Rebecca Head is One of Six hundred
Rebecca Head has always known that she was destined for a career in fashion. No one can doubt this belief today. Rebecca’s final collection: 1/600 has created quite a buzz in the fashion media, even gaining a submission request from Italian Vogue!
What Rebecca could not have imagined was that she was born with a rare medical condition. Just before she started her Fashion Design BA at Bath Spa, Rebecca was diagnosed as suffering from Gaucher Disease. This genetic disorder causes a fatty substance to accumulate in certain cells causing, amongst other complications, organs such as the liver and spleen to become enlarged. Rebecca is being successfully treated with enzyme replacement and she leads a completely normal life. She certainly does not feel sorry for herself; instead she has chosen to embrace her disease. In the UK, she is one of around six hundred.
Intending to raise awareness for her little known condition, Rebecca chose Gaucher disease as a source of inspiration for her final year. Her collection of luxury sportswear is aimed at young women who buy brands such as Hussein Chalayan for Puma, Alexander Wang and Christopher Raeburn, women who do not necessarily take part in sports but who enjoy the look of sportswear and are not afraid to push boundaries.
Modeconnect interviews Rebecca.
Rebecca, you have just shown your collection at London GFW. How do you feel?
Great! Overall my collection has been well received. It is a nice finish to a year during which I have been high on adrenaline throughout.
Can you explain the influences of your collection?
The main influence on my designs is sportswear, in particular ski wear. I find the details in sportswear, whether functional or not, very interesting. The range of my collection is derived from the type worn on ski slopes with base layers, salopettes and coats with an abundance of pockets. I was also inspired by sportswear detailing such as reflective tabs, inside finishes and trimmings which I feel are important design elements. I very much believe that those details bring my collection to life.
So how does Gaucher disease fit into this inspiration?
I wanted to raise awareness of my condition but also make my work more personal. I experimented with silhouette and shape to mimic how Gaucher disease affects some organs inside the body. My fabrics and colour choices are derived from pharmaceutical packaging and from equipment used in the treatment of the disease. I used technical fabrics with a lot of transparencies and mesh. These are the types of materials used within the medical equipment I experience. I created graphics mimicking the text of drug labels to produce prints.
I am especially proud of the print on the Lycra bodysuits for which I manipulated MRI scans of my own body. For the legs of the suits, the most visible part, I used intricate and detailed imaging of my spine. It is both intensely personal and, I believe, visually exciting.
You seem to have put a lot of work into your choice of fabric.
Yes, this was especially important for garments where I needed to create volume and structure. I used quilting and boning wire to achieve this without taking away the transparency of some of my fabrics. This idea of transparency is derived from medical packaging and I wanted to preserve it.
How did you design the volumes of your outfits?
Initially I did some research into different forms of ski wear. Then I explored shapes and used different segments derived from patterns initially created to produce a complete spherical shape. I then edited these shapes so they could fit different areas of the body. I constructed a few different structures, which I draped on the stand, eventually retaining some.
Would you say your collection is commercial?
I am satisfied that I was able to explore many aspects of my design aesthetic within my collection. When designing I tried to hit the right balance between creativity and commerciality. I knew that I wanted a collection that could be worn, but I also wanted my designs to have impact.
Today I think my work needs a few adjustments to be really commercial. If I were to design it again, I would try to make the collection more cohesive both in term of colour palette and silhouettes.
What do you feel you have learned through this process of designing a collection?
I learnt that garment detailing can really achieve a lot; it definitely held my interest. I enjoyed playing with the shape and silhouette of each garment but the small design details are what I feel make my garments stand out. I also came to realise the importance of research, of primary and secondary imagery and of sourcing as many fabrics and trims as possible.
Any additional advice for up-coming fashion students?
Be prepared to work hard and to work as a team. Think of your peers as the people you will collaborate with in the future, and not the competition.