After the LCFBA16 catwalk show on Monday, we spoke to Emily-Louise Coveney, BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Knit and Nina De Marco, BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery, about their collection which is based on the duality between the basic emotions of anguish and fear. Their work features yarn, wax and metal.
Where are you from?
Emily: My Father is Irish and my mother is French but I’ve lived in London my whole life.
Nina: São Paulo, Brazil.
Give us one interesting fact about yourself…
Emily: I’m the only person in my family to pursue an artistic career and at 21 years old I’m also the youngest student in my class.
Nina: Firstly, I have a German hand painted papier mache lizard (male and female) dissection board made for medical studies from the Victorian period and because it was so expensive, I had to eat noodles for two weeks after buying it from the antique shop. Secondly, I’ve always had interest in anatomy and what we are made of inside. This influenced my aesthetics and interest in anthropology as well as encouraging me to start practicing taxidermy.
Talk us through your final project
Emily: I wanted to create a texture that was as beautiful as fur, without actually using fur. I managed to source lots of amazing yarns, each with their own personality, and I wanted to explore mixing these yarns together in different combinations to create a different feel. I collaborated with womenswear and jewellery students for the Press Show and I wanted my work to make sense both in the collection and in isolation from it. This is why I decided to make accessories as it can complement the collection as well as working as a separate entity.
Nina: My final project was based on the studies of the experience of fear and protection. The intention was to visually develop and represent the duality between basic emotions such as anguish, which causes the experience of fear, and is necessary for the sense of protection and security, also related to fear. Being part of a complex psychological defensive structure, fear acts when people are exposed to situations that evoke previous traumatic experiences, unconscious or not. Some situations can also be connected mostly to instinct. I wanted to represent this relationship and mutuality, and how it can be physically interpreted on the body through diverse representations of the feelings, thoughts and other elements connected to different experiences.
As the experience of fear is very personal and may vary from person to person it was important to consider different views and descriptions of it, I interviewed 18 individuals aged between 11 and 94 years about their personal experiences regarding fear and protection, the questions were flexible and served only as guidelines to help the interviewed to understand the subject and give their insight. They were asked to describe fear in their own way, when it happens, if they know why and if they could associate anything from that experience to any shape, colour, and part of the body or other sensations. The results were divided in two different types of fear, the one that comes from inside, which was described by the majority, and the one from outside.
The interviews defined some key points on the development of jewellery pieces, like the choice of the materials to be used, which implies in details like texture, temperature and where to place the jewellery. It was also important to define design aspects, like how to visually represent fear as something that can be internal, coming from the inside of the body, or external, caging certain sensitive spots from the outside – that could also represent protection.
What do you love about what you do?
Emily: My favourite part is probably browsing around the yarn shop and thinking of all the possibilities. I also love making up my own techniques, it makes me feel like such a rebel and I get such a buzz from creating an interesting texture especially when it is a complete accident and a mistake turns into something beautiful.
Nina: I am passionate about being an artisan and how this practice is deeply rooted in our history as species; my relationship with the materials, all its qualities, limitations and transformations is what moves my mind to create, and most importantly, provide reflection, and search for understanding of our culture and behaviour. I feel that it is necessary to think about what surrounds us and why things are the way they are. I believe that making and creative expression are, together, one of the ways I found to exercise that within me – I feel that this process of mine is still young and too much an internal dialogue, still chaotic and difficult to translate, and to fulfill that necessity I need it to be external, to understand and to be understood. This is what I love about making.
What is the story behind your final piece of work?
Emily: I started at LCF through the FDA knitwear course (which no longer exists). This was two years long and at the end we had the opportunity to join onto the final year of BA knitwear once we completed a 3-week long “Bridging” programme over the summer which was about making a strong start to our FMP’s. Before this started however, I went to a Wolf Alice gig and I noticed one of their songs had the word “feral child” in. It really struck a chord because I didn’t know what it meant so I looked it up and found all these mind-blowing and incredibly sad stories about cases of feral children. It occupied my thoughts for weeks! I kept daydreaming about what it would be like to be isolated from society and if I was raised by any animal, which one it would be.
Nina: It was essential to me to have research material provided from different people, I was surprised to see so many links found in such distinct experiences and how it was possible to somehow trace a pattern to work on.
What techniques or theories did you use to create your final piece of work?
Emily: Fringing! Lots of it! I wanted to manipulate the texture of the fabric through the use of different yarns and explore the different ways I could achieve a fringed effect. I adore the way it has so much movement, almost as if it is alive.
Nina: Carving was the most important technique used, I consider it one of my specialties in making, and I also did wax work to cast the metal pieces and finally, metal work. My theoretical work was mainly on anthropology and psychology. For this project I based a good part of my research on some of Claude Lévi-Strauss works.
What’s the best thing about LCF?
Emily: I believe it’s the people that really make the place. The tutors and technicians are always very supportive and really understand how to get the best work out of you.
Nina: I really enjoyed the importance LCF gave to historical and cultural studies within fashion and how students have the opportunity to develop their thinking on different subjects to their personal academic interest. We had classes that stimulated critical thinking and debate, and I was pleased to have in class, the work of important names in philosophy, anthropology, communication and psychology as subjects of analysis. I strongly believe fashion is deeply connected to many different areas that are not given enough importance in the industry and academia. Without the interest and effort from students and professionals of this generation, fashion will struggle to continue developing as an area of research in the academic world.
What’s the best thing about your courses?
Emily: The freedom to take any project in the direction that you want it to go. You are encouraged to find inspiration from non-fashion sources and it really broadens your horizon to other aspects of life and helps you think openly about where inspiration can come from. It encourages you to take an interest in all things.
Nina: Definitely the extensive range of different materials and processes, new and traditional, presented within these three years of the course. Having the introduction to a new material and a new process or way of making things was essential to my experience and understanding of my professional path. This course encourages research and experimentation to the students who are willing.
Have you won any prizes?
Emily: I was kindly awarded a Clara and Michael Freeman bursary for my press show collection which was a great honour and gave me the drive to focus on my work and allowed me to take some time off from my part-time job in order to use the studios.
Nina: Yes, I was kindly granted a bursary from the Clara & Michael Freeman Awards 2015-16 to support my work for the Press Show collaboration.
Have you been in the media?
Emily: Hahaha give me a chance…
Have you undertaken any work experience or done a placement whilst at LCF? Where and how did you secure this work experience or placement?
Nina: I did my internship at the Unseen, they are a new design house that integrates Biological Chemical and Electronic Science into fashion, through materials. They combine science with art, design and performance. My work experience was based at Somerset House in a friendly studio full of interesting objects and curiosities. The LCF Careers team was very helpful, giving me advice and CV feedback as well as providing me with a better understanding of how to present myself in the fashion industry.
What did you learn on your work experience/placement?
Nina: I believe I learned a lot about dealing with suppliers and market research, but the most rewarding experience was being able to do material consultancy and sampling as a role in the studio, which is connected to some of my professional aspirations.
Describe your work in five words…
Emily: Fun, adventurous, textural, detailed, mystical.
Nina: Memento, Eerie, Anthropological, Anatomy and Bespoke
Do you have a muse? If so, who and why?
Emily: I used to love this album called “Does You Inspire You” by Chairlift. I think there’s some truth in it, sometimes you need take a step back and find a muse within yourself.
What inspires you?
Emily: Out of all the projects I’ve done, the ones I have loved have all been inspired by nature in some form or another. When I was a child my mother thought I would become a Geologist because I would be very particular about the stones I collected on the beach. My grandparents are passionate about animals and their respect for the land and animals is something that influenced me from an early age. I always feel inspired when trying to achieve a certain tactility.
Nina: I constantly get inspired by things that people would usually find morbid, grotesque or just ugly.
Where do you want to be in your career in five years’ time?
Emily: My big dream is to set up my own knitwear brand with a focus on sustainably sourced materials. In the meantime, I would love to work for an adventurous brand and Sibling London are my favourite.
Nina: In five years I want to have done an MA focused in anthropological studies of materials, I want to be working as a material consultant and have a small home workshop to work on my projects (I really want to make a mask collection in the future) and do taxidermy. A good friend of mine invited me to participate in the direction of art education in a school she is planning to open in the US, so if her plan succeeds it would be a pleasure to contribute to that.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to study your course?
Emily: Don’t get too fixated about “style”, keep developing the skills you enjoy using and this will come naturally. Don’t worry too much if your work is really different from your classmates, sometimes the aspects you’re most insecure about in your work are the ones that make you special. And remember, “normal” is just a polite word for boring.
Nina: Your course is what you make of it.
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