Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Tues July 24th: Port Eliot Festival's Wardrobe Department - Sarah Mower's "Fashion Dolls’ Teaparty"

In amongst the Cornwall cream tea and jam-packed programme of events that Sarah Mower scheduled for her curation of the Wardrobe Department at Port Eliot Festival was a Fashion Dolls’ Teaparty.  Sarah hosted a Q&A with doll expert / enthusiast Alex Fury of LOVE Magazine to give an insight into the exhibition of doll parts that she pooled together from a roster of different designers.  Along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell's theory that toiling at a discipline for excess of 10,000 hours gives a specialist advance skills and success, Sarah wanted to investigate if it had been proven within fashion.  The result is a room full of established practitioner's childhood dabblings into the art of dressmaking which subconsciously sparked off subsequent devotion, dedication and landmark careers in the industry.  Each case study is accompanied with a description of its particular and peculiar story such as Alber Albaz only having a chess set of characters to  dress up and Sarah Mower's own baby doll which you can see here with Simone Rocha's silver booted sample.  In the instance of Simone, her old doll decked out in Victoriana has had an obvious influence on her now signature style of using lace and layers.  Erdem's Canadian Barbie doll wears his earliest experiment in evening attire which Alexander Fury explains is not a world away from his aesthetic now -  the original client being his twin sister's Skipper  that he surreptitiously stole, as he didn't have his own age six!  From the audience Piers Atkinson pipes up that he had the same experience of siphoning off his sibling's girl's toys to get to grips with fashioning miniature millinery from his mother's offcuts of buckram and Petersham ribbon.  I myself whilst away the hours of grand parents baby-sitting by raiding my nan's bags of dressmaking surplus scraps to add to the collection of clothes I had inherited from my sister's Cindy collection.  I even had a 2nd hand "boutique" which was the major highlight as I could merch up the items and hang them in a purpose built pink plastic display cabinet complete with mirror.  One designer of note who turned his fascination for teeny-tiny toy couture into a literal commercial success was a young Jason Wu who approached Integrity Dolls with his designs which latterly led to a deal that financed his first official collection.  Seemingly these infantile experiments were not just first steps on the 10.000 hour goal but also an unexpected entry to the industry of commerce!  
Some designers still use the technique of trying out patterns in this scale before committing to lengths of final fabric which is demonstrated via Sarah Burton's paper prototypes and Giles Deacon's show-piece replicas that are put together by interns to test their skills.  A few designers have actually opted to downscale their collections to debut on dolls in place of models such as AsFOUR and their Puppen Couture performance piece and Viktor & Rolf.  V&R's idea has since gone to to form a major doll's house display in their retrospective "The House Of Viktor & Rolf" at The Barbican which harks back to their heritage of 17th Century Amsterdam when fashion houses launched new designs in similar diminutive dimensions.  As it transpired Alex Fury should have this historical topic as his specialist subject if he were to ever appear on Mastermind - divulging exact details of the complete incarnation of the fashion industry on dolls which went on tour to the capital cities.  For this exercise and exhibition at Port Eliot, dolls also travelled the world as Sarah collated cherished items from designers across the ponds, bringing together examples from Donatella Versace to the estate's own Catherine St Germans.  Michael Howells helped stage the tea-party with quite possibly one of his smallest set designs to date, whilst Sarah was assisted with her research by two young curators, Jess Dubeck and Ben Evans from Central Saint Martin’s Fashion History and Theory degree.  Head over to the Port Eliot site to see more photos from the opening of THE FASHION DOLLS’ TEAPARTY in the Dining Room and the talk in the Round Room.  See this and highlights from the rest of the Wardrobe Department over on Vogue's coverage of the festival events.

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