Next up in our Class of 2017 series is BA (Hons) Cordwainers Footwear: Product Design and Development graduate Natalie Hodgson. Natalie has created a a footwear collection based around ghost gear, the fishing debris found along the coastline of her Isle of Man home. Her Natalie tells LCF News about her work, sustainability, Frank Ocean and the actual ocean.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the moment you knew you wanted to study fashion?
The decision to study fashion came from my years at Art and Design College back home. It was an inspiring course where each day was filled with creativity. I have always enjoyed the design and making process within each project but I became seriously interested in the prospect of designing fashion footwear in my second year of the course. I felt the most comfortable in the 3D workshops where I was encouraged to combine my flare for fashion with my interest in building 3D objects. This was the moment where the prospect of footwear design became a new direction for furthering my education.
Talk us through your final collection
I come from a small rock in the middle of the Irish Sea called the Isle of Man. Due to being surrounded by the ocean my whole life, I have a great respect for it and a deep fascination with what lies beneath. I felt that the local coastline was a personal and plentiful starting point for research generation and inspiration for my final collection. Research began with a focus on the natural surroundings of the beaches and harbours around the island before attention was shifted towards the items that I had been finding washed up along the coastline. This led me to look into the wider issue that is referred to as ‘Ghost Gear’. This is where fishing equipment in particular has been either discarded or lost at sea and not only pollutes the ocean with waste, but also kills and endangers marine life in the process. Following this shocking realisation it became clear to me that I wanted to focus on creating a new life for this discarded fishing equipment outside of the ocean.
Throughout this inter-seasonal womenswear collection I explored the possibilities of creating striking yet sustainable fashion by recycling waste materials from the local fishing industry in my hometown, and applying them to contemporary footwear design. The waste materials of particular interest to this collection have been the discarded fishing nets from a local Queenie fisherman. (Queenie = Queen scallops. A large portion of the local fishing industry on the island and require thick and durable nets to withstand the sharp shells).
What techniques or theories did you use to create your final piece of work?
After a range of material exploration I became fascinated with the salvaged fishing net, initially due to its colour and its fibrous texture. I wanted to focus on how I could utilise this particular material for the collection. I completely deconstructed the net by unwinding each knot, and then unweaving the lengths of rope to unveil each individual fibre. From this I developed my own beading technique, which has been used to embellish the boot, and a bristled design feature that I have incorporated into the court shoe.
Have you won any prizes?
I have! I won second place in a live design project with MCM at the end of my second year, which was exciting. I also won some prize money through a scholarship I was nominated for by my course tutors.
Have you undertaken any work experience or done a placement whilst at LCF?
I have taken part in brand showroom visits through different buying trips for a menswear store I used to work for back home. I’m still invited to their London based buying appointments, which I like to attend as often as possible. During my study I have also been a studio assistant for my friend Bethany Williams to help weave and stitch her MA menswear collection BREADLINE.
In regards to internships I haven’t experienced any footwear specific placements and I am really nervous about this. During term time I have wanted to focus my full energy on my work, and outside term, purely down to financial situation, I have had to return home for the holidays to work so that I can afford to live in London.
Have you met or been inspired by any speakers from the industry whilst at LCF?
A recent guest speaker that I have found inspiring isn’t actually in the line of footwear, but in the television presenter. Kath Melandri held a seminar on confidence when networking and public speaking. She came across so confident and outgoing but she said that every single time before she has to speak or present, she is filled with nerves. She taught us all some helpful exercises for soothing nerves before an interview or a presentation that I feel like I’m going to use for everything of that nature going forward.
Describe your work and aesthetic in five words…
Minimal, clean, abstract, concentric, thoughtful
Do you have a muse? If so, who and why?
If I am completely honest I don’t think I have a muse as such. Someone that has inspired my recently definitely has to be my friend Bethany Williams as mentioned above. She is from the Isle of Man, like myself, and after helping her in the studio, and learning what her project and ethos is about, she has opened my eyes to considering a more ethical approach to design. Her philanthropic and ethical approach to design has inspired my work during my final year, and although I’m sure that she would disagree when I say this, if it wasn’t for her, my final collection would be completely different.
What influences your style and work?
I feel that the brief or theme of a project is what predominantly influences my style. I like to simplify direct design inspiration and blend this into my final designs in an abstract and subtle way. My true signature seems to pull through on my clean and minimalistic style I suppose. I don’t usually like fiddly adornments or overly fussy details, I prefer to design with a more functional and practical vision that the overall silhouette can be visually impactful.
What are your plans for the future?
This is the question no graduate wants to hear haha. I would love to work for a sportswear brand like Nike, or Adidas designing performance footwear and looking into the development of new technologies. Adidas in particular have been developing a number of sustainable materials to incorporate into their designs such as their spider silk inspired biodegradable sneaker and their Parley collaboration where they recycle ocean plastic by creating thread for embroidery on the upper. To be part of the research and design development team would be an amazing experience.
How do you think your course and LCF will help you achieve this?
The LCF Careers team has been extremely helpful throughout the years by holding lectures and one to one sessions to provide help with the CV and application process for potential jobs, and have also arranged networking events where representatives from the industry are invited for us to create contacts and talk to them in regards to potential career opportunities. In addition to this, our footwear course leaders in particular have arranged trips around the UK to visit tanneries, leather industry seminars, and even industry visits where we have had the opportunity to look around large footwear companies based in the UK. The school seems to have strong relationships with a number of industry partners so I hope this also helps me when it comes to finding a dream job.
Have you heard that LCF is moving to east London? What do you think about the move?
I have yes, it sounds like it should be a brilliant move having all of the courses under one roof. I must admit though, as I have been situated at Golden Lane for the past three years, I have grown highly fond of the Golden Lane community. The place seems to have its own character that will be missed.
What music do you listen to whilst you’re working? Is there one particular track or artist that you like?
When I’m doing sketch or design work I could listen to anything with a decent beat, mainly within the realm of rap, hiphop or R&B. For academic writing and reading in particular I can only listen to one person. Frank Ocean. I’m listening to him now as I write this. I can’t describe what it is about his music that just works so well, but any one of his songs sends me into a zone of focus.
What do you think Brexit means for the fashion industry and studying in London?
One of my favourite experiences about studying at LCF is the diversity of the student body. I have made friends during my course from all corners of the world, which I feel is a unique quality about studying in London. I am worried that once Brexit is finalised the number of international students will reduce for one reason or another meaning this special quality is lost.
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