This week we visited the preview presentation of the new London based designer Amy Barrie. Amy recently graduated from Central Saint Martins and her 2020 Womenswear collection demonstrates her understanding of how art and culture is central to fashion design. The collection celebrates the history of story telling and the garments are designed to empower the wearer through feminist text and imagery.
Amy Barrie wearing her machine embroidered two piece suit and t-shirt made by Hawthorne and Heaney.
The presentation was held at the Royal Academy and spanned across 3 grand rooms. We were greeted at the door by Amy who talked us through the collection and what we could expect to see in the presentation which involved young female poets modelling the garments in a set of luxurious regal sofas littered with news and campaign posters from the suffragettes. We were then free to walk through the rooms and talk to some of these poets wearing her empowering suits, dresses and t-shirts. When the audience was large enough the poets would perform feminist poetry that bought to life Barrie’s clothing. Their performances were incredibly moving and covered important topics such as sexism, rape and violence.
Spoken Word Poet Priscila Hernandez reading in Barrie’s digitally printed suit.
The idea of performance and event hosting is certainly a modern approach to viewing fashion yet it is understandable why it has become so popular with emerging designers with the growing demand from the consumer for an all encompassing and immersive shopping experience. Many fashion brands have also chosen this route and are rethinking retail as the rise of online shopping becomes a bigger threat to high street stores. Barrie has certainly noticed this and has found her audience through providing a storytelling experience with her clothing.
Her garments are covered from head to toe in written word, both hand and machine embroidered. A casual cotton t-shirt read ‘nether-the-less she persisted’ across the front, achieved through careful hand embroidery. A baby pink satin blazer with renaissance style puffed sleeves and pleating was printed with portraits of influential women such as Malala Yousafzai and Hilary Clinton. As well as using embroidery techniques, Barrie’s collection also involved a lot of print design for accessories; she had made boxing gloves, printed with feminist text as well as a cushion. Perhaps the most impressive piece was Barrie’s flouncy maxi dress, the skirt made entirely from Votes For Women sashes whilst the shoulders were covered in metal fountain pen nibs symbolising the importance of the written word but also taking the viewer on a journey back in time to the ages of calligraphy and poetry.
We found the exhibition both moving and empowering. Barrie’s collection is beautiful and elegant yet gives the wearer a sense of confidence and self-assurance. We cannot wait to see what’s next for Amy Barrie as she carves a path in the fashion industry.
Words and Photos by Florence Sargent