MA­TE­RI­AL­BYPROD­UCT

A lux­ury goods house for the 21st cen­tury.

Neue Luxury - - Front Page - By Paola Di Troc­chio

Su­san Di­masi es­tab­lished lux­ury fash­ion house Ma­te­ri­al­byprod­uct (MBP) in 2004 as a means to in­vent fu­ture sys­tems for fash­ion de­sign. These sys­tems are shaped by the Aus­tralian con­text, as well as the fash­ion in­dus­try’s needs for smaller pro­duc­tion runs within less phys­i­cal space. She has re­fined her craft with the sim­plest of tools – her own two hands and her ac­tive mind over an ex­tended pe­riod of con­tem­pla­tion, train­ing, trial, rein­ven­tion and re­view. The byprod­ucts of her sys­tem are gar­ments within her Ar­ti­san col­lec­tion which she sells to her in­flu­en­tial clients. Soon Di­masi will in­tro­duce a dif­fu­sion line ti­tled Pro­duc­tion and has con­tracted Ryan Euin­ton as De­signer and Tech­ni­cal Direc­tor to de­velop the trans­la­tion.

In Oc­to­ber 2012, Su­san Di­masi, Ryan Euin­ton and NGV cu­ra­tor Paola Di Troc­chio met to study three gar­ments at the Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria. These gar­ments recorded technological in­no­va­tions in gar­ment con­struc­tion over three cen­turies and have in­formed the in­ven­tion and in­flu­ence of MBP. The 18th cen­tury open robe and pet­ti­coat se­lected by Di­masi recorded the technological in­ven­tions de­rived from the quest for beauty in its rich tex­tile. The soft pas­tel bodice and skirt by Chloe from the 1970s in­ter­preted the 18th cen­tury flo­ral mo­tif through twen­ti­eth cen­tury modes of me­chan­i­cal re­pro­duc­tion with both beauty and com­pro­mise, while the 1996 Martin Margiela dress rein­vented elab­o­rate hand­made cloth­ing through the pho­to­graphic im­age. In the fash­ion and tex­tiles view­ing room Di­masi, Euin­ton and Di Troc­chio dis­cussed these three pieces and how Pro­duc­tion will con­tinue the di­a­logue of fu­ture in­ven­tion. PAOLA DI TROC­CHIO: Are the gar­ments as you re­mem­ber them? SU­SAN DI­MASI: They are like old friends. I hope my gar­ments are like old friends. I al­ways pre­fer when peo­ple tell me that they have lived with one of my pieces and its been part of their life’s jour­ney. PD: But they have also been part of your life’s jour­ney in a way be­cause you met them whilst you were work­ing here at the NGV. SD: Yes, work­ing here at the NGV was my quiet in­tern­ship that I had with many Euro­pean de­sign houses through the ages. So it’s ac­tu­ally quite mov­ing to be back. What I loved so much about spend­ing time with these pieces and why I wanted Ryan to see them is be­cause they talk to you from the in­side out. Through spend­ing many many hours in the quiet space of stor­age I felt like I could travel back in time and re-en­gage in a set of de­ci­sions that have been made to come to this out­come. Some are de­ci­sions I agreed with and oth­ers I didn’t agree with. Some were log­i­cal and process driven and some were il­log­i­cal. PD: So did you choose these pieces to show Ryan be­cause you felt they were log­i­cal? SD: Not nec­es­sar­ily. I think a suc­cess­ful piece has both logic and emo­tion. It’s not purely one or the other. Take this ex­quis­ite 18th cen­tury gown for ex­am­ple, the logic be­hind cre­at­ing these amaz­ing jac­quard fab­rics was find­ing a me­chan­i­cal way to em­broi­der. So the jac­quard loom was in­vented. It was con­sid­ered the first com­puter, so there was a logic. But it was also ex­pen­sive and time con­sum­ing. So why? For beauty. The drive is com­pletely po­etic. The drive is one for beauty. The out­comes are ex­tra­or­di­nary. But the drive was for beauty not for the first com­puter so that’s in a way il­log­i­cal. I find my­self of­ten in the same quandary. This is where Ryan comes in. Cur­rently I have this con­cept of want­ing to scan my gar­ment half way through the ar­ti­san process to cre­ate some­thing which is less hands-on and more mech­a­nised. But our ini­tial in­ter­ven­tions are re­veal­ing that it’s not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be hands-free and non-emo­tional, but rather a highly emo­tional way of ap­proach­ing the idea of scal­ing pro­duc­tion. PD: De­sign­ers of­ten cre­ate dif­fu­sion lines with eco­nomic mo­ti­va­tions, but from what I know about Pro­duc­tion I’m won­der­ing if that’s ac­tu­ally part of it? SD: Pro­duc­tion is not sup­posed to just be a cheaper ver­sion of what I do as an ar­ti­san. It still has to have po­etry, in­tegrity and beauty and has to be a re­ally ful­fill­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I talk about it as a dif­fu­sion line as a way to po­si­tion it in the fash­ion land­scape, but the word dif­fu­sion sug­gests that you are di­lut­ing what you do here in the ivory tower, whereas that’s never been my view. The dif­fu­sion line has to be an al­tered ex­pe­ri­ence, but still a le­git­i­mate ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s about reach­ing the most peo­ple to achieve real cul­tural change. That’s im­por­tant to me. Just look­ing across these gar­ments helps to ex­plain it. Life in this 18th cen­tury dress would be a very dif­fer­ent life to life in that 1970s Chloe or that 1990s Margiela. In the 18th cen­tury dress you needed some­one to dress you, so the way you phys­i­cally felt, emo­tion­ally felt, the way you moved through life and in­hab­ited the world, where you went, how you got there and your ex­pe­ri­ence of life was ut­terly dif­fer­ent. PD: So how will all these pro­cesses of in­ven­tion in­form Pro­duc­tion? SD: Ryan and I have been hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about how to digi­tise and mech­a­nise what I do as an ar­ti­san. The as­pi­ra­tion is to make a hands­free gar­ment. RYAN EUIN­TON: I think the rea­son why Sue brought me into the house is that I spent 5 or 6 years with Ma­te­ri­al­byprod­uct and then some time out­side work­ing in a much dif­fer­ent pro­duc­tion en­vi­ron­ment. So to me it was ac­tu­ally quite a sim­ple and a log­i­cal mar­riage. Hav­ing been in the MBP world and then out of it, how do I come back into it? SD: I know that peo­ple have found it dis­con­cert­ing when I’ve said I’m go­ing to bring a de­signer into Pro­duc­tion, be­cause in the “cult of the ge­nius” de­signer it would stand to rea­son that I’m sup­posed to pre­tend that I de­sign every­thing. But Ryan’s not go­ing to go away and draw a bunch of dresses and come back to me and say, what do you think? Ryan will be en­gaged in the process along­side of me and his role is to trans­late that ar­ti­san process into a dig­i­tal, me­chan­i­cal means of pro­duc­tion. It’s a highly tech­ni­cal role, as much as it is a cre­ative re­spon­si­bil­ity and the axis that Ma­te­ri­al­byprod­uct has al­ways piv­oted on, is that tech­nique and cre­ativ­ity are not sep­a­rate things. RE: In Su­san’s work there are in­heren­cies that we can’t dis­card. There are so many dif­fer­ent as­pects to the prod­uct that it’s ac­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to send some­thing off to a fac­tory and have it pro­duced. It’s not phys­i­cally pos­si­ble. SD: I think this Margiela piece is bril­liant. Margiela takes a 1920s se­quin dress, pho­to­graphs it, prints it out and re­pro­duces it in mul­ti­ples. So like Duchamp, he’s play­ing with the ten­sion be­tween the orig­i­nal and the re­pro­duc­tion. But he does it in the 90s which is deeply seeded in grunge cul­ture. In a cul­ture of jeans and t-shirts he pro­duces the dress like a t-shirt, which is a mas­ter­stroke. This re­lates strongly and philo­soph­i­cally to what I do in MBP in that it’s re­cy­cling. He’s re­cy­cling a se­quin dress in an in­tel­lec­tual, funny and po­etic way. His sense of hu­mour is in the grey pan­els. The 2D pho­to­graph does not wrap around the side of the body, so Margiela fills in the neg­a­tive spa­ces with grey pan­els which I think is bril­liant. RE: Would you also say it’s an hon­esty? SD: Yes, and it’s a bit blunt. By the time we get to this point in cul­ture, we con­sume im­ages which are 2D but the fact is our bod­ies are still 3D and I love the way he high­lights that here. We are still phys­i­cal en­ti­ties and this grey space to me ac­knowl­edges that we can’t get away from that. PD: So will Pro­duc­tion in­flu­ence Ar­ti­san?

SD: Pro­duc­tion will have a con­ver­sa­tion with Ar­ti­san. It is look­ing to in­ter­vene and doc­u­ment es­sen­tial data from Ar­ti­san and ex­trude it in a new way. We’re tak­ing an ar­ti­san gar­ment when it’s still flat and we’re scan­ning it with the view of then print­ing it out and ma­chine em­broi­der­ing the prints to­gether to cre­ate a gar­ment. It’s a homage to this Margiela in a way. RE: In some ways it is the idea of the fac­sim­ile, but it also has to do more than that be­cause it has to fit and ac­com­mo­date siz­ing ranges. The points where the scans are joined through me­chan­i­cal em­broi­dery will be­come our siz­ing ranges. SD: That ma­chine em­broi­dery is re­ally what re­lates to the Chloe here. While this Chloe is ma­chine em­broi­dered, it’s also very del­i­cate. The key dif­fer­ence be­tween this 18th cen­tury gown and the Chloe is that the Chloe cuts through flow­ers. That’s an eco­nomic de­ci­sion. The dif­fer­ence be­tween Ar­ti­san and Pro­duc­tion is in cut­ting through the flow­ers. You never cut through flow­ers in cou­ture. It’s a sin. There is also a sense of the hand in the ap­pli­ca­tion of the hooks and eyes in this gar­ment. This is not con­sid­ered eco­nom­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate for re­pro­duc­tion. This is a par­tic­u­lar area of de­vel­op­ment for Ryan and I be­cause at the ar­ti­sanal level I still put on all my hooks and eyes by hand and it’s very time con­sum­ing. Whether you put three hooks and eyes on or five re­ally im­pacts the fi­nal price. PD: But it also im­pacts the way that it sits on the body. It’s ei­ther held prop­erly or there’s a slight com­pro­mise. SD: This is why I was talk­ing about this Margiela gar­ment. It’s like a t-shirt. There are no fas­ten­ings on it. You lit­er­ally just pull it over the head. From an ex­e­cu­tion point of view, the con­struc­tion of it is dead sim­ple. From a wear­a­bil­ity point of view, it’s dead sim­ple. But as soon as you start putting hooks and eyes in gar­ments, the econ­omy changes. This is a real area of study and de­vel­op­ment for Ryan and I. How to trans­late what I do as an ar­ti­san into Pro­duc­tion and how to de­velop the me­chan­ics of the gar­ment so that the ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting in and out of a gar­ment is ut­terly sat­is­fy­ing. RE: Gen­er­ally it’s not the de­signer who de­signs the me­chan­ics of the gar­ment, but the fac­tory. SD: This is why Ryan’s role is so piv­otal. He has to make sure that that’s a good ex­pe­ri­ence, and make sure that it’s the best ex­pe­ri­ence by in­vent­ing it.

Pho­tog­ra­phy: Neue Lux­ury

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