Installation has started at In the Fold at the International Fashion Showcase. Curator Gemma A Williams is onsite with exhibition designers ABGC making sure everything goes according to plan, and today she's also in charge of our Instagram profile, sharing shots of the installation. We asked Gemma to give us a glimpse into the person behind the exhibition – her relationship with fashion and how In the Fold emerged from her experience of being Irish in global the fashion industry.
Here's what she told us.
I grew up at a time when the signs that Ireland actually had a relationship with high fashion were few, but nonetheless epic. These fleeting glimpses ranged from Philip Treacy interviewed by Pat Kenny on a Saturday night, to snippets on Off the Rails of Sinead O’Connor modeling for John Rocha. Back then, the idea of being a fashion designer, let alone a fashion writer or curator, was fantastical.
Times change thankfully.
With the worldwide breakthrough of National College of Art and Design graduates and universities like Limerick School of Art and Design offering excellent courses, the possibility of a career in fashion and its associated disciplines is now a reality. We now also in a connected environment, unlimited access means virtually everything and anything is at our fingers tips constantly, particularly fashion imagery. So how do we now place value when everything is so freely accessible? Situated geographically between New York and London, two of the top four fashion cities, Ireland lies at a curious juncture. With a small population and limited resources, the island experiences a brain drain with many young creatives realising crucially that a London base may offer a fast track to success.
In The Fold premiering at London Fashion Week is a way to showcase the strengths we possess and present our own little challenge to the system. It is a way of flying the flag and saying we are here in our unique way. Our aim should not be to compete with but to complement. We have a generation of exciting young designers who are thinking critically about fashion yet aware of the ultimate requirement of fashion, wearability, which sets them ahead of the trend. I wanted this show to illustrate that Ireland has style and substance. I normally approach exhibition curation with a theme or concept in mind, or a selection of objects to inspire the narrative. In The Fold was slightly unusual in that I felt strongly that the garments should be the focal points, however they were not the starting point. I was also conscious of this exhibition working as a prism for the remits and objectives of Irish Design 2015 as well dovetailing with the International Fashion Showcase.
Being Irish in London, and integrated into the London fashion scene, it’s incredibly interesting to observe our shared (or not) cultural identities. I felt the state visit by our President last year was important to the Irish living in the UK. We have a certain proximity, whether geographical or linguistic or cultural, and now the UK are really open to tapping into what we can bring to the table, especially in fashion. Two of the selected designers have trained here in London, further illustrating the synergy between the countries. So our culture and how this enables us to value ourselves and our associated output became the central theme to the show.
What is interesting from a curatorial basis is what sets Irish graduates apart, and I see this as their understanding of and respect for design. This is possibly most evident in garment materiality, with many of the fabrics recycled, self-made or embellished. Sustainability was also a key factor in influencing the concept and there is a strong feeling of make-do and self-sufficiency among the graduates. Their reference points are incredibly grounded and logical, and the commissioning process was truly collaborative and open, which nearly always produces the best results. Many are making their own fabrics, favouring simplicity of aesthetic and low key details as their signatures. These seemingly minimal but complex interventions, sometimes ecclesiastical in tone, present an alternative to current trends worldwide. This output offers a cohesive vision of contemporary Irish design which is considered and vital. Some key words their designs threw up include construction, longevity and reduction.
Interestingly, millinery is also a key factor, the show features one milliner while 3 of the designers have incorporated hats into their ensembles which speaks to a strong respect for the hat.
Perhaps this is evidence of the long lasting influence Philip Treacy’s fantastical designs have had on the Irish fashion psyche.
Follow Gemma on Twitter at @gemmacurates and Instagram, also @gemmacurates.
In the Fold is on view as part of IFS 2015 from 20th to 24th February: 10am to 6pm at the 3rd Floor Gallery, Brewer Street Car Park, 32 Brewer Street, London, W1F 0LA and is presented by ID2015 in collaboration with fashion exhibition partner Kildare Village, Ireland’s luxury shopping outlet destination.
For more see the IFS 2015 guide or take their Twitter tour on Friday 20th.
Words by Alex Calder.