The previous summer (2015) I'd spent a lot of time listening to disco music and dancing around my apartment. I really wanted to design a collection to go dancing in. I didn't experience the disco era myself, my second-hand experience of it is limited to films, records and anecdotes told to me. Looking back on it, it seems it was the first era to truly embrace expressive solo dancing, and dancing as a way to achieve a trance-like state in western culture (I would argue even without the consumption of drugs, even though they were undoubtedly a part of the same culture). Disco music is upbeat and uplifting and disco dancing can range from silly to sexy.
A scene in the film "Ex Machina" (2015) sparked my obsession:
What I love about this scene is the contrast between the upbeat music, sexy dance and ominous, threatening atmosphere - this mood reminded me of something I couldn't quite put my finger on for a time.
Aside from disco, I also listened and danced to the music of FKA Twigs' EP M3LL155X (pronounced "Melissa") - especially the song "Figure 8":
Certainly not your average dance track with its shifting beats.
So - Fun, sexy, strange dancing with a side of ominous. But how to translate that mood into a collection? I had the disco influence, but where was the strangeness? That is where Surrealism comes in. Surrealist Art is a favorite of mine - Dr. Seuss books were my favorite, and the dream-like, ominous quality of Salvador Dalì's paintings has always appealed to me. So why not send Salvador Dali to the Disco and look at the spectacle through his eyes? That became the frame for the collection, the underlying fiction guiding the design process.
I took inspiration from disco era fashion, but more as a starting point than a literal reference - I wanted to conserve the essence of "fashion for the dancefloor", but bring it into the current landscape of dance music and subculture.
The goal of the project was to design (2D) a 15 look collection implementing "variation" in the design process (something we had practiced in a workshop during the semester), and execute two blouse variations and two pant variations. We had created a blouse and a pair of shoes earlier in the semester, and could use these as a jumping off point if we wanted.
With my blouse and shoes, mood board, collages, favorite Dalì paintings, screenshots of his experimental film "Un Chien Andalou" and the animated "Destino", photos of Dali himself and disco fashion research lined up, I began sketching. I ran disco images through the Deep Dream Generator (see image below) for inspiration. Certain elements in Dalì's works (rope-like tangled limbs and shapes, ants in "Un Chien Andalou" etc.) informed material and print choices, as well as some of Dalì's own outifts and his pet ocelot. A melted disco ball sculpture by design collective Rotganzen became an icon I kept returning to.
I sketched the garments separately, scanned them, and using photoshop dressed the croquis in as many combinations as possible. From these sketched looks I chose the best options, edited them down to make sure every garment only appeared once, and drew more garments to fill the "holes" in the collection. I arrived at this:
Out of these 15 Looks I choose to make the second to last look, the green jacket (but switched up the front opening to a split placket), and the 5th look (to wear under the jacket).
I used rope and zigzagged it together at certain points to make it form a sort of squiggly net, with loops at the front to put laces through. I got the base shoes from asos (the dark ones in the first image below) and covered them in a sparkly, stretchy fabric. To do this I used painters tape (the pink stuff in the second image) to cover the area of the shoe I needed to cover, made a pattern from that, used a hairdryer to warm up the sole and slowly remove it from the shoe using a screwdriver, glued the fabric onto the shoe around the edges, stretching and folding it over, and then glued the sole back on.
I used a leather sewing machine to attach the first two rows of rope to the shoe, because it needed to be attached really well. Then for the first few rope ornaments around the edge of the shoe, I sewed by hand, and once I got far enough to somehow lay the rope under the zig zag machine, that's what I used to sew the ropes together in certain places. I always held the shoes together to copy the ornaments, so they'd be as symmetrical as possible. Here my mother is modelling them:
Starting with a pant sloper and the pattern for the white blouse I had made earlier in the semester (see above under "design process"), I flat drafted the first versions of the garments and corrected the fit as needed.
At the shaped bust seam of the blouse, I extended the upper bodice down in a drip shape, and extended the lower bodice up to match it. The two pattern pieces curve differently at the bust line points (the starting line of the "drips") where they meet the original bust seam, thus maintaining the fitted shape of the original seam.
This design feature mirrors the melted objects and elements that often appear in Dalì paintings, while also moving with the body in the way fringe (a 70ies fashion staple) would.
The blouse in its almost completed state. The upper half uses white shirting cotton, the lower half is a pale lavender silk satin. The collar extends in a singular drip shape at center back, passes through a slit in the upper back yoke and across the "back-less" upper back cut-out, and attaches to the lower back of the blouse with the help of a large amber teddy bear eye.
I added smaller eye shaped buttons to the front placket and the cuffs (they consist of a blue ring bead and a small round black bead in the center).
The hip bag consists of a black leather belt that wraps around the waist, extends down the side of a leg and fastens to it with the help of a leg strap. To the connector between waist and leg belt I attached a faux ocelot fur pouch. I used steel studs and punched holes for the closures.