Process and product of equal importance
Briedi McCrostie is inhabited by an aesthetic purity so clear that it requires very little explanation. In her graduate collection Open Spaces 1_Flat1, McCrostie worked with her entire body to create felted garments from unspun wool fibres. The 6 garments which resulted from a finely tuned and achingly beautiful five look collection.
Fashion was not the aim of her graduate collection; rather, McCrostie explored the importance of process, suggesting that the way clothing is made is of equal importance to the final product.
This may explain why it is so hard to ignore the beauty and tranquillity of her garments. Unlike so many who explore the realms of social responsibility, McCrostie’s garments suggest an uncannily modern and sophisticated development of style, not dissimilar to the early work of Yohji Yamamoto.
McCrostie’s work won her two of the top graduate awards on offer to final year students at Massey University alongside a design role with New Zealand’s leading sustainable designer, Starfish. Her broad knowledge of and dialectic approach to fashion are clear indications of the way in which she chooses to conduct her life. McCrostie is now living in rural Japan and plans to move to Berlin later this year. With a view far beyond the boundaries of fashion she can’t predict exactly where we will see her next. Watch this space.
Briedi, tell us about your collection.
I feel as attached to the process of creating my final collection as to the garments themselves. I think that the strength of my work … the project itself implies that process and product are of equal importance.
So often we only celebrate the product of design, the final object created, but it is obvious that we need to give more thought and place more value on production for the industry to be more sustainable. With this in mind I gave a workshop, attended by 22 people who were able to truly engage with all aspects of the collection and experience the entire making process first hand. This physical encounter gave the participants a greater understanding and appreciation for both the garments and the processes of making them.
So can you explain your creative process?
I was inspired by the purpose and the process behind the ‘open spaces’ initiative, an idea which supports community growth through team work and education. The project required transferable design that could be taught to local consumers with little or no experience.
I wanted to achieve an entirely transparent production system, so I eliminated even the use of sewing. By working with wool in its raw state I was able to experiment with forms of zero waste pattern design that worked with the double sided felting process. I found that purely by 2D drawings I couldn’t understand the design direction. Instead I worked with small pieces of paper to get my head around the folds and shapes then moved to half scale toiles using CAD software to work with scale. I wanted to create beautiful sculptural pieces that avoided the crafty feel associated with felting.
I love the work of environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Their large scale temporary pieces create new ways of seeing familiar landscapes. In isolation, when empty, my garments are generally a simple and unsophisticated outline.
If the process is such an important part of the collection, do you see the final collection, post ‘production’ as finished? And how do you differentiate between the design process and the production process?
The design and production process work together although I often think of revisiting the entire project to extend and improve it.I would like to work more into the collection; not to create more clothing but to further investigate the potential of the textile. Having worked with the wool from a raw state I saw its complete transformation. Learning how to work with the wool fibres I made mistakes and some garments would end up with large unintended holes. I believe in the creative potential of those mistakes for textile research and development. I would like to approach this by refining the fibre and therefore the subsequent textile.
Conceptually speaking, how did you start? Where did the idea come from?
It took me a long time to work out what I wanted my final University project to focus on.
My work has always had a strong art focus and I struggle to design commercial pieces. I admired the skills of my classmates when it came to following the traditional rules of pattern making and garment construction.
My creative process always starts with something I want to challenge: a process, an idea, a system. I reflected on what I had learnt and where I felt fully satisfied designing and I couldn’t see past the importance of sustainable design. I considered what I could do with a 3 month project, refined my initial ideas to a local scale and went from there.
Was this a difficult decision to make? Was there a moment when you suddenly realised that this was what you wanted to do?
It was to an extent. At the start of the second semester in my final year I completely changed the direction of my final project. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the direction of my work and against the advice of some of my tutors I started a new project completely from scratch. I think people thought I was a bit mad …perhaps that was true! I had little time and a lot to achieve. I think having such strict requirements of the project I was able to efficiently make decisions and this really helped me.
You mentioned that you gave a workshop as part of your project. For final submission, did you partake in the graduate show as well?
For the final presentation of my work I chose to have a small exhibition rather than taking part in the graduation runway show. My work felt better suited to this kind space, speed and audience. The exhibit had work from both Fashion and Spatial graduates. As discussed earlier my work was also exhibited, or rather `experienced’, at a public workshop. In this space people were able to thoroughly inspect the garments, try them on, and look closely at the raw wool alongside the finished product. This was the most rewarding experience for me because it gave the collection and process exposure to those who may have missed it had it only been shown in a more formal galley setting.
Your project is certainly conceptual, where do you see yourself progressing to next?
Since graduating I have been involved in a few sustainability-focused projects in Wellington. This included holding a second workshop under the Local Wisdom project, the brainchild of sustainability guru Kate Fletcher and assisting with design work. For the last few months I have been living in a small town in rural Japan and working as an assistant English teacher- completely unrelated to fashion, but inspiring and challenging.
This is not the fast passed Tokyo life people imagine when I first tell them I live in Japan. I live in a small town where everybody knows me; a farming town surrounded by picturesque mountains. Here people follow traditions, work hard, respect the environment … and nobody speaks English. The experience has been both beautiful and isolating at the same time.
Although I haven’t produced a single thing since I moved here I am still designing, and I am reading more. I guess I will have to count this year as a research year!
In October I am moving to Berlin! Each day after Japanese study I work on my German. I don’t have much of a plan but I look forward to getting back into fashion and hopefully finding some form of internship to gain experience. Ultimately I plan to live, work, create and travel. Perhaps an unattainable bohemian dream but I am going to attempt it all the same!