Earlier this week I took a trip to London to visit 2 exhibitions for my project; 'The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined' at the Barbican and 'Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery' at the V&A. The exhibitions were very different but both were relevant to various aspects of my project with regards to materials and techniques. The Barbican exhibition explored the idea of vulgar, its various definitions and what it has meant in fashion over time. It looks at various designs from 18th century fashion to present day exploring how they could be considered vulgar from their aesthetic to their material usage. It was interesting to see and hear the different definitions and ideas of is vulgar and how it has changed over time. This was particularly relevant for some of the designs on display such as the 'Lauren Ensemble' by Viktor and Rolf which was made entirely from left over scraps of previous collections. It was interesting how it was considered vulgar for its aesthetic despite the fact it was an attempt to made use of left overs and prevent the materials going to waste. I was particularly happy to be able to see the 'Pencil Skirt Ensemble' by Mary Katrantzou, one of my favourite designs by the designer, whilst at the exhibition. However this was more because I had wanted to see it for myself and had mixed feelings with regards to the fact it was part of an exhibition about vulgar fashion. The use of material and approach to the design I find inspiring as a designer however it was for those reasons that it was included in the exhibition.
The 'Opus Anglicanum' exhibition at the V&A consisted of a selection of medieval embroidery, artifacts and books from the same era. For me this exhibition was more about looking at the techniques used and what imagery was included in the designs. Most of the copes were embroidered with religious stories as they were religious ceremonial capes but other fragments of embroidered cloth were decorated with images of leaves, flowers and animals. The techniques included couching, stem stitch, underside couching and split stitch using silk, gilded silver and gold thread. The main colours other than gold and silver where red, purple and blue; I found it particularly interesting that the blue shading work hadn't faded in colour and was still very prominent. A lot of the ornamental motifs used by the embroiderers were the same as English and French stain glass windows which again tied together the overall religious theme. Nué or shaded gold work was also displayed, a technique were metal threads are decoratively couched with coloured silks of varying shades. The sample also had a 3D effect as the figure was work separately and then applied to the ground fabric a technique used widely today for creating layers on the surface of a design.
Overall there was a lot I could take from both exhibitions; the questioning of taste and material selection for my work and the techniques I could experiment with and look for a more innovative approach.