Two BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles graduates, Nelly Rose Stewart of BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Print and Odette Steele of BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Embroidery, helped create a new collection for Indonesian fashion designer Dian Pelangi which was presented at this season’s Jakarta Fashion Week.
The BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles course ran a competition in conjunction with the British Council after visiting Dian Pelangi’s fashion company in Pekalongan, Indonesia last year and seeing the traditional craft textile processes she specialises in.
The competition launched over summer 2015 and Nelly and Odette were selected winners. They went to Indonesia for two months to work on the creation of a new collection.
LCF News caught up with Nelly and Odette to discuss the whole project, Asian fashion and their future plans.
What made you want to study fashion textiles, and why did you choose LCF?
Nelly: I’ve always loved patterns, colour and art and enjoyed creating pieces. I think fashion textiles is the perfect course to create technical works of art which can be adorned on the body and tailored through shape, texture and layered technique. Specialising in print, I loved the idea of combining illustration with screen printing as well as having access to all the workshops in knitwear and embroidery.
Odette Steele: Initially I had done the Access to Higher Education Fashion Course at LCF and this course featured a wide range of fashion subjects that you could explore. I was naturally drawn to textiles without even really realising it. I spent most of my time in the embroidery open access room and all the technicians already knew me before I started on the BA Fashion Textiles course a year later. I chose LCF as one of the universities I appied to (because its one of the best of course!!) but it was more like they chose me. It was destiny! Now that I look back, I woudnt have wanted to be anywhere else.
What did you produce to win the Dian Pelangi competition over the summer?
Nelly: Initially there was research into shaping textile design for a modest consumer and international suitability. We were required to pitch a line up of 6 looks to the panel of judges and representatives of Dian Pelangi. We presented our samples and illustrated designs and explained why we would be the perfect candidate for the challenge!
Odette Steele: For the competition I made a scarf collection. I wanted to create something that was true to my identity as well as in keeping with the design essentials of Dian Pelangi company. Being of African decent I regularly wear a headscarf that has now become my trademark and how I have chosen to brand myself. And since Dian Pelangi is a modest wear brand with a high movement of hijab followers, this is the product I chose to cater directly to their customer base.
What inspired your collection for Dian Pelangi?
Nelly: Our theme for the collection was ‘co-identity’. The name ‘co-identity’ was decided between Dian, Odette and myself, we felt that it was perfect to describe our ideals which were interconnectivity between women across the world. We wanted to create a vibrant accessible collection which would ensure accessibility to all women as well as being a celebration of culture and multiple identity. It symbolized the coming together of three women with different cultural backgrounds – predominantly with Dian representing Indonesia. Odette and I were representing London, with Odette also combing her Zambian heritage. We were also inspired by the archipelago birds we wanted to create a story on the catwalk and follow the idea of women symbolising the motion of freedom and becoming metaphorical birds on the catwalk in a flourish of colour.
What did you learn from Dian, and being inside the textiles factories of Indonesia?
Nelly: I learnt so much about what a powerful positive effect it can have on the community and how fashion really can be traceable and made with love. Dian is an incredibly inspiring and powerful woman who has revolutionised the hijab and fashion for Muslim women all over the world. It was amazing to see her at work and work within the company. Working in the factories was the best experience I’ve ever had as a designer – to be able to see part of a garment from start to finish even from the very stage of silk threads before it’s woven into a songket weave has been incredible. The 2 months proved a challenge of unfamiliar ways of work and surroundings – but we were so dearly welcomed and we learnt a number of techniques from scratch as well as collaborating and sharing ideas with artisans who work for Dian Pelangi company.
Odette: Dian is a very high profile figure in Indonesia and its extreamly admirable how she manages to juggle all of her responsibilities. She is a very professional lady that treats everyone with the utmost respect. It is so difficult to begin to describe how much I learnt being in the factories in Indonesia. Having the first hand insight into leaning all the traditional techniques such as Songkat Weaving, Batik, Tie Dye etc was absolutely amazing. Being able to work with the crafts men and women that have been doing this for years, and build meaningful relationships with them is invaluable. Also the general project management of creating a 24 look collection in the timescale that we had, with all new techniques, in a completely different country with communicational bariers was the biggest and mort rewarding learning curve.
What are the most interesting and challenging parts of your course?
Nelly: I’ve graduated now, but final year was incredibly challenging. Similar to the collection it was the pressure of having a drawing, painting or concept and having the confidence to push it to it’s maximum and full potential. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with an idea, but LCF taught me how to make informed decisions and create something with a purpose and design with intent.
The project was in collaboration with the British Council, what sort of support did they show?
Nelly: The British Council both in London and Indonesia were incredibly supportive. In Indonesia they introduced us to the fashion scene and gave us multiple opportunities to contribute including being panellists on the sustainable fashion forum. They offered support throughout the programme and were very keen to hear our ideas on bridging the fashion links between Indonesia and London.
Odette: The British Council were excellent in the support that they gave us from organising our visas at the very beginning to feedback and check ins at the end! They also provided us with advise and were present when negotiating our contract with the DP team. They also organised an immersion week that was really tailored to us, whereby they took us all over Jakarta introducing us to designers that they thought we may be interested in meeting judging from our styles and aspirations. We were taken to many art and fashion events where we got to make great connections with a huge variety of people in the industry showing us a overall perspective of how the industry in Jakarta works and structured. This is a very brief overview of some of the support that we were given by the BC, I have the most respect and appreciation for the whole team that looked after us.
How did you find the collaboration between LCF and Dian Pelangi, was it easy to develop your ideas?
Nelly: We were met with such an open minded, open armed welcome that the collaboration was a dream. Dian and the team completely supported our ideas and our creative process. After seeing our initial ideas and textile samples they trusted us to have created freedom. With constant liaising and sampling we tried to get each outfit as perfect as possible and with 24 looks we could push each idea to it’s maximum potential.
Working closely with Dian and the team of girls at Dian Pelangi was invaluable in terms of understanding modest wear and dress. I have always been interested in female empowerment and support of one another across different parts of the globe and working alongside such a powerful movement was inspiring.
We wanted to find a way to bring an urban element and illustrative nature using traditional techniques with a contemporary pattern and new innovation of application. Myself focusing on print and Odette on embroidery we worked consistently to develop the two disciplines alongside each other. My abstract approach to print design meant that I could use methods of wax and dyeing to create patterns which kept in line with the craft but were also new and radical.
From your experience, how is the fashion scene different in Jakarta to London?
Nelly: The first main difference is the fact that almost all fashion designers in Jakarta are championing sustainability without even necessarily realising it. I think the traceable element of each designer really highlighted this for me. Each designer we met and spoke with knew the source and were often heavily involved with where the craft in their pieces were from. I think the London scene could benefit from this. I think London differs from the fact that each collection is radically different and maybe there is more difference in concept between each designer. I loved how technique was heavily emphasised in Jakarta and how each designer or brand had dedication to preserving craft and culture. I think in London we express ourselves through personality and the use of sub-cultures so it was interesting to see this urban element starting to show through in brands in Jakarta such as Danjyho Hoji and Rinda Salmun.
Is it important for designers, embroiders and fashion brands to visit the textiles factories that they source from, especially in Asia and countries with reputations for safety etc.?
Nelly: I definitely believe so. I am a firm believer in sustainable and ethical fashion and seeing the difference genuine care can make in working environments such as garment or bead factories can make has definitely confirmed that it is possible. I think British designers who use a lot of craft induced techniques such as embellishment or intricate beading or dyeing techniques need to be responsible in ensuring the way that they are leaving their fashion print on the world is contributing positively rather than supporting exploitation. Creativity is such a beautiful expression and connection between people – especially in fashion, so it would be amazing if we could stand together and bring the power of humanity back into fashion.
Odette: Definitly! It is very important to source your products and labour responsibly. These are people, this is their health, this is their home, this is their living. When you meet and build relationships with the artisans you realise this and we all need to make the steps of supporting each other in the most ethical ways.
What are you plans after graduating and LCF?
Nelly: After showing at Jakarta fashion week i am definitely looking to work on future international design collaborations. I want to learn more about textile processes around the world and contribute in empowering communities through fashion opportunities. I also will be working on developing my global blog and media presence into a more interactive platform to inform people in and outside the industry about sustainable fashion and textiles. As I’ve learnt change and power are in collaboration!
Odette: I hope to be involved in some projects in support of the development and growth of the African Fashion Market, focusing on the ethics and sustainability of the industry. Im not exactly sure how or where yet… but im working on it. 🙂
- Find out more about BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Print
- Find out more about BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Embroidery
- Undergraduate courses at LCF
- More information on postgraduate courses at LCF
- All LCF courses
- Nelly Rose Stewart
- Odette Steele
- More information on Dian Pelangi
- Jakarta Fashion Week