As a designer, Emma Hart thinks and cares about the idea, and personality, of the girl she makes clothes for. When she designs, she is not imagining technical function first. The clothes are like a second nature for the girl she imagines. This sensibility is what goes into the design as priority.
Emma Hart cares about making clothes which mean something and can create an ideal of who someone could be. We spoke with her about graduating from Westminster University, the couture nature of her designs and her biggest influences.
YOUR METHOD SEEMS TO BE ROOTED IN TEXTILES? CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF TEXTILES ON BOTH YOU AND YOUR WORK?
Textiles help to further embelish personality in my designs. It’s like wearing an emblem of your identity. The textiles I create are an instinctual response to my visual research and help provide the crude tactile element of my work. The relationship between my hand and my eyes are crucially important to me. This collaboration is what creates the handmade laboured pieces of embroidery or weird little objects I’ve made on my clothes.
YOU GRADUATED FROM WESTMINSTER UNIVERSITY. NOW YOU SEE THE FASHION INDUSTRY FROM A GRADUATE’S PERSPECTIVE IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE IN YOUR AMBITIONS, VISIONS AND PURSUITS?
In some ways yes. My long-term goals and ambitions haven’t changed, but what I’ve taken time to do is figure out what I care about achieving. I am not so interested in what society thinks I should be doing. It was difficult when I graduated because I just had a sense of who I could become as a designer, it was so exciting. When I left University, I had no studio, and after feeling like I had my foot in the door I felt like an outsider again. I think the way I’m going about my ambitions is perhaps different to how I thought I would be when I was in the bubble of design school. There are so many great things happening in the industry. However on the flip side there are lots of things I don’t believe in. So I am trying to make my dreams a reality, but in my own way.
YOUR WORK HAS A VERY COUTURE FEEL. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE KEEP THIS SKILL ALIVE?
I would like my work to progress into this area because, for me, couture is what pushes the limits of both imagination and craftsmanship. The work that goes into couture is something I have always found astounding and inspiring. It makes me emotional. It’s a laborious process but always seems worth it when you see the end result. It’s an ideal to aim towards as I believe in putting every effort into any work I do. I think it’s so important to keep physical skills going, interpret historical ideas in a fresh way and make things with your hands. Personally, I don’t like anything which is digitized when it comes to design.
WHY IN YOUR MIND, IS COUTURE STILL RELEVANT?
I don’t want to be a part of creating fast fashion. There is so much unnecessary production, waste, time and stress spent on creating clothes that don’t mean anything or matter. It’s a waste of people’s lives. This is why couture is relevant. It inspires people to do things and make something of themselves. Fast fashion might be a large reality of the industry right now and a way to make a lot of money, but does it matter? No.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCE?
An accumulation of things influences me. Artists, historical artifacts and garments, the personalities of women I know or see. They all filter subconsciously into my work. I think the roots of my work will always return to these things, although it will undoubtedly change in ways I’m not aware of yet through time and reflection. I’ve been collecting a body of research towards my next project, which will become a small collection I plan to build upon throughout the year.
ON A NORMAL DAY, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT GETTING INSPIRATION FOR YOUR TEXTILES?
I am always inspired by what is around me, the mix of natural and synthetic materials, and how they fall into place. It interests me how synthetic objects get positioned in nature or how they end up there, creating haphazard compositions which can be really beautiful and inspiring. I take hundreds of photos to document what I see, these become part of my inspiration.
YOU HAVE MENTIONED TO ME YOU WANT TO HAVE YOUR OWN STORE AND POSSIBLY GO INTO BRIDAL. WHAT MADE YOU COME TO THIS CONCLUSION?
This is a long-term possibility. Bridal is an avenue I am thinking about but not in a literal sense, I want to create a new genre of ‘Occasion’ wear, which could filter into Bridal but not in a traditional way. This is an exciting prospect for me and something I am working towards.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE INSPIRATION AND DESIGN PROCESS THAT WENT BEHIND YOUR GRADUATE COLLECTION?
American artist Robert Gober was an influence towards developing the embroideries alongside images of the rural English countryside. The rough materials he uses in sculpture oddly correlated to imagery I have of the countryside landscapes I walk when I’m back home; full of beautifully rugged unfiltered aesthetics. This naturally led to the layering and composition of fabrics I used. That’s the same approach I took with the embroideries, I wanted them to look natural and not as a predetermined arrangement. I always work on the stand in a direct response to my research imagery; draping different samples, fabrics and embroideries with a crude application, although every decision is fully considered. I can never design directly from a drawing on paper, I build up the garments like a 3D collage.
WHY IS DESIGN IMPORTANT TO YOU? AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THE NEW GENERATION OF DESIGNERS CAN BRING TO OLD TECHNIQUES LIKE COUTURE.
The design is so important to me because it makes me feel like myself, it’s always about how what you create makes you feel. I think the new generation of designers should embody their process, it’s up to us to change the industry and re-create couture in a way which is either accessible or inspiring, if not both.