The culmination of a perfectly pitched crowd funding campaign, a collaborative team of graduates, an inner city studio space and seven months of unpaid work is Pulling Strings, a fashion installation that marries the digital with the physical whilst exploring our complicated relationship with clothes. Millennial creatives, take note; this is how you do design in 2016.
Words: Sophie Donaldson
I was first introduced to the work of Andrew Bell as it strode down the catwalk at the National College of Art and Design’s graduate show in 2013. The striking asymmetry, neon meets neutral colour palette and bold silhouettes had the the audience sit up that little bit straighter, smartphones trained on the collection as it paraded by. Interviewing him last year for The Prowlster, I was given a glimpse into the conceptual imaginings that result in his very wearable clothes. He spoke about his fascination with women and their bags, and the complex relationship that is struck up between the two, as well as a vision he had for a digital carry-on from his graduate collection.
He described a stop-motion display in which dormant bags opened and lengths of fabric crept upwards, eventually revealing themselves to be elongated garments suspended in mid-air. Fantastical as it may sound, this digital daydream has become a reality. Working as a commercial design assistant after graduation, Bell’s hunger for a creative project drove him to pursue this idea of installation-cum-collection that explores the “overwhelming” relationship between fast fashion and the individual. He has recruited a talented team of videographers, designers and sound artists to produce an innovative multi-media exhibition, with some rather awe inspiring engineering thrown into the mix.
“I had some ideas for a fashion video based around some very specific garments. From there I contacted Kate (Dolan) and Philip (Blake), whose work I had come across online… they work under the creative partnership of Squared Film.
Prior to meeting with Kate and Philip I had been chatting with my friend Paul Moran who studied industrial design at NCAD. Paul specialised in portable furniture design, and we worked together during the summer to create a modular wooden frame that would be capable of suspending and elevating the garments for the video. Later in the project I contacted Rob and asked him if he would be interested in creating the audio for the video.”
He cites iconic fashion photographer Guy Bourdin as inspiration for the project, the searing red of the garments an immediately recognisable element of the photographer’s aesthetic. The exhibition space is a crisp white, dotted with white bags perched quietly on white plinths. The humble trouser, jacket, shirt and a pair of gloves are the garments that emerge from the bags via invisible lengths of string, reinterepted into “art objects” in the process. They are also a nod to his penchant for tailoring, possessing a keen eye for perfectly fitted separates.
Pulling Strings is progressive not only in content, but in concept and execution too. The fashion industry has witnessed this multidisciplinary approach for some time now, as designers see the potential in collaboration and digitisation to further themselves both creative and commercially. As a young designer, Bells sees these collaborative efforts as the way forward, commenting that “the future of fashion design, and probably design in general, lies in collaboration and a cross-pollination of ideas and disciplines.”
As well as this, forward-thinking fashion houses see the benefits of opening up their brand to the consumer via platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, as well as live streaming their previously exclusive seasonal shows. By allowing the public to become intimately acquainted with the brand they are developing a loyal rapport between brand and consumer. In the increasingly competitive sphere of fashion design, inclusivity is set to be the way of the future. Typically taking this one step further, Bell opted in for an immersive exhibition as opposed to just another fashion show because “it makes for a more engaging experience for the audience, who are free to move around the exhibition as they wish- instead of sitting on a bench watching from a distance”
Pulling Strings opens at Steambox Studios, Dublin 8, on Thursday February 18 until February 22.
Event // Fashion and creative direction by Andrew Bell // Industrial design by Paul Moran // Videography by Kate Dolan and Philip Blake at Squared // Multimedia/sound design by Robert Ickis Mirolo.