I mean I don’t have to keep glancing in the mirror and thinking does it actually work or does it not so yeah it’s very satisfying when you package something up for someone you’ve been making for them for usually quite some time it takes quite some time to make something completely from scratch and everything and all the fittings involved in the finishings and all that sort of thing but they go out the door with it and they’re happy with it and in some ways you’re relieved to never have to see it again as well because usually you’ve been looking at it for far too long and you like it into theory but you’re just tired of looking I need something new you just come into my head where do you stand on pockets and women’s clothing her pockets are saying they’re eating I have a mixed relationship with pockets obviously when you’re doing menswear they’re often quite key and when I’ve been doing menswear as well the men often say and I want the pockets nice and deep probably got pocket bags down to your knees you know but actually a lot of the women which I’ve made for they don’t like pockets they don’t like the line of it I think most of them would agree that they’re very useful but they don’t like how it’s sort of distracts from the eye and takes away from that smooth silhouette with some things iin dup sort of bullying them into having pocket it’s really in some ways because especially with most of classic tailoring it doesn’t look right without them something’s missing you won’t believe what a transforming effect belt loops have on a pair trousers yes tiny little loops and it doesn’t look like a real pair of trousers until you’ve got the belt loop astonished strips of fabric and an even if you don’t wear a belt with them yes yes they really do need to be there strange thing that unless you’re doing sort very like Spanish style Matador trials which I quite like you don’t need belt loops for that I think that’s my dream is to have a really massive skirt so I can just pick deep pockets and say oh right the pockets are hidden away somewhere mm-hmm well that’s actually quite interesting you should say that that’s quite a period feature yanked when you get 18th century dresses and they’ve got the under skirts and then you’ve got the bodice and then the skirt goes down the back they would have had little pockets on the inside and everything and it was tied in it wasn’t sewed in but yes so they did have pockets one point there’s this dress at Betty Davis worse and all the buddies it’s a party going but it’s like a shirt off the top hmm and this big skirt get a wide long skirt yep with really deep pocket and she’s just like so boss you know she’s just so yes yes fine Janine’s she got this really gorgeous figure at the top and then this makes Carla hands in the pockets and she’s boss and everybody yeah I think I know the one you means yes definitely that would be my dream mmm your dream dress yeah well it can be arranged it will be to your measurements and in the fabric of your choice because I said for that it must be fascinating working with so many different body shapes as well and trying to work with them rather than against them yes about what you do too because I just find I’m quite short in the torso not quite long in the legs yes and I need a different size and my bust the UN standard sizes yes and hips and waists and things and it’s just awkward I give you shine earlier to try and get closer fit because we don’t have standardized bodies no bodies I know it’s ridiculous having standardized sort of clothing sizes really I know everybody feels yes and it ends up the women place a lot of store on a number yeah a number that doesn’t really mean anything you notice it a lot in the bridal industry the boutique which I was working out which I just left a couple of years ago the sales girls they would measure the bride’s and everything and then it’s so right well you’re coming up as this size for this brand and the look of horror on the face of the bride’s you have to say no it’s American sizing it’s American sizing the number seems big but it’s the equivalent of this in our sizing but sometimes some Brides would get really hooked up on it so no I want the smaller dress so it’s not gonna fit you you know and there’s not often very much room to let things out okay well you would want to be uncomfortable surely if you’re wearing something and you’re everybody’s looking at you you need to be comfortable showing that should matter more than than the number which is on the time which no one will ever see you I could cut it out they never know what they will remember is whether you look as you said whether you look comfortable in your dress and everything and and you enjoying whether it wearing it or you know everything is digging in and you can’t wait until you can get damn thing off because it’s a presentation yeah silence how you feel in your body and then how that exceeds right well I’ve kept you quite a bit so is there anything else you would like to talk about maybe just to add that the art where Emporium will be featuring on wardrobe of tomorrow which is a new sustainable fashion marketplace which has just launched at the end of August yes and they’ve got various big names on board Stella McCartney’s one of the main ones really she’s also believe she’s one of the main backers as well for it yes for people who are interested in sustainable fashion and want to incorporate more of it into their lives but the idea of doing extensive amounts of research to find something puts them off this is an ideal site to be able to go to and you can shop by categories as well so there’s categories a limited edition bespoke artisan vegan upcycling so various different things so you can choose a category and you can shop by that and they have betted all the designers which they put on their site so you can be confident you’re buying something which is genuinely sustainable which is I think it’s a good move in towards making sustainable fashion more available not something that you have to spend hours and hours of research attempting to hunt down the art world Emporium we’ll be featuring on that in due course I’m not sure in the next few weeks put it up that’s fine look for links by the time this of be coming oh yeah it should be in a few weeks time so I’m quite well match up yes yeah it’s just wardrobe of tomorrow calm great and if anybody wants to look at your website yes that is www dot the art wear Emporium com doing it and that’s got my current collection on and in a few weeks we’ll have my new zero waste collection on as well fantastic and you mentioned you’re on Instagram Twitter Facebook is it if people search for the art wear Emporium they’ll find you they will find me yes brilliant yeah we just can’t thank you enough spending a lovely afternoon I’d had the deep gorgeous studio yeah overlooking Newcastle city centre and it’s not pouring with rain which is an advantage you’ve been listening to audio-visual cultures with me Paula Blair and my special guest Amy Jones this episode was recorded and edited by Paula Blair the music is common grind by air tone licensed under creative commons attribution 3.0 and available for download from ccmixter org if you liked the show and find its content useful and interesting please help cover production and distribution costs by donating to PayPal where it /ve a player or libero paid comm /p e a Blair this will help keep the podcast ad free episodes are released every other Wednesday please rate share and subscribe on your chosen listening platform as this helps others find the show for more information visit audio-visual cultures and follow av cultures on Twitter and Facebook thanks for listening and catch you next time you


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