In addition to being awesome, Ricarda is a research-based fashion designer currently undertaking her PhD at RMIT focusing on modes and ways to express a fashion outcome, both in terms of how fashion is made and how it is communicated.
For the exhibition For What It's Worth in Gallery 3, Ricarda has collaborated with Michael Spooner who is also undertaking a PhD in architecture at RMIT. Till it opens, we've included some sneak preview 'behind-the-scenes' images taken by Antuong Nguyen (who you may remember from his recent Craft Cubed exhibition at the City Library!)
This is the second time you will have exhibited at Craft Victoria (first as part of group show A Ragged Edge in 2005). Can you tell us a bit about how your fashion practice has evolved since that time? What are your thoughts generally on ‘the exhibition’ as a model for communicating ideas about fashion?
For the last 5 years I have had a variety of different experiences in fashion both commercially and creatively. This has included an internship with German/Austrian duo BLESS in Paris and then a 3 year stint as a designer for a mass market brand, before embarking on a full time PhD in 2008.
Working in extremes of fashion practice has offered me an interesting perspective on the commonalities that affect all practitioners, and the distinctions that clearly divide luxury design items and that of disposable mass appeal fashion. At BLESS it was the experience of seeing a fashion design practice explore and integrate artistic values into all facets of their work, from the products themselves to the way in which it is presented. Whilst within the mass-market sector, the way fashion is produced was the focus and the manufacturing channels of a garment, from pattern to final product, can be highly innovative. This has impacted my thinking and subsequently my practice responds to both of these areas of fashion in different ways.
The significance of the exhibition model for fashion is an area that has grown greatly within the last 5 years where more designers are using this medium to extend the expression of fashion articles. This is becoming less about the presentation of definitive or consumable things and more so the display of fashion design thinking beyond garments. For my practice I am interested in the exhibition as a way to create an environment that embodies the thinking of the work but also challenges the references and associations of fashion.
You have collaborated with Michael Spooner in For What it’s Worth. How and why did your respective research practices in fashion and architecture come together in this way? Why did you choose an elephant as the basis for the collaboration?
Our work together has focused less on a traditional exchange where the creation of all aspects of the works are shared or each respective discipline trades places with the other within the collaboration. It has instead centered around a dialogue produced from the blurred edges of each respective practice and how this can enable the way each discipline communicates itself.
We both started our PhD’s at the same time and from the outset had mutual intrigue and curiosity for each other's practice. A dialogue between us naturally developed through the exchange of links and ideas, despite the distinctions between our research and that of the disciplines of fashion and architecture. My research has involved thinking about the ways in which fashion might be expressed besides implicitly in a garment, this is complimentary to Michael’s practice which makes distinctions between building's and architecture through what is often dismissed as 'paper architecture'.
The elephant was a silent figure among many others in one of Michael’s project, depicted as strung and hanging from a ceiling in one of his drawings. The idea to use it was quite an easy one. The elephant is symbolic of the often-arbitrary nature of references and subsequently could have been any other form, this perhaps relates to designers ability to capitalize and see potential in any reference. We were also particularly excited by its use due to the many playful associations of the particular imagery, anecdotes and assumptions that are immediately conjured by the idiom of the ‘elephant in the room’.
The title of the show references Charles Frederick Worth, thought to be the first ‘fashion designer’. Your bio states that you are interested in the ‘dialogue between designer and technician as an emergent type of fashion practice’. Can you expand on this concept? What possibilities do you see for craft merging with new technologies in the future of fashion design?
The research I have undertaken in my PhD has been concerned with uncovering the role of the fashion designer in terms of the major attributes of the creative cycle in fashion and exploring how this role might be expanded. In thinking forward, it is quite obvious that designers will have to learn new ways to operate particularly due the ubiquity of digital culture and the progressive nature of manufacturing innovations and technologies that are becoming more accessible. This does not discount artisanal or hand based practice, but suggests that designers will need to find creative and evocative ways to work with these innovations to produce unique outcomes. By interrogating the craft of making clothing, designers will find ways to subvert and extend these technologies and challenge what we assume them to produce.
I have been fortunate to have worked closely with a talented knit technician (Dean Jones) who specializes in Wholegarment® 3D seamless knitting for the last year on my research projects. This has involved the exploration of several different methods of interacting with technicians. Much of this relates to the amount of tangible input a designer can have in the production and development of pieces when using advanced and technical machinery. For this particular project, I developed a way to control the data imported and in this case develop the parameters of the 'pattern' used by the technician.
Image credit: Antuong Nguyen & Jessica Brent
For What It's Worth opens this Thursday evening at 6pm.