With just two days left of MA Fashion’s Separates exhibition in the Lethaby Gallery, we spoke to Swedish Womenswear designer Elsa Suneson about the importance of exhibitions, the delights of research and the inspiration behind her final collection.
We’re used to seeing fashion collections presented on the catwalk, Separates presents your designs in a much more intimate setting – do you think it’s important to show designs in this way?
I think that it is very important. A garment looks so different when you see it in person and you can really look at the fine details. It is good to give people an understanding that there is a lot of work behind a garment.
I remember when the Yohji Yamamoto exhibition was at the V&A, you could walk around the mannequins and actually touch the garments. Sometimes you go to fashion exhibitions and the work is displayed behind glass panels and you feel very distanced from them. I think that the Separates exhibition is very beautifully curated and it gives people a chance to walk around the clothes in a more intimate environment.
Where did the ideas behind your collection come from?
I started by wanting to challenge the weight of the clothes. I like when a garment is really heavy and drapey and when you get that ‘shwung’ when you walk. I think that movement is really beautiful and for me it’s also connected to something quite luxurious. Beautiful materials move in a certain way. I love doing research and looking at old films, and I am really interested in old photography. I love the work of Bill Brandt.
I also love the unpredictability of research; you never know what you might find on the next page. It’s a bit like getting high because it becomes so intense and you just look, look, look through things. I love the bit where you find something that you are drawn to and attracted to and the intuition and instinct that you feel. I love the part where you start to pull bits from your research and start developing it into something else – there are endless possibilities.
What attracted you to studying fashion?
I have always been into design, illustration and art. My dad is an illustrator and my mum is an architect so I grew up in quite a creative environment. I was into drawing, illustration and architecture and then I began by studying art but I realised that I was more interested in textiles. I like that it is restricted, I like focusing and developing my designs into garments and I’ve always been interested in the function of garments.
Where do you source your materials?
I am very hands-on when it comes to finding materials and I really trust my intuition. I love going to the fabric shops in Walthamstow Market, there are loads of fabrics there. There are lots of strange fabrics, you never know what you might find – you really have to look through them before you find something in particular and it’s normally quite cheap.
What do you hope people will take away from seeing the work in the show?
I want to encourage people’s individual style – Separates is a good title for the exhibition. I find individual style very interesting. I pay quite a lot of attention to what people wear and I have a very good memory for things like that. It is fascinating to see how people feel in a piece of clothing and the fear of dressing wrongly. It is so lovely to see when someone actually feels beautiful and comfortable in what they wear.
What advice would you give to future final year MA Fashion students?
To interact with the tutors and technicians as much as you can because they are so good at what they do and so helpful. You are in such a good place, it is really important to interact with everyone. I’d also say be honest with yourself if you need guidance and do stuff that you really like.
Don’t over think things, trust your intuition and draw a lot because that is always good to help encourage your ideas. Having lots of sketching and drawing is really useful for when you put your portfolio together, it shows that you can transmit your ideas onto a piece of paper.