An exhibition at the V&A running from 16th June 2018
As a London based designer, I have at my fingertips access to some of the world’s best museums, exhibitions and shows not only to use as inspiration, but to appreciate the history and development of print making, fabrics and styles. What better way to spend a Friday than pouring over the iconic fabrics, cuts and styles of great figures, celebrities and true artists? In light of this, I was delighted to hear that the V&A would be putting on a dedicated exhibition to one of the most inspiring artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo. The exhibition boasts a fresh perspective on Kahlo’s compelling life story through her most intimate personal belongings. I imagine that by looking at her personal artefacts and clothing a vivid picture of her life can be visualized. I always believe that clothes tell a story, from idea conception, to design, to the production process - an article of clothing has an intended audience envisioned with their entire life implied from the get-go.
The traditional Mexican prints and designs of her clothing were intended to carry on the cultural ideals of 20th century-Mexico, with a nod of the head towards practicality for a woman of her status and lifestyle. Between these two points the entire life of a woman may be assumed; cooking, cleaning, leisure, romance and social standing. The stitching is neat, the patterns are elaborate and intricate without being overwhelming. The speak of warm, dusty days where sunlight tries in vain to fade the vibrant and alive colours. Just looking at the embroidered edging in her skirt makes me imagine a whole host of cushions, napkins and couture articles of clothing just itching to be made. I feel this exhibition will be inspirational and a true testament to the craftsmanship and dedication of pre-mass production clothes makers. And it’s always wonderful to look at vintage clothing to get the creativity and the juices flowing!
It is important to remember that so much of this woman’s life is known through her artwork, which richly explores her vivid interior life, and her love letters have been published and poured over as romantic and beautiful examples of devotion and excitement. Personally, I feel an excitement in what is not known about her and can only be told through her clothes. We may find out a lot of physical quirks she had; perhaps she tended to spill on her left side only, maybe due to the way she pulled on a coat the right side of her clothes was more prone to wear and tear. The infinite details of a person can be read in the way they wear and treat their clothes.
This is something every single designer has to bear in mind when designing and producing clothing. I design clothes and collections that are not just beautiful, sustainably, responsibly made but also are purposeful for its lifetime. My work with producing sustainable clothing and uniforms for the hospitality industry has lead to me thinking greatly about the way in which waiting on clients makes a person move, and how their uniforms must accommodate this. The way in which a person might put their hand in their apron pocket informs me how high to place it, how wide and what depth it should be. A human being is at the basis of every uniform concept that I work with. I’m fond of saying that clothes tell a story, but I think it is important to remember that real life humans are the characters in that story.