Tuesday, 20 April 2010

LCF BA Graduate Showcase: Amber Siegel

Amber Siegel's thematic graduate collection fuses couture with traditional tailoring.

Back in January I took my seat at the LCF MA show and was blown away by the menswear design talent on display. From the nineteen students who showcased their graduate collections, it was the menswear design students that really shone through and I left the show exceedingly excited about the future of menswear. Over the course of the following weeks I caught up with a few of the students to learn more about their collections and to hear about their experiences on the course. One of the real standout collections belonged to Wouter Baartmans and I took great pleasure in sharing it with you in some detail. Fast forward a few months and it is now the turn of the BA graduates to step forward and one of the students set to enter the spotlight is Wouter's design partner Amber Siegel. The internal LCF BA show might not be until Thursday 22nd but I was fortunate enough to visit the emerging design talent's studio over the weekend. I'm pleased to declare it to be something very special indeed. Every once in a whole a graduate comes along that you know will become a fashion star of the future, Amber along with her design partner Wouter before her are such examples. After dreaming about this collection for a number of consecutive nights now I can finally, excitedly share the collection with you in some detail. I suggest that you make yourself a cup of tea and immerse yourself in this exciting collection while I run out of superlatives discussing it below....

A peek at the collection soon to be show at LCF's internal show.

Amber was inspired and driven by incident and observations drawn from an altogether different species. This however is a collection more thematic than conceptual. The fashion design student looked at images depicting birds afflicted by oil spills and duly experimented with various techniques, fabrics, treatments, textures and manipulations of form. Persian lamb, intricate bead work, wools with dense piles, roughly torn and cut chiffon, dip dying and waxed fabrics all exemplify elements of the theme. As fashion consumers and obsessives, we rarely get the opportunity to see anything other than the finished look but as bloggers we are always interested in understanding how the designer's inspiration is realised. To help us see through the studio door and in to the creation of a collection, Amber encouraged me to take a few key shots from her sketchbook...

A look inside Amber's sketchbook

The resulting collection is a combination of couture techniques with traditional menswear. A truly spectacular yet wearable juxtaposition between the flamboyance of feminine couture and the defined restraint of strong tailoring. Texture is an important area of exploration and is developed throughout. Amber's experimentation of materials mirror oil, fur, fluidity and various states of plumage. While being obviously inspired by the theme of Oil Slick Birds, the final result is a highly developed, diluted, wearable representation of the initial concept. I'm sure that you are in need of a slight break from my excited ramblings so here are a selection of look book images which do the talking for me...

As you can see from the above look book shots tailoring and confident structures are central to the collection but Amber experiments with silhouette throughout. Contrasting, loose dominating and menacing shapes against more tailored and tapered pieces. I jumped at the chance to inspect the collection in more detail. During the studio visit had the chance to style and shoot a few pieces (thanks to the modeling talents of John) while talking through the evolution of her inspirations, learning about a few of the techniques involved and discovering her hopes for the future...

SS: Describe the moment you realized you wanted to be a menswear designer?
Amber Siegel: From a very young age I was always drawn to fabrics, textures and patterns. I didn’t specifically channel this into fashion until I was studying and I was set a project based around men’s tailoring, and found that I enjoyed the structure and heritage that menswear held. It felt quite natural to continue and graduate in menswear. The menswear fashion community has a very captivating charm that is distinctively demanding, with a large emphasis on craft and quality as well as innovation. I think it is this onus on menswear to create purposeful and beautiful products that continues to lure me.

Playing dress up. John was reluctant to take this look off.

SS: Now on to your impressive graduate collection...Oil birds are the primary inspiration for the collection. What was your starting point and how did this theme evolve in to the collection we see today?
Amber Siegel: I am often inspired by complex textures and more thematic references for collections, rather than conceptual concepts. I began by looking at couture techniques to showcase embellishment, and so embarked on a journey of experimenting with contrasting surface structures and textures. Through this exploration I looked at collisions of substances in nature and found a dark beauty in the tragic penetration of oil and feathers of birds effected by oil spills at sea. This darker atmosphere of the ocean’s sudden siege, held a presence that was captivating and moving. From this moment of darkness a conversation between textures is formed; matt, wet, dry, shiny, coarse, smooth. All these textures, for me, built a stimulating starting point for a collection.

I loved how versatile the pieces were, so much fun to style.

SS: The collection showcases various techniques to explore the theme of oil slicked feathers. I particularly love the Smocked sheered mink collar detailing. Could you describe some of the fabric treatments and manipulations that you are most pleased with...
Amber Siegel: I wished to develop and convey the theme without literally using feathers. I looked at bird colonies and their habits of forming clusters, this then translated in to experimenting with clusters of abstract bead formations, which I feel is so effective in adding a sense of decadence and diversity to a garment. I feel it is so important for a wearer to develop a bond with a garment, and that so many of the senses must be stimulated for this relationship to be formed, not just visually. Tactile stimulation is also extremely powerful. Using fabrics with coatings and specialized finishes lent themselves to expressing this tension of collisions, combining luxury with raw fabrics; soft butter leather, open weave wools, silk, suede, charcoal canvas, velvet, mohair and cashmere. With the Fur Lab I developed a technique of sheering and smocking mink, which produces a tactile undulating wave, this is one of my favorite pieces, it is so seductive.

Just look at the textures at play here. My neck is crying out to be encased in a mix of beads and fur.

SS: While tailoring and confident structure is central to the collection, it also demonstrates an experimentation of silhouette and in fact a number of pieces actually allow the wearer some say in the shape of the garment. As all of the looks are composed of at least three or four garments a certain amount of freedom is afforded to the wearer (as we demonstrated last night). Is this sense of wearability and stylistic freedom a central facet of your design aesthetic?
Amber Siegel: Creating a garment that a consumer can interact with is always at the heart of my designs, it is important for the consumer to also interpret the garment and introduce it to their existing wardrobe, and for the piece to grow with them, and interact with other pieces. The collection is designed so the wearer can mix any of the garments and find themselves in these combinations. Purchasing a special piece from each season is an investment, and it should really draw out a connection that will mature the more the garment is worn. I love the thought of a long love affair between the garment and the wearer being sparked by the selection and purchase.

The texture of this jacket is breathtaking. It could not be any closer to the theme of Oil Slick Birds yet it is anything but costume.

SS: Its dark, almost sinister theme is echoed in the typically Autumn/Winter colour palette but there are moments of lighter relief through flashes of powder prints. Could you talk us through the prints and how they were achieved?
Amber Siegel: The nature of the theme and the season of course lend themselves to a darker colour palette, but even within the grays and blacks I have introduced a wide range of shades that help to add definition and diversity. While looking at chemical collisions and substances with movement, I looked at colour- powder explosions and the soft ricochets of blurred colour they produced, almost like the colours produced by the interaction of oil and water. These were translated and developed into soft and blurred prints for shirts; these lift the darker pieces in the collection.

The collaboration with Grenson produced these breathtaking brogues. The combination of leather and suede is stunning.

SS: You were sponsored by both FurLab and Grenson, how receptive were they to your designs, how was the collaborative experience and what did they make of the collection as a whole?
Amber Siegel: Both Companies were extremely receptive to my ideas and themes. Grenson is a wonderful English, hand-crafted shoe company that is rooted in tradition, yet is innovative and fashion forward. For me working with them was such an interesting process and really allowed my to capitalize on the main ethos of the collection, modernity-steeped in tradition. The shoes were a collaboration by myself, Grenson and another young menswear designer, Wouter Baartmans. It was important for us to work with a company that still holds craft as important as the design.

Fur Lab is a Dutch company, which specializes in responsibly sourced fur. They are very successful in reaching out to new young designers through sponsorship and helping them develop their ideas and realize their potential. Fur is a very specialized and old craft that requires patience and respect, and I found it to be a very interesting process that I was fortunate to partake in.

One of my favourite looks. The inside out jacket had been left in a bath of black dye for a week and I just love the result.

SS: Finally, what would you like to achieve in 2010 and beyond?
Amber Siegel: Currently I am one half of a design duo, Baartmans and Siegel. We are are about to launch our company with our capsule Autumn/Winter 2010 collection. It is a very exciting time for menswear and for us. We believe in creating beautiful, masculine pieces that innovate and are dynamic. We continue to reference texture and luxury in our garments and aspire to develop London’s tradition of iconic menswear.


I am eager to see the beautiful menswear and new form of luxury which is sure to evolve from the design partnership with Wouter Baartmans. In the meantime I'll savour Amber's impressive graduate collection.


Make Do Style said...

It is wonderful and worth the half a minute wait!
Amber's work is truly texture at its best and she is so talented. I can't wait to see the show and once again I'm so proud to be graduating this summer with such a bunch of talented BA and MA grads (I'm officially a LCF promo gal!)

Sarah-Elizabeth Cooper said...

A very exciting menswear collection! I especially love Amber's sketchbook. I'm also graduating from LCF this summer - Check out my blog where you can find my BA Womenswear collection: http://sarahelizabethcooper.com

Anonymous said...

The whole collection looks great but those Brogues, wow! They're just amazing.

Are they going to actually make it to market? I do hope so.

sidewalkchalk said...

i'm so excited!! i'm first year menswear at LCF, very inspiring!
check my blog!

John said...

Love the textures at play here. Thanks for sharing this beautiful graduate collection!

TheSundayBest said...

Get a haircut you hippie.

j said...

OIl slicked birds...it wouldn't have been my first inspiration. The shoes just knock my socks off!

Style Salvage Steve said...

Make Do Style: Glad you like it. Yes, you are part of a great crop this year. It is just so exciting to find so much young design talent!
Sarah Elizabeth-Cooper: Oh I'll keep an eye for you at the show. Hope all of your final preparations are going well.
Lineageofinfluence: I hope so too. I'll push for it next time I visit Grenson.
Sidewalkchalk: Oh great stuff. Hope it is all going well. I'll check out your blog now...
John: Me too and no problem. I'm pleased you like it.
The Sunday Best: Ha, quieten down you square.
J: If I hadn't have told you what the inspiration was would you have guessed it? Somehow for me it is subtle yet obvious but I'm intrigued to see what you guys think.

Colin Chapman said...

Oh god, I keep coming back to drool over those shoes .. are they available anywhere or a one-off for the collection?


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