Maria Parsons, MA Graduate Collection 2011.
The leap from concept to realised design can be one of the most difficult for student designers. Some students try to make entire labour intensive collections by themselves, and can feel frustrated that they do not have the specialist expertise, or the time, required to complete the work as they had envisioned. For others the learning curve is in how best to communicate their work so that a professional can help to construct their garments, make their fabric or embellish their designs.
In the images above and below, there are examples of the work of Maria Parsons, who recently completed her Masters Graduate collection “Back to Mystery City” at Kolding School of Design in Denmark. In the interview below, she shares with us details of her process and construction techniques, including the story of how she travelled to India for two weeks to produce her garments.
It is also worth viewing the Tumblr (Back to Mystery City») she has created that tracks the progress of the collection. It is interesting to see the progression from the images that inspired her, through toiles, colour swatches, patterns, threads, beads, workshop images and finally into the finished garments.
CC: Can you describe your process for creating the pieces that are made from multiple panels? For example do you use any specific quilting techniques, do you prefer to create the designs by flat pattern making or by draping on a mannequin?
MP: The striped dress was made in a very ‘traditional’ quilting technique. We cut the different materials up in long strips (without measuring them in width, so that they are all different from each other). Then we sewed them all together after which we padded the whole thing. The dress is one big piece and is only sewn together in the sides and sleeves.
My approach to pattern making is very conceptual, meaning that I stay very true to the shapes that I choose to work with. For this collection I worked with geometrical shapes so that all the patterns/styles are two dimensional when laid down flat. The draped effect of the styles occur when they are worn on the body.
CC: What do you use to inspire your colour pallettes and fabric choices?
MP: I was inspired by an illustration on a metal tray. I worked in a very conceptual way which means that all the colours and shapes are taken directly from the illustration. The fabric choices were all about creating contrasts. Shiny textiles up against wooly ones or metallic materials together with furniture textiles. I love textiles that are ‘over the top’ and a bit too much. They challenge me as a designer.
CC: Can you explain what the small metallic gold rectangles are made out of and how you have attached them? Were these premade that you sourced from someone or were they a trim that you designed yourself?
MP: The metallic gold pieces/rectangles are made out of brass. They are a trim that I designed myself and had made while I was in India. I had a tiny hole drilled in them and attached a small ring and my team hand sewed them on two items in the collection (the blue dress and the black pants). I also had pendants made in brass for all the zippers. These were all cut out by hand.
CC: Some of your garments appear to be beaded all over by hand – was this work that you completed yourself, or was it completed by someone sewing for you? Can you describe how many people were in the team that worked on the collection?
MP: Yes, two whole outfits are beaded by hand. A mini dress (front and back) and a jacket + mini skirt (which are only partly covered in beads). I went to New Delhi, India for 15 days in March 2011. I stayed at the factory the whole time sleeping in one of the flats situated immediately above the workplace (there were flats on top of the factory where I lived). I had a team of about 8 people working on my collection.
It was a ‘semi-production’ process meaning that I produced/created the finished patterns myself before going to India. I also brought over to India myself half of the textiles used in creating the garments.
CC: How did you go about finding the team that you worked with in India? Do you have any advice for other young designers about finding manufacturers to work with?
MP: The funny thing is that the company in India got in contact with me on Facebook. I think they were looking for clients in Scandinavia. It was just ‘meant to be’ that they contacted me, since I knew that I would love to use all the techniques that they are so good at in India in my collection such as beading, embroidery and so on.
So I just basically took a big chance going there since I did not know a lot about the company or production in general. But I am so happy that I took the risk. Going to India and having my collection produced has been the most educational fashion experience I have ever had. It taught me so many things that you simply cannot learn at school and my advice to other fashion students is to try it out in one way or another.
If you do not know any production places yourself then ask other people within your fashion network. For instance the places where you have interned or a teacher might know somebody. Fashion is all about networking.
More information about the work of Maria Parsons on her own Tumblr Here».
Production images by Maria Parsons, Graduate collection images photographed by Rikke Kjaer, Interior images by artist Anna Maria Helgadottir. All images provided by Maria Parsons.