Fashion and Introspection sit nicely together with Sigmund
Introspection is rarely associated with fashion. ESAA Duperré Camille Couton’s degree collection however was born from introspection … literally; so much so that Camille called it Sigmund.
With clean and contemporary lines, the unisex style of this womenswear collection borrows to the masculine wardrobe. Layering of garments and fabric combining wool, cotton and silk, gives subtle depth to a palette dominated by charcoal greys and off-whites, faux black and faux white. Strong bright orange and blue are repressed only to be revealed by movements. Most details act in fact as false-pretences; hidden wherever possible they give once revealed meaning to a collection that attempts to materialize processes uncovered by psychoanalysis. The breakthrough is represented by slashes, slits, wide necklines, the recursive or mise en abyme – a sequence appearing to recur infinitely – by layering and stratification and the reminiscence, the remembrance of the past, by colour stripes and layering of materials according to weight.
Camille you used the concept of Introspection as the basis for your collection. Could you tell us how this came to be?
Sigmund is the first collection I designed to my own brief. When I realised I was free to take it absolutely where I wanted, I had to question the direction I wanted to take. This collection is the product of my complete involvement with this search which, as a repetition, became my inspiration: introspection. The issue is not trivial; it echoes a personal quest, a search for a fashion identity. The collection acts as a critical bridge between my interest in clothing and the projection of a possible future in fashion. Creativity is often understood as supported by individuality. My collection is the material representation of an inner experience.
Could you tell us more about your experience of creativity and the creative process?
For me creativity, the act of creation, links aesthetics to a thought process. The inspiration of a collection must be more than a basis; it is the constant heart of the creative process, the measure of every choice. Creativity is not a moment; it is a construction, challenging and constant. We are taught at ESAA Duperré to never stay on a first idea but to build on it, to push it further. With this understanding I took a lot of time researching concept, materials and shapes before considering garments.
Everything had to fall into place before I felt my research, my inspiration, could securely carry the entire project and generate a coherent result. I also wanted the experimentation stage to be as thorough as possible so that I could subsequently focus on the essential, knowing that I had explored different ideas.
When did this falling in place moment take place?
My inspirations can be very diverse; they usually reflect my state of mind, a particular interest or a question at a given time. During the early stages I am more or less aware of the process. Things have to grow. Upstream are inspiring visuals, shapes, interesting ideas and desires, feelings rather than concepts and explanations. Then at one point, sometimes with the help of an external and maybe more objective perspective than mine, things fall into place. I understand what I meant; I can finally put a name on it. For Sigmund it was introspection.
I realised that with this collection I wanted to materialize a thought process, the introspective process that gradually evolved towards psychoanalysis, the intervention of an objective and external eye. In fact my collection signifies the process of its development.
So would you say that research was the most difficult stage in developing your collection?
No, that was hard work but fun. The most difficult step was the next stage, going from the research to its application to garment construction.
The problem I found myself addressing was how to use details developed as samples, often flat, into the volumes of apparel, in relation to the body. How to ensure the detailing I had developed did not turn into mere ornament? I wanted the garment itself to express the introspective process.
Could you give some concrete examples of ways you found to deal with this problem?
I played with scales, for example rather than use some of the circular patterns I had developed as collars I turned them into yokes extending almost all the way to the shoulders.
I also extended design principles. I used superposition for example when designing individual garment and with layering extended the idea between garments, paying attention to the way they interacted.
This idea of extending principles worked really well with colours. Introspection is constantly confronted with illusions and false-pretences so I used grey / faux black and off white / faux white and bright colours to cut across the full length of the garments.
What did you learn on your course that surprised you?
At the beginning of my training, I realized that I did not know a quarter of what other students knew about fashion, its history, culture and trends. For a while I was very aware of my lacking so I was thrilled when I realised that my collection was well received. Of course it is useful to know what is going on in the fashion industry but a certain naivety towards trends may not be such a big problem after all!
We are all influenced by what we know and what we see. I believe good design needs coherence and honesty with one’s own creative identity. Influences can come from anywhere and fashion designers should have interests in many areas. It brings freshness and individuality to the creative process.
Any other advice you can give to someone starting a Fashion Design course?
I came to realise that we all have very few opportunities, during education and when working, to be truly creative, even when you are asked in fact to design. I would advise fashion students to make time to push and discover their creative identity. Seek the unsuspected; remain curious and open to all that surrounds you. Cultivate your creativity learning, analysing and exploring.
What comes after Sigmund?
Working on this collection has helped me decide my next step. I graduated with a BTS – See the second half of our Paris Editorial – in 2012 and am now studying for a DSAA -Diplome Supérieur d’Arts Appliqués – at ESAA Duperré. This course proposes a transversal approach to skills and competences and focus on research, exploration and reflection. Trends and evolving aesthetics inherent to fashion should not hide deeper questions about the relation of individuals and society to clothing. Fashion is a way to address the world at large.
In this spirit I would love to do an internship in the studio of Hussein Chalayan. I like the way he cuts and constructs garments and love the more experimental pieces addressing social issues and exploring new materials and technology.