BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Embroidery graduate Carmen Manzano is next in the Class of 2017 series. Carmen talks to us about taking inspiration from her grandmother, strong women and choosing fashion over space travel.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the moment you knew you wanted to study fashion?
I think I just never really considered doing anything else with my life other than fashion or being an astronaut. Considering how good I am at science, being an astronaut was never really going to happen.
Talk us through your final project
My final major project started with a question – what is the difference between crafts and arts and how this plays out in the contemporary fashion/art landscape. The references I had were unpretentious and almost naïf kind of crafts, and most of my imagery came from objects my grandma has around her house. These were crochet tablecloths, hand painted tea towels, sculpted religious iconography, embroidered pieces of decoration, etc. So, ultimately my project became about “how to use thread in a way that it sits between the South American grandma house aesthetic and art school degree show one?”
I’m not going to lie; I struggled a lot at first. Getting all the design references right was a real process on its own and it was total trial and error. After that, I still had to overcome technical challenges – to really push the embroidery techniques to the maximum so that I could bring to life what was designed on paper. After trying and failing to realise my designs with lots of different techniques I ended up settling for computer-led embroidery design. This allowed me to create really intricate pieces with layered thread that emulates that paint-like effect I originally wanted. My final pieces of work are a canvas-looking garments that are covered in embroidery and painting.
What techniques or theories did you use to create your final piece of work?
One of my strengths is to mix up different techniques/contexts, my final piece consisted of lots of different things: firstly, painting on recycled leather using screen printing inks and treating this medium like acrylic paint. Then, expressive CAD embroidery was applied to the whole piece using layers to create a paint-like effect. After that, there was almost a hundred hours of hand embroidery that went into all the pieces. One of the most interesting techniques used is goldwork, which is a practice over a thousand years old that used to be used in royal and religious garments. It’s a super niche embroidery practice and I only got the opportunity to learn it because of LCF.
Have you won any prizes?
Nope, but if someone is reading this and feels like giving me one I would not complain.
Have you been in the media?
I have been interviewed for the website Ello for my embroidery work and have appeared in magazines like L’officiel Brasil, The Cut NY, Elle UK, Grazia and a few others for my street style/modelling.
Have you undertaken any work experience or done a placement whilst at LCF? Where and how did you secure this work experience or placement?
I interned at Mary Katrantzou and did a capsule collection for Brazilian brand Saloon 33 while I was at LCF. I secured the work experience at Mary in quite the traditional way – sending in thousands of covers letters and CVs and going for interviews after that. Saloon 33 is a brand I have worked with for a few years now; they are one of my sponsors. It made sense that the next step would be doing a capsule collection together.
Have you met or been inspired by any speakers from the industry whilst at LCF?
The Kering Talks have been incredible. And I really loved seeing Lou Stoppard & Lionel Vermeil, this talk kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I would love to see Grayson Perry too, but every time he gave a talk at LCF I had prior commitments and couldn’t make the event which is a massive shame.
Describe your work and aesthetic in five words…
Latina painter goes to the big city. Sorry, that’s 7 words.
Do you have a muse? If so, who and why?
I love strong women. I would say my muses are women I aspire to emulate. Can’t say it is always the same kind of person, it changes a lot because I love changing. However, they always have one thing in common – they have character in their own way.
What influences your style and work?
I keep up a lot with trends – I like to jokingly call myself a well-informed fashion victim. Other than that, anything can influence me. It could be a really strange person I saw on the bus or some incredible gallery I visited on my free time. Reading too, I read all the time during my free hours because it inspires me. I guess the bottom line here is learning: as long as I am experiencing something new, I am incorporating that new thing in my style and my work.
What are your plans for the future?
Moving back in with my dad… Hopefully getting a job.
How do you think your course and LCF will help you achieve this?
Because I did such a niche course at LCF I am leaving with highly specialised sets of skills. This means that I will be able to offer distinctive services to the industry. Hopefully that will give me an edge when getting out there professionally. But you never know. Everything is a little uncertain right now, be it in fashion, in economics or politics so I am leaving with an open mind about what to do with my future.
Have you heard that LCF is moving to east London? What do you think about the move?
I think it will be really great to have all the campuses together; it will make the university feel even more like a community.
What music do you listen to whilst you’re working? Is there one particular track or artist that you like?
Anything Britney spears has ever made. And I am not even apologetic about that. I have been listening to a lot of ABRA and Kilo Kish recently though.
What do you think Brexit means for the fashion industry and studying in London?
As an international student and immigrant I feel it’s a shame to have tougher barriers between countries, whichever they may be. It was an incredible opportunity to study abroad and learn so much about other cultures, as well as understanding people from different backgrounds. I appreciate immigration laws exist for a reason and are very important to secure the welfare of locals but we can’t forget the other side – together is always an equivalent to stronger.
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