I’d had my ideas about how it would go, and strong views about the point of the exercise (for me, as much about some right-brain exercise as sartorial output) – but the end results were double what I’d hoped for, in terms of the sheer creativity demonstrated.
It was a 6.30pm start for 18 women at Canvas and Cream, which I just about achieved with the help of my early-comer friends. As guests arrived, they browsed through the various books and magazines about upcycling and sewing while we added their donated clothes to the well-packed dress rails.
Once most of the 14 guests had arrived I introduced them to Paulina Palian, a local designer whose refashioned collection had impressed me and who wanted to be involved in this session. She showed each item and explained how she had achieved the rather splendid results. I could see lightbulbs starting to glow over several women’s heads. This was a good start.
Next, my artist friend Hils Tranter showed her collection of Junky Styling clothes. Junky Styling are the undisputed refashioning leaders in the UK: they produce very high-quality outfits from refashioning unwanted clothing, and Hils had an excellent collection. It’s noticeable that Hils and other Junky Styling owners share a feeling that these clothes are pieces of art, not merely clothing. Thank you, Hils, for sharing them with us!
The ladies were now waiting expectantly, and it was time for The Exercise: See It Differently. This is the creative icebreaker, designed to open up people’s thinking and put them in the right mood. Nothing sophisticated, you understand – merely an instruction to try on everything in the racks, but upside down, back to front, or on another part of the body. Try it on your own wardrobe – it’s addictive….
“See It Differently” – no sewing here!
I wasn’t sure how they would take it, though, and I was thrilled when they went at it like kids in a ball pit. Everywhere you looked there were skirts worn like capes, trousers becoming shrugs, cardigans and shirts worn upside-down and looking like bomber jackets. What was evident was that many of these outfits would need very little alteration to become the finished item. It was time, at last, to start creating.
Several of the women abandoned their original intentions and got to work picking clothes from the rack to slash apart and use in a new creation. Others focused more on embellishment, using giant bias tape or lace. One lady made a denim bag from some jeans. The construction of new designs was where Paulina Palian showed her star quality: with just a few tweaks she could turn an unpromising textile confusion into a stylish ensemble, and she was kept extremely busy as she helped one guest after another get their design where they wanted it to go.
Frockcycle In Full Flow
Karen Arthur of Reddskinbags, at the other end of the room, was doing what she does best: embellishment ideas and techniques for a wide range of projects, including a bag made out of a pair of jeans. Karen is a textiles teacher at nearby Forest Hill School and also designs bags and accessories, some using upcycled materials such as vegetable and rice sacks. Karen’s lovely daughter Maheni was taking a whole lot more photos here.
Pascale Spall of Stag & Bow and her assistant Kim had laid out a stall of delectable haberdashery and textiles, and there was a steady stream of visitors to their table. In the quieter moments, Pascale was out bringing a couture touch to the customisations. Me, I was mostly rethreading sewing machines, checking people were doing okay and saying ‘Blimey’ a lot to myself.
A Few Of The Results
Finally, the evening drew to a close, everyone taking home what they needed to complete their outfit or with brand new ideas about what their next project would be. Some of the guests and helpers stayed on for a drink, and then it was time to pack up and get home. Yes, I think it went well.
Next session is on Weds 16th May 2012 – book early, because there are limited places! A whole-dayer is coming soon, too, with demos and specialist workshops throughout the day.