Armours conjure up images of warriors wearing metal plates to prevent injuries in battle while intimidating the adversary, but fashion designers redesigned and redefined the meaning and purpose of these protective structures. It is not rare to see armour-like garments at catwalk shows, pieces that restyle the contours of one's body, protecting its precarious fragility, filling the voids.
Image maker and craftswoman Kat Marks and artist and designer Patrick Ian Hartley moved from the concept of armours turning it around in their first collaborative collection entitled “Paladin”. Forged iron gave space to more flexible and light materials capable of transforming the wearer into a modern gladiator and of shifting the main purpose of the armoured pieces from defence to seduction.
In a way it was very apt for Marks and Hartley to get together: since her MA in Fashion Artefact at London College of Fashion, Marks designed Perspex and leather pieces that literally encase the body, developing unique collections often used as props for photography and film purposes (a while back she also produced a film with SHOWstudio and Nick Knight).
Hartley has instead been going for roughly 20 years. A well-known master in the art of body modifications, he has also been creating works inspired by different disciplines - including cosmetic surgery, genetics and cloning - tackling complex body modification and alteration issues while designing face corsets exhibited in world famous museuns and art galleries.
Can you tell me more about how you two met and decided to collaborate together?
Patrick Ian Hartley and Kat Marks: We were introduced by a colleague 3 and a half years ago soon after Kat had moved to London from Canada. In that time, we've regularly discussed the possibility of collaborating together but it was only recently that the time felt right. Relocating our design practice to a studio that we share at London Bridge gave us the opportunity to work together on a daily basis and become more familiar with how each other's works.
What did you learn from each other while working on this project?
Patrick Ian Hartley and Kat Marks: In terms of how we operate, we have a relatively similar approach to the way we design. We have a mental frame work for the project and designs, but we allow the dynamics of the material to influence how the design takes form. We found that we both approach material in a very intuitive way; rather than forcing a material to perform in a particular way, we allowed the dynamics of the material to equally inform our process. Although we both have a distinctive style, we are open to the influence of the other. By doing this, an equal measure of our own styles remained and is evident in the aesthetic of the piece.
What inspired you while working on “Paladin”?
Patrick Ian Hartley and Kat Marks: Predominately, the characteristics of the material but we have both explored and incorporated body armour detailing in our previous collections. This common ground seemed a logical foundation for the collection. We're fascinated by the versatility of PVC and how aesthetically, it can be such a contradictory material. The material itself appears hard and rigid when in reality is soft and flexible. The individual components which make up the garments appear machine-cut when in actuality are hand-cut at a 45 degree angle to exploit the refractive-like qualities of the transparent material.
Can you tell us more about the materials employed in “Paladin”?
Patrick Ian Hartley and Kat Marks: We worked exclusively with white and transparent Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). PVC is an industrial plastic with broad application in various industries. We used industrial-grade PVC, which is seldom used in fashion.
The pieces that you designed make you think about a futuristic kind of armour, did you have in mind themes such as transformation, protection, reshaping the body and empowering the wearer while working on these pieces?
Patrick Ian Hartley and Kat Marks: We did begin the project by investigating the aesthetic quality of armour in a transparent material, it being a common strand we have both investigated in our previous collections. We would say that themes such as transformation or protection are subject to the context in which the work is shown and depended on the viewers interpretation.
Would it be correct to say that this collection is suspended between fashion design and art?
Patrick Ian Hartley and Kat Marks: If the collection is judged based on our backgrounds, then yes, it is suspended between art and fashion but ultimately, that is dependent on the interpretation of the viewer. Patrick trained in ceramics and sculpture working exclusively as an artist since 1990 until his career in fashion design took hold a few years ago. Kat is trained in womenswear fashion design and tailoring and later in fashion artifact, an area of fashion that fuses garment, accessory and product design. We approached this project primarily from a design and material perspective. We say this is a fashion collection and a fashion product but depending on the context in which it is placed, this is open to interpretation.
Will you showcase your project during any fashion events in the next few months?
Patrick Ian Hartley and Kat Marks: 'Paladin' is currently on location for a number of shoots in New York and we have instigated our next collaborative collection ‘Sdutz Veda’, which we intend to showcase in the coming months. In addition, we will be exhibiting pieces from our previous and future collections at the opening of SHOWstudio's new premises in March and we have a series of interviews and editorials featuring our work in a number of Vogue publications in the coming weeks.
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