To coincide with the major retrospective at the V&A and the centenary of the Ballets Russes, London College of Fashion and English National Ballet have spent the past year working together on a unique project which examines the Ballet Russes and the incredible legacy of artistic director Diaghilev on dance, art and, of course, fashion. Diaghilev imaginatively combined dance, music and art to create 'total theatre'. A consummate collaborator himself, he worked with Stravinsky, Chanel, Picasso, Matisse and Nijinsky, there's no doubt that Diaghilev would have approved of this celebratory collaboration.
The students have been able to immerse themselves in the fantasy and couture world of Diaghilev and let their imaginations and creativity take over. To showcase the results of this hugely successful collaboration, twenty five students have been asked to take their designs, including garments, footwear and accessories, into production. These finished designs will be displayed at the V&A for one night during the landmark exhibition ‘Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929’. The display is part of a special evening entitled Ballets Russes Design Perspectives – which takes place at the V&A at 8pm on Friday 19 November and is free (hurray!) to the public.
To mark the culmination of this exciting collaboration we decided to talk to Rob Phillips, the Creative Director of the School of Fashion Design and Technology to learn more about the project. Our chat is supplemented with an exclusive look at the students' work with a fantastic look book shot by photography Sean Michael on location at English National Ballet. As we have bombarded you with lengthy, text heavy posts in recent weeks we have decided to split our discussion in two. In the first part below we set the scene and learn how the project evolved over the course of the year...
Jacket, shirt and external front pocket trousers by Sungkyun Yuk
SS: You have spent the past year working closely with the English National Ballet on this wonderfully unique project which examines the Ballet Russes and the incredible legacy of Diaghilev on dance, art and of course fashion. How did the collaboration arise?
Rob: Phillips: The collaboration was formed over a year and half ago when the ENB first approached London College of Fashion through the Fashion Business Resource Studio (FBRS - regarded as a one stop shop for the fashion industry, sharing the creative, business and technical expertise of London College of Fashion with the fashion and lifestyle industries).
ENB essentially came to the table with the idea of the collaboration to partner on a project to celebrate the centenary of Diaghilev. They were keen to work with an educational body with fashion expertise, LCF as the country’s only college to specialise in fashion education, was a natural fit.
Exaggerated contour fit, jersey marl stirrup trousers By Mishaal Mansoor
SS: How did the project evolve throughout the year
Rob Phillips: The aim of the brief was to inspire students through the work of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes and celebrate the centenary and create a project that fused dance and fashion. The brief was tailored by me to ensure the collections that were produced were not ballet costumes made to dance in – but garments that reflected the beauty, movement and excitement of a Ballet Russes performance.
The brief allowed the students the freedom and autonomy to be creative – a key component of a brief of this kind. The project began back in Autumn 2009, it was a complex process which involved multiple pathways and courses – it is one of the rare projects that was a real cross school collaboration, and involved designers, photographers and illustrators which really enriched the whole process. Initially over 150 students took part and submitted work before Christmas 2009. The final stage of the process was the difficult task of shortlisting – which was undertaken by LCF and ENB staff to decide on which students work would be taken forward for production.
In the true spirit of Diaghilev, we prepared the shortlisted students to present their work in a number of ways including: static exhibition, photoshoot, a live salon show and documentary film. This cross genre execution also echoed the cross course collaboration. The whole project was scheduled to finish with an event at the V&A which would showcase these various outputs.
SS: Rarely do students have the ability to immerse themselves in such an exciting world. What was the reaction of the students to the task?
Rob Phillips: The students were really inspired by the rich history of art, music and image that they had access to. The whole Diaghilev scene was so imaginative and ‘out there’, the students celebrated the fact they could just indulge themselves in their designs which were not about being worn or designed for the high street – this project was actually about designing something to honour Diaghilev rather than a practical, wearable garments.
Circle cut sleeve shirt and hook'n'eye shorts by Tomi (Wai Yee Hoo)
Full Credit list for the shoot is as follows: Creative Director - Rob Phillips. Photography - Sean Michael. Assisted by - James Finnigan. Hair & Make Up -Dora Veronica Simson & Marina Kerecsanyi using M.A.C. Models - Jay, Abella and Jodie all at Nevs. Location - English National Ballet - Marden.
Please do come back later on today for the second part of our discussion where we hear about the creative and design processes displayed by the students throughout the course of this very special project.