Exploding Fashion: Cutting, Constructing and Thinking Through Things

Photo: Alistair O'Neill

This project foregrounds the role of the pattern cutter, an essential maker and technician in the fashion design process whose role is essentially unacknowledged in design histories and unfamiliar to consumers.

Principal Investigators: Caroline Evans and Alistair O’Neill 

College: Central Saint Martins

Project summary

The project 'explodes' the mystique of the fashion design process in two ways. Firstly, it deconstructs the myth of the designer as sole creative genius by uncovering the intriguing role of the patter cutter. Secondly, it reverse-engineers four historical designs by game-changing designers who were also innovative pattern cutters, digitally reanimating museum objects as moving images which visually narrate how these things were once made, and how they moved on the body.

Outputs include a major exhibition, a book associated with the exhibition, academic journal articles, a museum study day, several workshops, a fashion industry showcase, and an online project with a fashion media partner.

The research team consists of professional pattern cutters, historians, curators, and digital visualisers. Situated at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, the project bridges fashion design practice and academic history and theory, and draws on its expertise in both areas to produce innovative fashion thinking that is unique to London's status as a fashion capital that excels in design, education and curation.

Fashion designers:

Madeleine Vionnet (1912-1939)
Charles James (1928-1978)
Halston (1957-1983)
Comme des Garçons (1973-ongoing).

International dress collections:

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Musée Galliera and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France (Madeleine Vionnet)
Costume Institute, New York, USA (Charles James)
Museum at FIT, New York, USA (Halston)
Kyoto Costume Institute, Japan (Comme des Garçons)

Project partners:

Victoria and Albert Museum
Somerset House
British Council
British Fashion Council
Dazed Media
Change of Paradigm