Elfé Baroso Bertand, Monica Hodgson, Fiona Ibbetson and Faye Morey are MA Fashion Curation Students at London College of Fashion (LCF). The group vitrine project was undertaken as part of ‘The Past and Future of Fashion Curation’ unit, in collaboration with LCF Professor Helen Storey.
The Jacket of Wishes
In 2015, Helen designed and created the ‘Dress For Our Time’ for a project with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at LCF. It was made from a decommissioned United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) tent that housed a refugee family from the Zaatari Camp in Jordan. The role of the dress was to communicate the complex issues of climate change and the mass displacement of people using the power of fashion. It travelled around the world and was displayed in places including St. Pancras International train station in London, where attendees on their way to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris (2015) could see it
The dress even made an appearance on the Pyramid Stage at the 2016 Glastonbury Music Festival, worn by singer and UNHCR Ambassador Rokia Traoré.
It was whilst travelling that the journey of the ‘Jacket of Wishes’ began. Helen explains that the jacket was designed to maintain the woman’s modesty when wearing the dress in the Middle East.
Inside the Jacket of Wishes
Our group was given the opportunity to look through Helen’s work she had created in Zaatari and chose to display the ‘Jacket of Wishes’. We felt the narrative and context of this object was worth exploration and deserved its own display. The jacket was created at LCF from leftover materials from the ‘Dress for Our Time’. It was taken back to Zaatari to collect heartfelt messages and voices of the women who wrote on the exterior in Arabic (and later received an English translation on the interior). Helen explains that “the jacket is using a piece of fashion clothing to connect women from very different parts of the world together... [making] a connection between the students and staff at LCF to the women and the young girls in Zaatari.”
Initial installation development ideas
The final exhibition design is an experiment in scale and materiality. Initial ideas, conversations and mind maps transcended into the final display through experimental practice development. The MA Fashion Curation course has taught us multiple methods of curatorial exploration and how we might spotlight an object in various ways in order to enhance specific elements we wish to communicate to an audience. In group discussions we explored the notion of how the mount position of the jacket and the slightest movement, tilt, arch or slant might alter the audience's interpretation of the object in relation to the wider display. How does one soften the presence of an object in space? Is the metaphorical “hug”, taken in relation to the literal name of the jacket’s cut, present within the glass vitrine? We noted the vitrine provided a “theatre stage” on which to exhibit and interpret objects. A fast pace environment, a corridor of passing, we wanted interactions with the display to be impactful, visually and metaphorically. In the end, the jacket is gracefully hovering over the cardboard display, an alternative from the original design, yet a compromise welcomed through experimentation.
Elfé inspecting the Jacket of Wishes
Monica cutting and building the installation boxes
From the start we wanted the jacket to stand prominent above the scaled-down model of the Zaatari refugee camp. The size in comparison to the cardboard boxes already evoked a striking difference in scale. Stemming from the jacket’s arms, tent poles were to be arched over, crossing at the midpoint, to represent a literal interpretation of the jacket being made from remnant tent material. After experimental development, putting into practice pragmatic approaches rather than creative desires, the jacket stabilised best when supported from above, floating above the cardboard model. Trial and error became second nature, proving every aspect can be manipulated slightly without significant change in overall aesthetic if alternatives are considered.
Fiona installing the Jacket of Wishes in the vitrine
The Jacket of Wishes installed in the vitrine
Various images and videos showing the overall scale of the Zaatari camp inspired us to make the whole base of the vitrine as a scaled down model. The use of cardboard as our material of choice was linked with the temporary nature of the refugee camp, as well as the camp's extensive recycling programme. The dark beige hue of the cardboard is very reflective of the geographical environment and structure, adding an essence of realism to its visual imagery. Roads in the Zaatari refugee camp are temporary, wide spaces not permanently built, so we didn’t make any permanent markings or secure the boxes to the vitrine base. Only hand-made flags sit proudly on clusters of boxes, placed together to represent larger buildings, representing the specific centres Helen has worked with in the camp, such as the Women’s Centre. Incorporating these flags assists with geographical grasp and aides the audience's understanding of scale.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the installation of our vitrine exhibition was delayed as we waited for the green light to proceed. However, at the end of July we were finally able to realise all our hard work. It was a very exciting and rewarding process. The ‘Jacket of Wishes’ was padded and mounted onto the tent pole. It was then carefully hung from the ceiling of the vitrine, making sure it was secure and level. We then placed the cardboard boxes we had built onto the base of the vitrine, creating our model of the Zaatari refugee camp. Finally, we hung our English ad Arabic text panels. To see our installation come together, and exactly as we had all hoped and envisaged when we came up with our initial ideas many months ago, was incredibly rewarding.
The final vitrine installation at London College of Fashion, John Princes Street, London
Our group felt incredibly grateful to have worked with Helen and to have had the opportunity to collaborate with an artist and exhibit their work. The collaboration was a positive experience, as both parties were enthusiastic about the assignment, which allowed for engaging conversations, discussions and sharing of resources and ideas.
This project would not have been possible without the contribution of Professor Helen Storey and the ongoing guidance and encouragement from the project lead Alison Moloney. We would like to thank the unit leader Professor Judith Clark and MA Fashion Curation course leader, Dr Jeffrey Horsley for their support.
The @LCF_Vitrine Instagram page can be found here. Please follow for updates and for a deeper look into the unseen research and development processes of the Jacket of Wishes installation, as well as future installations.