Ar­genti­nan painter-turned dress­maker San­ti­ago Pare­des takes us through his process, which mixes ‘Afro-Ja­panese’ styles with his own ‘spicy flavour’

Computer Arts - - Contents -

San­ti­ago Pare­des’ process of trans­fer­ing paint­ings onto fab­ric

THE BEGINNINGS San­ti­ago Pare­des

One day on my way to work, two old ladies caught my eye. I re­alised that these two grannies, prob­a­bly born in the 1950s, were dressed as a per­fectly match­ing pair, both wear­ing Chanel-like suits and a pas­tel colour pal­ette, mixed with small de­tails of Art Noveau tex­tures. Red laces on green shoes and an ar­ti­fi­cial pink and yel­low fur around their necks served as re­fresh­ing coun­ter­points.

It was then I re­alised the in­ge­nu­ity and pu­rity I was seek­ing in paint­ing was fully ex­pressed in fash­ion. In high school I grew up on punk, so I tended to dis­re­gard high fash­ion. Later I re­alised it’s an im­mensely fertile field, where cre­ativ­ity and in­tu­ition work un­der a prac­ti­cal ap­proach.

I started putting my dig­i­tal paint­ings on silk. It may look like a sim­ple silk scarf but it’s not just an ac­ces­sory – it’s a work of art!

I re­ally like the idea that a silk-printed paint­ing doesn’t have just one point of view. It can be twisted, get wet, hold some­thing, give shel­ter. An art­work that can be felt phys­i­cally.


Af­ter years paint­ing, I sim­ply couldn’t af­ford it any more. I couldn’t af­ford a proper stu­dio, or stor­age for my paint­ings. Pho­to­shop has solved this prob­lem. I can work with the same ideas and have ac­cess to ev­ery colour there is, with­out spend­ing any money. It’s like be­ing rich.

I’d been us­ing Pho­to­shop since it first came out, and I have done dig­i­tal re­touch­ing for pho­tog­ra­phers, but I never thought of it as a le­git­i­mate form of ex­pres­sion. Up to that point, it was merely to sketch drafts. David Hock­ney’s iPad art­work gave me the con­fi­dence to take this tool se­ri­ously. It doesn’t have the tex­ture or volup­tuous­ness of tra­di­tional me­dia, but it has its own ex­pres­sive re­sources, and ones I could pur­sue at that time.

I am from Ar­gentina. In my coun­try it’s not so com­mon to see some­one ‘paint­ing’ on

their com­puter. In fact I’ve never had a graph­ics tablet, I do ev­ery­thing us­ing just the mouse. I like how that gives room for mis­takes to hap­pen, con­vey­ing more of a hu­man qual­ity. Graphic de­sign­ers of­ten re­gard me as odd!


I started de­sign­ing ki­monos dig­i­tally due to my fas­ci­na­tion with Ja­pan. Then I be­gan to make dresses, and now I’m pre­par­ing a whole col­lec­tion of sweaters for the win­ter.

The ul­tra-com­fort­able and distin­guished nature of the ki­mono was the most amaz­ing start­ing point for me, be­cause it adapts eas­ily to all body types, rep­re­sents no gen­der in par­tic­u­lar, and can be used at home or at a fancy din­ner party.

Its struc­ture is also very much like a can­vas. It’s mainly a large and wide rec­tan­gle that folds in half, rep­re­sent­ing the front and back. Two more rec­tan­gles serve as the sleeves. This way I can think of the ki­mono as a sin­gle piece of work, fo­cus­ing on the main print on the back, and lit­tle or­na­men­tal mo­tifs for the front and sleeves. The edges and the belt, which are the same colour, are key to defin­ing the ul­ti­mate tone and mood of ev­ery de­sign.

I started work­ing on small pat­tern de­signs that I in­tended to re­peat ge­o­met­ri­cally along the cloth. But af­ter mak­ing drafts for about 10 dif­fer­ent mo­tifs, I re­alised each one was an ac­com­plished paint­ing in it­self. I could not ig­nore this. It struck me that I had no idea how to develop a tra­di­tional rap­port pat­tern; I nat­u­rally con­ceived the paint­ing as a whole im­age.


I dis­trib­ute colours in a messy way, with a big brush stroke, whose edges I trim with the Eraser tool if nec­es­sary. I also en­joy us­ing loose, thick, wavy lines, with­out much con­cern for de­tail.

I pon­der on the mood I want ev­ery piece to con­vey. For this col­lec­tion of ki­monos, I de­cided one had to be mostly yel­low, re­call­ing a light spring at­mos­phere. Red would stand for an im­pe­rial style, so­phis­ti­cated and distin­guished, whereas dark blue would suit an elegant, nightly look, not som­bre but fancy. I also wanted a vi­brant or­ange, only not too gar­ish. A more chaotic, ex­pres­sive de­sign also ap­pealed to me, with a high-con­trast pal­ette and wild, bro­ken lines. And fi­nally a soft pink hue, rem­i­nis­cent of fem­i­nin­ity and in­ti­macy, like a morn­ing rit­ual.

Af­ter set­ting these con­cepts I started work­ing on the im­agery for each. For the red and or­ange ones, I chose some ike­bana paint­ings I had been work­ing on, with touches of Art Deco mo­tifs. I wanted to con­vey sen­si­tiv­ity and cul­ture, cou­pled with a chic feel.

For the chaotic one – or ‘drug dealer’ as a friend of mine likes to call it – I de­con­structed one of my orig­i­nal pat­tern de­signs into a play­ful ver­sion. Domes of a fan­tas­tic Rus­sian city col­lapse into a dis­torted land­scape with highly

con­trast­ing colours. This ap­par­ently eclec­tic print ends up work­ing as a har­mo­nious whole.

The dark blue ki­mono has a chrysan­the­mum flower ex­tend­ing from top to bot­tom, ma­jes­tic and som­bre. I couldn’t help but add sausage dogs on vi­brant red and blue doo­dles, to spice it up with a lit­tle ab­sur­dity. The soft pink de­sign also has a big flo­ral stamp, strik­ing yet sooth­ing, as­so­ci­ated with morn­ing dew and spring.

The yel­low-green print is less ob­vi­ous – you can see flo­ral mo­tifs as well as tra­di­tional pot­tery and other el­e­ments of Ja­panese cul­ture, which por­trays more of a daily-life energy; op­ti­mistic and also a bit messy.

As well as these de­signs, I pre­pared a sep­a­rate file for the belts and side prints of ev­ery ki­mono.


Cur­rently, I am work­ing on an au­tumn/win­ter col­lec­tion, fo­cus­ing on trans­fer­ring other paint­ings I’ve cre­ated onto dif­fer­ent pieces of cloth­ing. This is turn­ing out to be far more chal­leng­ing, since I have to find a way of trans­form­ing two-di­men­sional worlds into some­thing that can adapt to a dif­fer­ently-shaped sur­face, and is also wear­able. To tackle this, I cre­ate a tem­plate, the mea­sure­ments of which I add to the com­puter to adapt the paint­ings vir­tu­ally first, try­ing to stay as true as pos­si­ble to the orig­i­nal de­sign, with­out re­sult­ing in some­thing no one can wear.

01 The mar­riage of art and fash­ion is a happy one. 02 Work­ing on cloth­ing de­sign for a new col­lec­tion, us­ing tem­plates to work out how to ap­ply the pat­tern. 03 Ex­ist­ing ike­bana paint­ings were tweaked and adapted for the ki­mono, along with some Art Deco touches. 01







0604-05 When de­sign­ing pat­terns, think of a ki­mono as a large rec­tan­gu­lar can­vas.06 The pat­tern de­signs used on the ki­monos. 07-08 Mak­ing static, 2D paint­ings work on ma­te­rial that moves is a chal­lenge, but it’s a chal­lenge San­ti­ago rel­ishes. He finds the move­ment of a ki­mono both fluid and po­etic.

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