Wednesday, March 12, 2008

synergies: yeohlee teng and andrew hague

During the shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris I was annoyed with for omitting so many worthy designers from their coverage, for whatever reason. With some of the labels they bother to write a runway review for... Anyway, one established designer ignores season after season is Yeohlee Teng, whose approach is beautifully showcased in Yeohlee: Work
 - visually better than in some of the essays, if I may say so. As I've complained before, describing a designer's practice as an artistic and/or art practice can unintentionally keep hidden the nitty-gritties of the practice itself - and I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know about it. The book is somewhat vague as to how Teng went about resolving some of her ideas. It's not that the creative facets of practice aren't important - I passionately believe they are, but they shouldn't overwhelm the more mundane, practical aspects of practice. (Actually, I'm not convinced the two should or can be treated separately from each other in a critical account of practice; it's just that much of the literature shies away from the bits that get hands dirty.) And please, let met clarify; I may be critical of certain decisions regarding the scope of the book, but I am very much a fan of Teng, one of the less-waste pioneers. And very jealous of Mark Liu who recently got to meet her. But, without further ado, some images from Teng's latest collection are here. I hope so in any case - after six foreheads had loaded the page froze on my computer.

And here is the beauty of the message I got from Andrew Hague earlier today: a clear, concise description of what he did to arrive at the shirt in Fletcher's book (p. 153 - for copyright reasons I won't post the image here). I am posting Andrew's description here unedited - practice-led researchers every where, sit up and listen:

"The project was given as a class assignment by my instructor, Lynda Grose, and she was so impressed with it that she sent it along to her colleague, Kate.

The idea was germinated years ago when I saw an exhibit by Yeohlee Teng at the museum at FIT, where they had copies of her actual patterns on the wall. Her interest in fabric conservation was admittedly financially motivated, but I guess the idea stuck. I wanted to reassess traditional design protocol in service to "green design," instead of simply replacing one carbon intensive product with one with a smaller eco-footprint, if you will.

So I found an image of a traditional shirt pattern on the web and pulled it into a vector-based platform (Illustrator, but almost any will work). From there, I manipulated the pattern almost arbitrarily to fill out all the holes which would leave wastage. I paid special attention to the armholes, but that's about it. I let the shirt become what it wanted to be. Most importantly, I neither added, nor subtracted pattern pieces, so when I sat down to the sewing machine, I sewed the shirt the way I had been trained as a tailor's apprentice.

The result is a decidedly Kawakubo effect, but the purpose and rationale are what makes it special."

I see similarities in Andrew's approach (for example, the parameters; "I neither added, nor subtracted pattern pieces") to some of my own experiment briefs. One reads as follows:

"Use the sketch and pattern of an existing design, and test various ways of placing the pattern pieces on a particular fabric width. When the least wasteful way of cutting the garment has been discovered, look at the gaps between the pattern pieces (fabric waste) and begin to redesign the garment by incorporating these gaps into it. Use sketching, informed by what is happening on pattern, to explore different possibilities of incorporating the wasted fabric into the design. Modify the patterns until waste has been eliminated. "

Confession time. At this point, 67945 years into my PhD, this is one of very few of the experiments I've yet to do, and for the others there are good logistical reasons for not having done them yet. But, the collection is lacking 'good' jackets (=any I'm happy with) and there is a jacket I did for my label back in 2003 that has much potential; it will most likely provide me with the existing design.

I would like to thank Andrew for sharing, and I dare you to try it out. It's how it can begin. Andrew's account hopefully shows that no-waste can be as creative as you allow it to be. Finally, if you are unfamiliar with Lynda Grose, she's as pioneering and inspiring (I think) as Kate Fletcher.

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