Hawthorne & Heaney Visits Anna Sui Exhibition

An exciting exhibition focusing on the daring, rock-n-roll  American fashion designer, Anna Sui. Exhibited at the London Fashion and Textile Museum until 1st October 2017. Anna Sui is not your traditional American fashion designer. From Detroit to New York her unique style is forever growing and adapting to the pop culture that reinvents itself for every new generation. She established her label in 1981 and had her first catwalk show in 1991. She has been forever growing her independant vision by not only creating garments but expanding into textiles, accessories, beauty and interiors. The World of Anna Sui features over 100 looks from the designer’s archive and is a beautiful commendation for all she has achieved so far from beginning to end.

“Even if people haven’t heard them for a while, I feel I’m telling stories that never go out of style” – Anna Sui.

The exhibition has a mass variety of archetypes from Mods and Punks, School Girls to Hippies and Surfers. Anna Sui creates a look for a particular woman, in her own words: “one with a sense of fantasy such as a fairy-tale princess but there is also a darker side, you could never tell whether she is a good girl or a bad one.” This is something everyone can relate to as a form of expression. It is also the first time an American designer has been the focus of a retrospective exhibition in the UK.

“But I’m always looking for the unfamiliar perspective on familiar things. That takes research. Which, as I said, is my favourite thing.” – Anna Sui.

One aspects of the exhibition that will capture your attention was the research boards Anna Sui creates for every garment piece she designs. The quote you see above this text is said by the fashion designer herself, how she is always looking for an unfamiliar perspective which is achieved through her research. The boards tell a story, a journey in fact from where the source of inspiration came from and how Anna Sui has adapted that knowledge into her vision and essentially put her own, unique twist upon it in order to achieve the end result. This example on the right is her ‘Floral Stripe Peplum Dress’ part of her Spring 2012 collection. The collection was set out to “evoke the atmosphere of the fashionable Club Sept, frequented by the likes of Jerry Hall and Grace Jones in their early days as models. The collection mixed the glamour of the 1970s with a 1940s’ sensibility, reflecting the style of dress on the dance floor.”

This example showcases Anna Sui’s talent to combine eras, using that inspiration and knowledge from past decades in order to transform it and create a beautifully, modern peplum dress. Therefore if you have an interest in previous decades and an admiration for pop culture then this is the exhibition for you. The photograph below shows the research journey for this particular dress:

The following information was learned during my visit to the exhibition through a CGTN interview shown of Anna Sui opening up about this story. By far the best element of the exhibition as nothing beats hearing information first hand from the woman, herself. The interview is called ‘Anna Sui – Fashion’s true original’:

Anna Sui went to her first Paris fashion show with fashion photographer and friend, Steven Meisel. On the way to the show they stopped at The Ritz to pick up his friend, Madonna who came out of her dressing room and into the car wearing a coat. When they arrived at Paris fashion show, Madonna took her coat off and said to Sui, “Anna, I have a surprise for you.” this resulted in Madonna revealing Anna Sui’s dress that she had on. This gave Anna confidence as out of all the high-end labels Madonna could have worn, she chose hers. When Anna Sui arrived back in New York, 10 years after establishing herself as a fashion designer, she premiered her first catwalk show in 1991. Through Steven Meisel, Anna also became friends with models, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista who helped her get all the models together. Everyone pitched in. Her first show opened up multiple opportunities including international, in particular Japanese companies. All this movement from the simple, kind gesture that Madonna did for Anna therefore Sui believes she will always owe a debt of gratitude to her.

To watch the interview yourself please click on the following URL: https://america.cgtn.com/2016/11/12/anna-sui-fashions-true-original

“My favourite thing was always research. I met all the trim people, the button people, the pleating and embroidery people… I kept coming back to music, too. Music made the fashion more amazing, more accessible.” – Anna Sui.

The exhibition ‘The World of Anna Sui’ showcases a variety of craftsmanship including millinery, gold work, print, embellishment, applique, weave, knit and embroidery techniques which you can see evident in the photographs above. If you have an interest in any of these of design or fashion then you will certainly enjoy your visit to the exhibition. Not only will you see a unique twist put on these traditional techniques but it will open up your mind and inspire you as to how you can use inspiration from your surroundings in your own designs. Anna Sui’s work is narrative as her powerful garment collections simply document her journey and interests through the decades. Her archive clearly shows her fascination with pop culture. You can see from beginning to end, how previous decades have influenced her design, how as a fashion designer she, herself has evolved and grown over time with this particular movement. Her interest in fashion, art, design and music is at the core of each idea, with every collection having its own style and inspiration. The composition of Anna Sui’s archive I personally found very powerful as you were completely surrounded by a wide variety of collections that for me, I just did not know where to start. A true statement of the daring, rock-n-roll designer that Anna Sui is. Her research and collections are the “desire to understand why things happened or what inspired the design, song or artwork. This then leads her onto other topics and ideas that themselves become part of the design process.” I truly would recommend anyone to visit this exhibition as it was a pleasure to witness as there is something to suit everyone’s particular taste and interests.

“Anna Sui’s holistic vision as a designer is about making connections, and everything around the designer is part of the connectivity, and the story.”

Please note that the text written in bold is from the ‘The World of Anna Sui’ exhibition and not my own. For further information regarding the exhibition please follow the URL below: http://www.ftmlondon.org/ftm-exhibitions/the-world-of-anna-sui/

Written by Lauren Stewart

 

 

Hawthorne & Heaney Visits The V&A: Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London

Just as you enter the V&A from the Grand Entrance on Cromwell Road, to your left you will come to this wonderful exhibit about the life of John Lockwood Kipling, Father of the famous poet, Rudyard Kipling. It’s not all that often that you get the opportunity to see this kind of Indian heritage, but on display at this exhibition, your senses are spoilt. Historical pictures of India through the Victorian ages, fused together with Lockwood Kipling’s own illustrations, structural designs and photography of his students in Mumbai.

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 Exhibition entrance, courtesy of V&A
 This exhibition is great for those with keen interests print, architectural design, upholstery, embroidery, textiles (etc) and are in need of inspiration from this rich culture and its prominent history, or those that just want to expand on their knowledge of art history. The exhibit is atmospheric and full of vibrant information, you can easily lose yourself in here for a few hours, it is a fascinating period of history.

Lockwood Kipling was always an active social campaigner for the preservation of Indian arts and crafts, he even brought much of that skill he learnt in India back to England where he worked as an architectural sculptor for the V&A. The terracotta panels created by Lockwood can still be seen on the exterior of the grand V&A building. The perfect place to hold an exhibition about his colourful life.

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Exhibition poster in the museum tunnel and exhibition leaflet from H&H visit to V&A

His passion for the preservation of Indian culture and skill is apparent throughout the entire exhibit, and it is wonderful to see techniques that have been used in traditional Indian culture for centuries. By including the work of his students at the Mayo College, Ajmer, the exhibit shows how his passion and knowledge has been transferred onto his students.

Kipling moved to India in 1865 when the country was under British rule, and at the time the economy was quite unstable. He recognised this uncertainty in his students and encouraged them to channel these feelings into their creativity.

In 1851 he trained as a designer and modeller, which gave him the knowledge which he took to India and applied this to the traditional crafts which he learnt and was able to design beautiful Mosques, some which still stand today. 

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Painting: Entrance to the Mosque of Wazir Khan, by Mohammed Din, 1880, by Mohammed Din. Displayed at the exhibition

The intricate detailing on the architectural work is magnificent to see and his illustration style is timeless! He has captured a moment via drawing as if it were a photograph. A series of images seen at the exhibition depicts local craftsmen doing their everyday using the said skills making creations which later on Lockwood would go on to do himself.

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Illustration: A wood carver from the North West Provinces of British India, by Lockwood Kipling, 1870.
Displayed as a series of natural drawings of craft workers.

If you are interested in how artistic crafts and merit is applied throughout different cultures, or just intrigued to see how ancient skills that are ingrained in the wonderful Indian culture have progressed and evolved over the past 200 years, then this exhibition is a must see.

By Amelia Beaumont-Dodd

Hawthorne & Heaney in Conversation with Laura Lees

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Fellow embroiderer, artist and designer Laura Lees is usually found creating highly colourful, fine art pieces furniture pieces but she took a little time away from her usual pursuits to speak with us about her work:

 

Hawthorne & Heaney: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, we’d like to start by asking you the question we get asked quite a lot of how did you get into embroidery originally?
 
Laura Lees: I applied for a city and guilds embroidery course when I was 17 and fell in love with it then. I found my skills at drawing not exceptional but confident. I found a new level of ability with the needle and thread superior than that of drawing with a pencil.
H&H: And what is it that inspires you?
LL: The way you can transform something from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I love the feel of the threads, the sound the scissors make when they’re cutting fabric, the quality of line and the battering noise and speed of my beloved Bernina industrial sewing machine. most importantly, I love the clarity of heart and mind, the skill involved and the the fact that i am always learning.

H&H: What would you like your students to take away from your class?

LL: A real sense of achievement, pride and enjoyment.

H&H: Where can we see more of your works?

LL: I am preparing for an exhibition to take place at the end of the year, inspired by dutch author Joris Luyendijk s book ‘Swimmimg with Sharks’ which demistifys the financial world of the city banks. This resonated deeply with me, having amongst many others lost my fashion label in the 2008 crash.  I explore the ‘smoke and mirrors’ architectural language of finance by descending on what must be the least understood environment in Europe: the City of London. Taking the habitat of the so-called and self-described Masters of the Universe as my inspiration and translating the visceral world that lives and survives by opacity into tangeable abstract textiles.

H&H: Anything coming up in the pipeline you can share with us?

LL: I have recently launched The Mighty Stitch corporate workshops, The Mighty Stitch embroidery workshops teach teams a new skill, engendering engagement and motivation, ultimately creating a bespoke embroidered piece of art for your workplace. • Simple, supportive instruction • No experience needed, anyone can take part
Participants are encouraged to be playful and experimental – the workshops facilitate collaboration, communication, storytelling, mindfulness, and, most importantly, making a mess! Enhanced work environment we all need a bit of that, i think .

H&H: Thanks again, I’m sure we will be seeing much more of you with all that come up!

 

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Laura also has a Workshop coming up in April which will give the participants the opportunity to be a part of Laura’s work as the pieces created on the day will be encorporated into a new piece which will be exhibited at the RIBA as part of the London Festival of Architecture. Follow the link to secure your place for this intriguing and unusual opportunity:

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‘The Riba workshop is a full day, immersed in urban embroidery.  We will focus on how a city evolves through its inhabitants by learning freehand machine embroidery, hand stitching and applique. The outcome is to create an embroidered image of a building or architectural structure.  

Afterwards, I will explore how a city is fabricated by stitching together the individual and diverse pieces made by workshop participants into a new work to be exhibited a the RIBA as part of @londonfestivalofarchitecture

All artwork will be returned to the participants after the exhibition.
This workshop is part of the programme of events inspired by the exhibition ‘Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square’. 

Urban Tapestry with Laura Lees, 22 & 23 April, 11am to 4pm
RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD
Booking at architecture.com/Workshop

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All images credited to Laura Lees

Hawthorne & Heaney works on Script Inspired Goldwork Collar

Here at Hawthorne & Heaney, we get a wide variety of projects to work on. One of the great things about working in such a creative industry is to see where people get their inspiration from and in turn having your own knowledge expanded. One such project is a collar piece which we worked on for a suit by a city tailor, where the inspiration was drawn from a little know archeological site called Mohenjo-daro or ‘Mound of the dead men’.

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The symbols were taken from pieces that were discovered at the site which is in Pakistan from what is thought to be a stamp or seal. Located in the Indus Valley, the original name of the city is unknown but they are know to supposedly had the world’s first known toilets, along other developments in civilisation such as complex stone weights, elaborately drilled gemstone necklaces and exquisitely carved seal stones featuring one of the world’s stubbornly undeciphered scripts. It is this Indus script upon which we based the design which was then excicuted in antique styled goldwork techniques.

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The height of the raisings of the embroidery and the blue highlights really bring this piece to life, from the unicorn to the mask.

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Hawthorne & Heaney for Andrew Totah

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 15.40.49This year we were lucky enough to work with a very promising CSM MA student called Andrew Totah. We produced a series of embroideries for him which feature in his final collection which are so vibrant and exciting, we couldn’t wait to share them with you.Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 15.40.36

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Andrew Totah’s collection is based on his travels through South Africa and features a wonderfully vibrant colour palette which reflects the culture. Andrew’s collection is very much about telling a story through his designs so his girls are superheroes of a kind who modify their clothes and empower themselves by take back control of their city in the night. Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 15.40.21

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We produced a series of heavily machine embroidered patches to compliment his collection, all of which were his own graphic designs. Most of the embroideries are raised from the surface of the fabric, that combined with the punchiness of the colours makes a strong impression.Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 15.42.19 Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 15.42.04

To see more about the collection and the inspiration behind the designs, as well as the embroidery on the garments shown in the show at the end then have a watch of the video below.