Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 4)

Primavera in December: Installing the Birdsong Festive Pop-up shop in Hoxton, London

One of the most rewarding elements of studying at LCF is being able to communicate a shared passion for curation both within and outside the University. Lecturers on the MA Fashion Curation course invite students to flex their curatorial muscle outside of tutor-led assignments, offering valuable real-world experience and a chance to put ideas into practice.

In December, several of us were invited to install Birdsong London’s festive pop-up shop in Hoxton. Established in 2014, Birdsong is a female-run fashion brand that works with local women’s groups to offer migrant and refugee women an opportunity to receive a living wage for their work. Their mantra is to connect women from worker to wearer, ensuring everyone is offered a fairer deal in the process. Their brief to CfFC was to curate a space that would complement Birdsong’s clothes and accessories with a dash of festive flair; transforming a stark white room into an inviting retail space. Together, we decided on a Primavera-inspired scene and set out to create a sumptuous, scented banquet scene to last for the five days the shop would be open.

Matthew Whaley and I were handed the task of sourcing flowers, foliage and fruit to conjure a table-top feast, worthy of Sandro Botticelli himself – for £40. With the need to maximize our budget we bought winter fruits in bulk from a local grocer and opted for long-lasting eucalyptus branches to fill the room with a rich, woody scent. We arranged our finds Renaissance-style, amidst silver chargers and goblets sourced from local charity shops and finished the arrangement with candles to complete the decadent mood. Annabel Hoyng focused on merchandising Birdsong’s eclectic range of stock: everything from the softest hand-knitted sweaters to Frida Kahlo bodysuits and painted denim from local artists.

MA Fashion-Curation students Annabel-Hoyng and Matthew Whaley put the finishing touches to the Birdsong Festive pop-up in Hoxton. ©Natalie Tilbury

One of the finished displays featuring Birdsong designs. The organic cotton t-shirts (far left) are hand-painted by women at Mohila Creations; a group of low-income migrant mothers based in Tower Hamlets. ©Natalie Tilbury

A detail of the banqueting table laden with clementines, pomegranates and holly. All props were sourced from local charity shops, grocers and florists.
©Natalie Tilbury

Whether you are just starting out in a career in curation, or working in a museum, tight budgets are, and will continue to be, an undeniable reality. It is the way we handle these challenges with innovative and inspiring solutions that will stand us apart from our peers. Important too is understanding what feels right for the brand or institution you are working with. Everything we sourced for Birdsong was from Hoxton’s charity shops, florists and grocers; further supporting one of the communities in which they work.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Treat every opportunity as a chance to show what you can do, rather than a drain on your time, and your postgraduate experience will be more rewarding than you ever thought possible.

Natalie Tilbury
MA Fashion Curation 2017/2018

When fashion meets film

By NJ Stevenson, practice-led PhD student.

“This autumn, CfFC hosted an event in response to a conversation that I had had with Amy de la Haye, my PhD supervisor, earlier in 2017 about engagement with practice. As a practice-led PhD student, you run the risk of becoming buried in lone doctoral research. After three years of researching the development of an exhibition on the intersection between fashion and film costume between 1967 and 1975, we felt that my project would benefit from presenting my progress to a live audience. I invited practitioners who have been instrumental in helping me with my research to be a part of a panel discussion exploring  ideas and implications for the realisation of an exhibition. I called the event ‘Rags to Riches’.

    Image from a promotional leaflet of ‘The Boyfriend’, (Ken Russell, 1971) with Twiggy as Polly. (The golfing jumper was later referenced by a 1960s dress by Missoni.)

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Interning at Formula D Interactive: a month in

Maxime Laprade graduated from the MA Fashion Curation course at London College of Fashion in 2016. In his post he tells us of his current internship in a design company in Capetown, South Africa.

I was offered an internship project manager role at Formula D Interactive, a design company based in Cape Town, South Africa that specialises in interactive exhibits for museums. A month in to the job, I’m going to tell you how it’s going. But first, let’s go back to why this internship was a fantastic opportunity for me.

I moved from France to study the MA Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion in September 2015. With a background in art and fashion history, I took an incredible journey during my time on the course. I experienced new practices, broadened my interests and challenged my knowledge. I became interested in social media and digital practices, fascinated by the limitless possibilities they offer. I researched how visitors could play a bigger role in exhibitions, using interaction and participation. It’s become an obsession.

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Street Fans: A Unique Liaison between Street Art & Fan Making

Jacob Moss, Curator of the Fan Museum talks about his exhibition Street Fans.

In 2015, I welcomed Paris-based street artist Codex Urbanus to The Fan Museum, where I have occupied the role of curator since graduating from MA Fashion Curation in 2010. Codex proposed an exhibition of fans designed by street artists, having already organised a similar project at the Musée de l’Éventail, Paris (sadly, since closed).  Animated discussions gave rise to a pioneering project uniting 1 fan maker and 29 street artists. The fruits of this unique liaison – 54 contemporary fans – formed the nucleus of a colourful and celebratory show at The Fan Museum.

Artist: Ender / Maker: Sylvain Le Guen

From the outset, the concept of linking fan making with street art – tradition and modernity/establishment and anti-establishment – I found intriguing. Taking to the streets of East London I began to familiarise myself with street art, an artform previously unknown to me, and discovered a vibrant movement counting innovators, mavericks and provocateurs amongst its ranks.

Artist: Otto Schade / Maker: Sylvain Le Guen

A cast of leading artists was soon assembled and introduced to project fan maker, Sylvain Le Guen, arguably the most gifted of fan makers active in Europe today, honoured in 2015 by the French Ministry of Culture as a Maître d’Art.

Artist: Captain Kris / Maker: Sylvain Le Guen

With the ‘cast’ in place, I set about ensuring a meaningful collaboration and encouraged artists to attend workshop sessions with Le Guen and attend viewings of the Museum’s 5000+ collection of fans. From the outset, each artist demonstrated passion for the project and engaged well with the subject of fans and tradition of fan painting. Unconventional ideas flowed freely, unhindered by the technical and commercial constraints which often influence the work of professional fan painters. It is worth remembering that artists who’ve not made fan painting their speciality have, at various times throughout history, produced fan paintings. In this respect, the street artists participating in the project followed a path already taken by salon-exhibited artists, post-impressionists and modern artists. Indeed, The Fan Museum has in its collections fan paintings by Gauguin, Sickert, Giacometti and even Salvador Dali.

Artist: Nathan Bowen / Maker: Sylvain Le Guen

Arming each artist with fan papers, arc shaped templates and written guidance, I waited expectantly for work to begin arriving at the Museum. The unwrapping of the latest package became a moment to savour.  The diverse modes of expression were inspiring: the arc modulated, enhanced and disrupted. Curvilinear tangles competed with geometric compositions; typographic scribblings evoked hieroglyphics; demonic felines came with elliptical peep-holes; buildings spun violently around a vortex.

Street Fans, The Fan Museum, Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London

Le Guen worked with sensitivity and creativity to bring each artwork to life, the artists’ unconventional ideas prompting the fan maker to work in similarly imaginative ways. Each design became a point of departure to be enhanced or personalised in some form or another with materials and processes tailored perfectly to match. Nathan Bowen’s distinctive London skyline, for example, made even more patriotic when mounted on sticks painted red, white and blue; Jean Faucheur’s ghoulish skeletons given a humorous twist when paired with bone-shaped sticks.

Artist: Skeleton Cardboard / Maker: Sylvain Le Guen

In what would be a series of ‘firsts’ for the Museum, a Street Fans crowdfunding campaign launched on Art Happens, the Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform for museums and galleries. Seeking to raise £14,000 toward the overall cost of staging the project, the message to potential funders was clear and consistent: help The Fan Museum unite two disparate spheres of artistry for a pioneering project aimed at renewing interest in the craft of fan making, identified by the Heritage Crafts Association as at ‘serious risk of no longer being practiced in the UK.

Artist: RUN / Maker: Sylvain Le Guen

Over a period of just 33 days, staff and volunteers at The Fan Museum worked systematically to reach the funding target, publicising the campaign at every opportunity on social media, TV and local radio. Overall 151 donors contributed more than £15,000 which was set against the cost of producing the 54 fans displayed and a series of project-linked outreach events. Aimed squarely at engaging new audiences, The Fan Museum partnered with University of Greenwich, Lewisham Southwark College and Greenwich Market for a series of creative workshops. In total over 200 people took part in outreach events, many of which subsequently visited the exhibition and gained a newfound appreciation of fans and fan making.

Street Fans is at the Fan Museum, Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London, 19 September – 31 December 2017

Find out more about Art Happens, the Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform for museums and galleries

Read more about Jacob Moss 

Apply for the MA Fashion Curation course

CfFC PhD student researches Fashion and Humour with Yale University Fellowship

By Jenna Rossi-Camus

This summer I will be completing a research fellowship at Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington, Connecticut. The library is a renowned centre for 18th century studies and material relating to Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill House – all of which are central to my practice-based PhD project.  I was awarded the travel grant to support my research towards the development of a site-responsive fashion exhibition at Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s neo-gothic villa in Twickenham, London. The proposed exhibition examines fashion graphic satire in tandem with historic and contemporary dress, and material connected with Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill, engineering the exhibition as a space for reflection upon the relationship between fashion and humour and as a conversation amongst architectural and psychological spaces, their histories and resonances.

Walpole Minatures

Drawing of the miniatures cabinet open in A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole, extra-illustrated copy, 1784, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

The fellowship will afford me the opportunity to physically engage with material artefacts that were collected by Walpole – objects that have both informed the development of my project and that are proposed as exhibits in it. Most significantly, I will be able to spend time with albums of satirical prints that Walpole compiled and his extra-illustrated guide to Strawberry Hill. These artefacts have become talismans to my research that have inspired me to frame the exhibition itself as an “extra-illustration” of Strawberry Hill, and to explore Horace Walpole’s engagement with practices of exhibition-making.

During the research period, I will be in residence at Timothy Root House, an 18th century American farmhouse within the library’s idyllic 14-acre campus that has been housing researchers since 2001. I am particularly looking forward to this aspect of the fellowship; time to write and reflect in close proximity to nature and to objects touched or created by Walpole himself.

Find out more about Jenna’s research 

Read an interview with Jenna

Find out more about PhD Research at the Centre for Fashion Curation

Scott Schiavone, MA Fashion Curation alumni

Interview by Ben Whyman

Tell me about your time studying the MA Fashion Curation (what years did you study and graduate?). What skills and insight did you gain from the course?

I studied the MA Fashion Curation from 2008-2010.  My time studying at LCF was intense as I was self-funded and therefore had to both work and study full time.   The course was a fantastic insight into the theory and practice of curation.  What I found fascinating was deconstructing the practice of curation and what it means to be a curator, in the typical sense.  The idea of the curator has definitely seen a shift over the past few years, especially within the realms of fashion and the museum.  Another aspect of the course I particularly enjoyed was the guest practitioners that came to talk to us about their personal research projects with regards to fashion and its place and future not only within the museum context but also within the fashion industry itself.

Scott Schiavone

What led you to study towards an MA in Fashion Curation?

I completed my undergraduate course in History of Art at the University of Glasgow in 2004, since at the time there was no option at Glasgow to study dress history as an undergraduate degree. After graduation, I took a few years out to think about my future and worked as Cabin Crew for an international airline.  On one particular trip to New York, by sheer chance, I stumbled upon the Fashion in Colors exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum and had a bit of a break through! Everything became clear, this was what I wanted to do! On my return the UK I immediately began to search for a course that could combine both my love for fashion and the art of curation, ultimately leading to LCF and the MA Fashion Curation course.

Describe your work as a volunteer curatorial assistant in the Art and Design Department, Fashion and Textiles Team at National Museums Scotland (NMS). What does your average day involve?

There are two aspects to my work at NMS, one is working with the Jean Muir archive and the other is the Charles Stewart collection.  Working between the two gives me the opportunity to work with both modern and historic fashion and textiles.  The Charles Stewart collection is an eclectic mix of objects spanning across 3 centuries of fashion and textile history and the Jean Muir archive is made up of approximately 18,000 objects.  As a volunteer, I assist with ongoing documentation, as well as carrying out an inventory and location audit of the collections.  The training I have received thus far from NMS is incredible and includes museum database (ADLIB) training, object labelling and social media which lead to my regular contribution to the NMS blog page.

Scott at work in the National Museums of Scotland Collection

My placement is split between two days, one at the collection centre and another at the departmental office.  A typical day in the collections centre includes locating objects within the store, providing detailed descriptions, checking object measurements and photographing objects for record files. Additionally, I get the opportunity to handle objects, register and re-pack a selection of unregistered material and assist with registration of new acquisitions and donations where appropriate. Finally, I have the opportunity to assist with research enquiries and research visits to the Collection Centre for individuals and groups such as The Costume Society of Scotland.

During my day at the office, I process the work that is generated the previous day whilst undertaking research to enhance the collections, improve documentation and locate object files.  I also use this day to document any changes made in the store on the ADLIB records, change locations and add any additional information onto the database.

My placement also gives me the opportunity to assist with other research and administrative collections-related tasks, including working cross-departmentally with Science & Technology department on upcoming projects for NMS.

Tell us about the recent re-display of fashion and textiles at NMS. What part did you play in this, and what is the aim of the redisplay?

The new fashion and style galleries at NMS were part of a major re-development plan for the museum and forms one of four award winning Art & Design galleries. I joined the team at NMS after the opening of the new galleries however, they have become my new favourite place to hang out and gain inspiration for personal research projects.  The work I have been doing as a volunteer has contributed towards the rotation schedule for the new galleries so it’s great that I am involved in some capacity.  The new galleries are stunning and show off treasures from one of the UK’s largest costume collections.  With the growing importance of fashion exhibitions and costume collections and with the closure of the costume museum at Shambellie in 2013, it was only a matter of time before NMS dedicated a new space to their amazing collection.

The notion and practice of ‘curation’ is rapidly and increasingly taking on new meanings – the process of curating is morphing and changing before our eyes. Where do you see the practice of fashion curation in general going? How do you see your own practice evolving?

Let’s not beat around the bush, jobs within this industry are scarce and so it is up to us as practitioners to create work and projects to keep us busy and expand our experience.  Personally, I think this will be done by way of social media, virtual exhibitions and through research and writing, etc., whether that is through something as simple as blog posts or more academic like conferences.  The trick is not to be too disheartened by rejection. The industry is fiercely competitive and there are a lot of experienced people out there and not a lot of jobs. However, it’s not just about finding a job… it’s about finding the right job, for you.  Through my experience, I have learnt that I am very much an object-based curator.  I love working with collections, material culture and the stories objects tell or don’t tell us.  Currently my plan is to continue with the hands-on object- and research-based work and continue my blog for NMS whilst I search for the perfect position. As I look to the future I am confident that I will find the right place for me within the industry.

Find out more about the MA Fashion Curation course


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