BA Fashion: Esme Woodruff
As our final-year BA Fashion students share their work with the world, we speak to Esme Woodruff (BA Fashion: Fashion Design Womenswear) about real and digital space and designing for the "in-between".
Esme Woodruff’s final collection began with a pencil case. Sitting in a studio during her year in industry, she was intrigued by the play of light on the mesh of a pencil case. “There was so much light in the room and it created these beautiful patterns,” she recalls, “once I'd seen it there, I couldn’t stop seeing it – outside my flat, on my walk to uni. There are these mesh gates outside College and if you go there at a certain time in the morning you’d see the pattern happening every day.”
She set herself the task of reverse engineering that serendipitous effect. Discovering that it was called a moiree interference pattern, she began learning how to produce one intentionally. “Once you understand the maths behind it then it’s simple. I began working in 2D but could translate it to 3D, I knew I’d need a fabric with a wide grain or particular lines and then overlap them close enough so that your eyes don’t understand what they’re seeing.”
Woodruff played with her fabrics, stretching them to exaggerate the effect. Wanting to make the most out of her material, she began stretching fabric to three times its original size across large hoops. Those hoops were integrated into the garments both as functional hems but also sculptural appendages.
As coronavirus lockdown loomed, she rushed to buy all the fabrics she needed and then relocated to her mother’s house in Lancashire. The conservatory was cleared out and became a makeshift studio. The garage – the darkest room in the house – became the setting for the photoshoot with her sister modelling the garments.
While experimenting with forms and effects, Woodruff saw that her garments came most alive when filmed under the flash of her iPhone. The collection developed a digital dimension as it became a metaphor for digital space as a place for amplification and exaggeration of reality.
With students scattered across the world and social isolation in place, the usual BA Fashion catwalk show transformed into a collective film launched online. This new format allowed Woodruff to play with the digital representation of her work.
Her previous work on the course had explored the role of digital technology in the future of fashion, so this final collection continued that focus. Looking at both the real and digital lives of clothes, Woodruff says that she’s designing for “the in-between":
“There’s such an importance placed on social media and what that says about us as designers. Going into the industry it’s something that we consider more so than ever before... You can’t design something without thinking about how it will look on Instagram. That's a cynical place to be but the collection has captured everything I wanted it to in terms of being transitional and amplifying what happens online.”
After all, what could be more Instagram-friendly than clothing which creates a momentary visual spectacle? For her final collection, Woodruff walks a tightrope by both exploiting the possibilities of digital space but also commenting upon it.