- Article by Online Editor
- Photography by Derek Swalwell
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The LOréal Melbourne Fashion Festival always manages to bring glamour and celebrity to Melbourne. While the catwalk parades demand centre stage, a number of curious events pop up around the city to showcase the smaller independent labels about town. For those seeking something less mainstream, these exhibitions and events are at the heartbeat of what the up and coming designers are doing.
One such event was at the Off the Kerb gallery in Collingwood, where in the window a fluorescent yellow crisscross pattern immediately attracted attention. The print in question was on a long grey dress hanging on a rail at the front of a collection of clothing, alongside it was also strikingly and repeatedly stencilled and sprayed onto a series of large acetate sheets suspended into the space. Simple in its execution yet complex in intent, it is the work of AFAR the title given to the collaboration between Alexi Freeman, a Melbourne-based fashion designer and Aaron Roberts, an architect and founding member of Room 11. The AFAR Pop-up Shop (as it was known) showcased the Alexi Freeman Autumn Winter 2009 collection Criss Cross and was an official part of the LOréal Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program.
The purpose of the AFAR project was to explore how the language of Alexi Freemans design process and outcomes could inform the creation of an installation style retail environment and to reference some of the key experiences of the Alexi Freeman AW09 collection, such as layering, shimmer, reflection and translucency, says Freeman. Working together Freeman and Roberts used a combination of textile, pattern making and computer aided design methodologies and techniques to produce, says Freeman, a topographical extrusion of the Alexi Freeman flapper motif.
It reads as a diaphanous three-dimensional projection and as a spatial installation it offers up an interesting vantage point from which to view Freemans AW09 collection. By making the stencilled pattern the same scale as a human body a person standing at one end appears to be wearing the projection. If you move to the side the acetate panels hang parallel to the garments on the rack and views to the collection are mediated by the print motif. The installation hovers in the gallery space and in doing so plays on the often delicate qualities of clothing. I wanted the piece to have minimum structure, says Roberts. Clothing is held together by thread and creates a lightweight volume for housing the body. The fabric becomes the structure, yet is not load bearing this was an exciting proposition for the piece as it meant people moving past or through the installation would make it waiver gently.
Obvious parallels can be drawn between the discipline of architecture and the discipline of fashion design they are designed for and house the human body, they provide shelter from the elements, offer privacy and facilitate movement.
There are also significant differences between the two the duration of architecture versus the shifting seasons of fashion. Multiple persons need to occupy a building, yet only one person occupies a garment of clothing, and where we expect a building to last centuries, is it acceptable for a garment to last a couple of seasons.
Despite the similarities and differences Freeman and Roberts found a common ground to locate their AFAR Pop-up Shop We began by indentifying what was integral to each of our practices and then looked for intersections, says Freeman. As a collaborative project, its success lies not just in what has been produced, but also in what they gained from each others approach and working processes.
Freeman has a fine art training that has equipped him with skills in drawing, etching and stencil making, skills that continue to inform his own fashion design process and way of working. Roberts has an architectural training, and his mode of production of late has been mostly through computer aided design and modelling. By default the scale of their work differs, as does the time-frame from concept to completion and where Freeman has the luxury to prototype a garment, Roberts relies on three-dimensional visualisations.
It has made me want to get back to the handmade and to the physical model, says Roberts. It has offered up a view into the way pattern, grading of pattern and pattern making can be appropriated to form spatial constructs and has rekindled my interest in the application of pattern to architecture.
I am enamoured by the clarity of Aarons design language, adds Freeman, which directly influenced the clean lines and almost surgical precision of steps that were carried out to create this installation. Working with Aaron has helped instil an even greater sense of the need for accuracy in the realisation of comprehensible design.
Now in its eleventh year, Shaw Contract’s Design Awards program honors architecture and design firms that are changing the way people engage and interact with a space.