A believer in ‘evolution’ not ‘revolution’
Alanna Kaye, a recent graduate from Bath Spa, has a somewhat unique outlook on her final collection. At some point I realised that it isn’t even a final collection, that’s just the module name. It’s actually just my first collection and I have plenty of chances to do it better and cover all those other ideas.
Her final (or first) collection, Imitation, explores the sartorial relationship between the Eastern and Western hemispheres. The result is a cacophony of texture, check and print which intentionally jar at a close level. When viewed together, however, they create an unexpectedly cohesive collection that hints at a designer who has her mind on the bigger picture.
ModeConnect interviews Alanna…
Your collection noticeably uses very few colours; what made you decide to present your collection in this way?
I feel this is one of the strengths of my collection. I wanted to explore ways of building a monochrome outfit through the use of different shades and prints. I have always felt deeply at ease with a tonal range of just one colour. I focused my collection on the colour green because it felt neutral. It’s not male or female and doesn’t have unavoidable connotations like some colours. It was my blank canvas.
Where did the inspiration to use print in this way come from?
My collection is based on the effect of diaspora on fashion, particularly in Sub Saharan Africa and the West. I was really inspired by a photo of boys from the Xhosa tribe who were all wearing variations of check suits with clashing check shirts and flat caps. There is something slightly naive about the way they are wearing this traditionally Western look. It is this manner that inspired my collection.
Did your background in any way inform the inspiration for your collection?
My mother is white English and my father is Ethiopian, I don’t know him at all and so have grown up in England without any African influence. As a child I barely noticed my skin was a different colour and my friends often joke that I’m whiter than them. I find it interesting that my final collection, inspired by the West and Africa fusing in fashion, does not visually reveal much of its African conception. To look at you probably wouldn’t know that Africa had anything to do with my research. In a way it’s exactly like me.
You describe this as being your first, rather than final, collection. Do you think it is a finished piece or is it something you would like to return to?
I would love to evolve it. I saw the quote A believer in ‘evolution’ not ‘revolution’ somewhere and it struck a chord with how I treat my own work. I would start with my current collection as the brief for a new project. Perhaps finding a way to express what I want to show with greater impact…or maybe designing the line for A/W instead of S/S.
So if you could go back and do it again, is there anything you would change?
The method of research comes with the inspiration. Unfortunately being in the last year of my course, I couldn’t very well pop over to Africa to do some research for my collection. I am satisfied that I chose a source of inspiration meaningful to me and that carried me through, but I wish it could have been more local or accessible. I would have liked to get closer, to have had direct access so I could draw it, write about it, photograph it and so on…
What other challenges did you face when designing your graduate collection?
I had been anticipating my final collection for years. It was going to be so amazing and perfect and run so smoothly. Of course in reality that was rubbish; the amount of pressure I had put on myself for this big finale was really unhelpful when it came to generating ideas. However, when I decided to work with clashing prints and realised how well that would work with my green palette it seemed like everything was coming together. It was a wonderful feeling. That sense of excitement really helped me move forward.
Based on your experience, what would you suggest to students about to start designing their graduate collections?
Always start with something of great interest to you. It has to sustain you for 6 months. Don’t let the thought of it being your ‘final collection’ become too precious. In reality it’s only you’re first collection so if you’re not happy you have plenty of time to do better in the future. Just get lost and messy in the start of the process and then pull back from it later to try and form what you have done into a cohesive and stunning collection. Try not to think about the end of it too much when you’re still at the beginning.