We catch up with the winner of this year’s L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent Award about her collection that gives form to memory, nostalgia and place.
Alice began BA Fashion: Fashion Design with Knitwear in 2019; her studies have been marked by lockdowns and periods spent learrning through a digital screen. But last week saw her final collection on the catwalk in the BA Fashion Show 2022 bringing together sculptural forms with swathes of crochet, leather straps and even horse brass joins.
Years ago, her grandparents sold and moved from their home in Pembrokeshire. This house held a collective place in the wider family’s memories. Alice began to retrace her steps in this house, a process of “restorative nostalgia” to capture this familiarity and love in this space.
Thinking about smells, texture and scale, Alice alighted the distorted nature of memories. “We're never going to be in that space again,” she reflects, “and I wanted to feel that space again through my collection.” Recalling how big the spaces felt in her childhood memories she began working on large sculptural forms of her final looks.
It isn’t a coincidence that this work developed over the pandemic – a period of intense vulnerability and dislocation for all. Alice has ME, a condition that meant she was shielding during lockdown, a context that made the memories of togetherness even more evocative.
Her approach to handmaking is intensely emotional but also actively archival. During lockdown, she began the Lost Jumper Project with family members – re-making garments that now only exist in photographs or paintings. Connection to her process is fundamental:
Her collection is an archive of time reflecting her labour in the process but it also acts as a living archive of traditional practices. Funeral stockings, for example, knitted (complete with monogram) by people to be worn once they have died; Alice knitted her own.
The garment forms, horse brasses and leather straps reference a Welsh wassailing tradition called ‘Mari Lwyd’ which translates as ‘grey mare’. The Mari Lwyd is a person dressed as a horse in ribbons and bells, who approaches a house singing to request entry. The inhabitants sing a reply – offering excuses at first – but eventually the horse is welcome and brings good luck to the household. A horse skull traditionally forms part of the costume and Alice used that those shapes as a starting point for the garments’ frames.
Her work incorporates discarded material as well as original pieces from the house. She used antique tablecloths, leather scraps as well as waste yarn from the Melin Tregwynt mill. All the buttons were collected by her grandmother and the second look includes elements of a broken chair from the house.
From concept, to process and material, Alice’s work poetically reaches for the faded and the lost. Her work makes manifest a personal memory, navigating what those memories mean to her but in a wider sense it asks what making means to us.