Hyper-Floralis: Homage to the natural through its distorted representation
Every now and then a graduate collection is so successful it garners more publicity than the collections of some established, commercial labels. This is exactly what happened with Massey’s Lucilla Gray. Hergraduate collection for SS14 featured in every major fashion publication in New Zealand is to appear soon in Vogue Italia!
The swift and graceful arrival of Lucilla Gray onto New Zealand’s fashion scene caused much stir and resulted in her being head hunted for a placement with leading New Zealand designer, Kate Sylvester. Gray’s steely determination comes through as she talks inspiration, technology and sparkly plans for the future.
Lucilla, could you please tell me about your graduate collection.
My collection is called Hyper-Floralis. It was designed for Spring/Summer 2014 and aimed to merge conceptual fashion with ready to wear ideals. It consists of wearable separates and bold statement pieces. My design aesthetic evolved from a focus on textile development. The result: bold silhouettes based on exaggerated proportions of the body and a visual overload of vibrant saturated hues,where embossed foam contrasts with silk organza.
Hyper-Floralis, with its mix of commercial and conceptual design is clearly very successful. What did you aim to achieve with this graduate collection?
I wanted to push myself as a designer; that was my main objective. Designing your graduate collection is the perfect opportunity to be experimental and try new ideas. You should not be scared of taking risks. In this respect, my collection is definitely a form of self-expression.
I find fashion is a stimulating outlet for my imagination. I have tried to mitigate this indulgent approach by keeping an eye on the commercial environment. I think that’s my style, mixing conceptual and wearable pieces together.
Conceptuality with an understanding of commercial design might just be the recipe for success! Do you see that as the defining strength of your collection?
The sculptural silhouettes and surface designs in my garments would be the defining strengths of the collection. I find people respond most to those two elements.
You have spoken about fashion being a good medium for your imagination, what inspired Hyper-Floralis?
At the beginning I was fascinated by the digitally enhanced world we live in. I was concerned with technology and its effects on society.
I think there’s a massive blur between reality and representation these days. We’d rather be absorbed in a representation of our environment than experiencing it in reality. I wanted to create my own enhanced reality, a hyperized environment for both the viewer and wearer to be absorbed in. Hyper-Floralis pays homage to the natural world but through its distorted representation.
How important is the research stage in your design process?
I always begin by collecting imagery which inspires me- I respond to things that interest me.
Once the initial inspiration takes shape then the process of making and sampling begins to influence the final outcome of the garments. The inspiration is just the starting point.
Was there a stage in this process, when you felt something exciting was happening?
Receiving my first print sample was really significant. I got it printed in half scale and I toiled up some miniature designs on the half scale mannequin. It was then that I realised I was on the right track, it felt fresh and inspired me to keep going. Later on however, I found getting the print designs right throughout the collection was quite a challenge. Composition is crucial when you design placement prints; you need to consider how they look on the body and how they affect your pattern pieces. It was also a challenge in terms of time management: I relied on a third party to print my fabric, so I had to respect strict deadlines to ensure I received my printed fabric in time to construct the collection.
Where did you source the materials for this project? They are so important to it. Was it difficult?
The Fabric Store and Fabric Warehouse probably have the biggest selection of fabrics in Wellington but you will be amazed where you can find unusual materials. When you live in an isolated country like New Zealand it can be hard to get the resources you need, sometimes you have to think outside the box. I once brought some technical fabric from a car upholsterer!
Your use of print is clearly important to the design of the collection. However, you have also raised the print into an almost 3D form. How did you manage that?
I created the 3D embossed effect by laminating layers of fabric together; it consisted of a base layer, a middle layer with the cut design, and a top layer of Lycra. It was a very time consuming process which involved a lot of hand cut designs and patience.
The result is fantastic but, with so many technical complications, was there any point when you felt you might not be able to pull it off?
I learnt the importance of pushing yourself to try new things and be brave. Some of the best designs come from taking massive risks. There were so many times when I thought my designs were going to fail- I was working with pretty crazy ideas.
What advice would you give to someone about to design
their final collection?
Follow your intuition and stay true to who you are as a designer. Know when to take and ignore criticism: fashion is personal and everyone has different tastes. What matters is your being happy with your designing.
Your collection received a lot of positive attention and I believe it was shown on several catwalks. How does it feel watching it yet again?!
I was lucky enough to be invited to show my collection again at the Industry Hair Awards in Auckland. The response from the second showing was really positive and the garments really complemented the hair designs being shown at the awards. It was also a wonderful experience as I was finally able to see my garments from the audience, it gave me another perspective I wasn’t expecting.
You are currently on a placement in Auckland, what are your plans for after this?
I would like to do some traveling and intern in London. Then I’ll look at designing my own line once I’ve seen how the whole process works, my end goal has always been to start my own label.
What is the best thing about fashion school?
Sometimes it’s not all about the work but the relationships you form while you are at university. Some of my best memories are from late at night, messing around in the workroom whilst eating pizza and watching weird documentaries…
Technology plays such a strong role in your research, what do you think its future role in fashion is likely to be?
I think social media and the internet have still a bigger role to play within the fashion industry. A few designers and artists are starting to use it more experimentally. It is exciting as young people can showcase their work on platform’s which weren’t really available before. I believe that brands which balance virtual and physical interaction will be most likely to succeed. Of course, this will also apply to fashion. We’re still trying to work out social media’s full capabilities; the possibilities seem endless.