Graduate Fashion Week 2018 – Olivia Humphrey

Yet another academic year has come and gone and with it a new class of Fashion students graduate. This year’s standard of BA collections was as high as ever, making it exceptionally hard to focus on key individuals. But we couldn’t help but be overly impressed, enthused and curious by a handful of students certainly set to take the industry in their stride… over to you Olivia Humphrey.

Olivia Humphrey – Middlesex University

For those who have not seen a knitwear student at work I cannot express how meticulous, painstaking and time consuming it appears. However, it is 100% per cent worth it if your Graduate collection looks like a wearable idyllic ocean flowing down the catwalk at the Barbican Conservatory. I am of course talking about Olivia Humphrey’s final pieces; I commend her not only for her work, but for keeping her sanity during final year.

What was the basic path that your research took to form your final concept?

My project started with looking at sailing, boating and fishing imagery, which stemmed from me going sailing with my dad and family. I was looking at the materials, textures and tactility within these and then the functionality of the clothing worn when doing these activities. I continued to investigate the functional side including old diving suits and flying gear; looking at fastenings and how these garments cover and project the body. As the project developed, I added another element to my research, which included feelings such as anxiety and depression. I specifically experimented with how these feelings can be conveyed through colour, shape and technique.

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A lot of research came from old sailing and boating books found online and in libraries. I also looked at a lot of photography and artists. An artist that I found inspiring for this project and as research for my dissertation was Bart Hess. I looked at how he uses unusual materials to cover and distort the appearance of the body.

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Distortion became a key theme throughout my work inspired by the feelings, and was described through functional elements such as bungee cords, pulls and toggles. Some of my knots included in my collection were distorted themselves, and some have been distorted with the insertion of cords and toggles to change the natural shape of the garment.

Off The Cuff LDN particularly love the blue wave shorts and jacket look, would you be able to talk us through the pattern inspiration for this? 

The blue knitted two-piece shows a range of blues in a distorted wavey knit. The distortion is created when you steam the knit due to a combination of a specific yarn and technique this works how it does. No panel of this knit comes out the same, every piece will distort randomly and differently. The jacket also has another descriptive element to the, with the addition of channels and cords inserted inside that can be pulled to change the shape of the jacket.

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Why did you choose the fabrics and colour pallet you have?

As the majority of my collection is knitted I haven’t used many ‘bought’ fabrics. The fabrics I did use were wovens with plastic coatings, giving the garments both matte and patent effects as well as feeling almost weather-proof. Yarns used included monofilament, cellophane, mohair, polypropylene, cashwool and viscose. I used a lot of monofilament combined with other yarns to help produce the effect I have with the distorted knit. The colours of the yarns and fabrics stemmed from research images and development. I think blue was the main colour. It came from the sailing and boating ideas and is a strong colour to convey emotions, for example, feeling blue, feeling airy and lost or feeling down. Despite the strong emotions, I wanted the garments to be fun and tactile.

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For knitwear novices reading your blog, including myself, may you briefly talk us through a standard day creating these pieces on the loom? How many hours did each take?

Knitting the fabrics as well as making the garments was really rewarding, but it does take up a lot of time! I think a lot of people think it’s done on an electronic machine but it isn’t. You have to set up the needle placement, there are around 420 needles on both front bed and back bed of the machine I was using, and you are always completely in control. Pulling the carriage across the bed of needles produces 1 row of knitting. Some of my knits, for example the distorted wave one, shrink when taken off the machine and steamed. 1 out of 4 panels for the shorts was about 800 rows. The shorts took around 2 and a half days to knit. These were the fastest to knit out of all the garments. The jacket needed a lot of larger and longer panels. I think there was 8 in total, with each panel being over 1000 rows. It takes time, but I think what you can achieve are really worth it.

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The furry knits were done on a different type of machine; I had a few people helping with these everyday for 2 weeks to create the cream fluffy hoodie!

Why knitwear? Has it always been a passion?

I chose knitwear because it can be really versatile. There’s a lot to explore and play with in terms of yarns and techniques. I like how you can manipulate the texture and fabric as well as making your own fabric. I’ve always been into textiles and couldn’t imagine producing my garments without my own fabrics. Knitwear is so free: you can go really wild with it, or keep it minimalistic and either way it is really tactile and beautiful.

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Olivia Humphrey – Knitwear, Middlesex University

Instagram: @oliviahumphreyft

Image credits: Simon Armstrong

Check out more of our GFW 2018 articles here.

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