Where would modern civilisation be without the casual staple that is the T-shirt? Probably still wearing fussy button-up shirts and jacobian ruffs no doubt. Ok maybe not but we do have A LOT to be thankful for, to the 19th century miners and sailors who were the first to sport a slip-on garment sans fastenings/buttons. A century later, reasons for wearing the world's number one clothing item haven't changed since it's utilitarian beginnings. Easily fitted, easy to clean, and inexpensive, and thus countless T-shirt labels were born; Chinti & Parker, T by Alexander Wang, C&C California to name a few.
As far as high end womens T shirt labels go, Draw In Light
is as good as it gets, specialising in hand-printed luxury garments individually produced at their London studio. Started by life-long friends Harry Barford and Polly Wilkinson, the pair combine their love for silk screen printing with making clothes they actually want to wear. Their latest outing, entitled Mapping
features their signature free-hand screen prints on pastel denim, slk, neoprene, leather and of course fine knit jerseys. Silhouettes are elegant, minimal with raw distressed seams yet understated. And most importantly, they fit like a dream. Made from the softest lightweight (but never see-through) jerseys, the T-shirts/T shirt-dresses flatter the female form, hugging curves where you'd want it to hug.
We visit the label's studio in Stepney Green to meet Harry, one half of the design duo to talk more in-depth about the rising label.Tell us about how the label started?
I've known Polly (the other half of Draw In Light
) all my life, as our mums' were pregnant with us at the same time. We both studied Print Design for Fashion at Brighton University, and we've always been interested in the print side of our collections. Silk screen printing is fundamental to how we design. After we graduated we both realised that we wanted to continue screen printing so made sure I knew places I could do it in London. We worked for Fleet Bigwood and London Printworks Trust
, tried to learn as much as I could about screen printing techniques. Then we got a free studio space in Brixton, where we started working together. It was going really well so we applied for the Best of British at Liberty's in February 2010 and they made an order. So we basically grew the business from that point.What made you want to start a fashion label as opposed to making prints as works of art?
I just love clothes. I didn't want to be an artist, and hide behind a conceptual theory. I like wearing clothes and I wanted to make something that you can wear. We've learnt how to make clothes as we've gone along. We do all the production ourselves still, we hand print everything here so everything is hand-made by us, and each piece is individual because of that. It became important at the time that we were able to make money from we were doing. We always did print on fabric as well, it makes sense to make clothes out of it.Did you choose to make each garment unique or was it a 'happy accident'?
We both like expressive mark-making, and to make sure that an image repeats is quite a patient process. If you're going to make something by hand why not show that by making each piece unique. Every time you make a print it's like you're making a painting. We'll have a colour palette or we'll use an image and we'll mess around with it, we'll also use paintbrushes, hand-spraying techniques and dyeing techniques to make sure that is an individual piece of 'art'. Also because we're doing everything ourselves, it's more exciting for us, to not reproduce the same thing over and over again but to make each piece slightly different.What are your starting points when you create a set of prints?
We have a few ways of starting it can be a colour that we've seen, or there will be a fabric that we like and then we want to see how that fabric will bleach, and then the colours come out different to how you thought because you don't know how that fabric is dyed. Or it could be a technique like in the Mapping Spring Summer collection we wanted to try out this photographic technique called Cyanotype where you dye a fabric in a light sensitive dye and then you expose the fabric to light. exactly how you would make a photograph. So you get a variety of tones that you can't achieve with a silk screen print, just like a photo on a piece of clothing. So a lot of it is process based but some piece will have a hand-drawn image because we wanted to represent landscapes and nature in our work. I guess the process informs the print. How do you go about choosing materials?
We usually go for fabrics that are easy to print on but because we like surface design, texture and pattern we avoid making a whole collection from the same material. Because we have raw edges it has to be fabrics that don't' disintegrate. We like raw silks and crepes, and lightweight jerseys. Because we're designing for women the materials have to drape well over a female body. But as we grow we're hoping to work with more knitwear and more wools.Do you have any favourite womenswear designers and artists who you think influence you?
Calvin Klein, Margiela, T by Alexander Wang. Polly likes Dries Van Noten, Vivienne Westwood (because she's a woman!). In terms of artists, I'm a traditionalist, I like Perna, Monet. Art Deco and architecture are also big influences.If you want to see Harry and Polly in their element, check out this beautifully edited video by Fallon, which was shown at London Fashion Week AW11
Fallon & Draw In Light from drawinlight on Vimeo.Thanks to Draw In Light for letting us have a nosey round their studio!
18:25 - 05/02/12
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