THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Inspired by... blog

Fashion, film, design and all things creative at the British Library

Introduction

Spotlighting collections you would’ve never thought would be in a library and the creative people who use them. Follow us @BL_Creative. Read more

25 November 2014

Maggie Semple turns the British Library's Olga Hirsch Archive into Fashion Collection

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Maggie Semple OBE's career spans broadcasting, print and digital media. In October 2010 she founded Maggie Semple Limited (MSL) to coincide with the publication of her book ‘Women, Fashion, Stories’ and now uses the concept behind the book to host ‘Semple Secrets’ a series of conversations with inspirational women from a diverse range of fields. She also sits on the British Library Board.

The MSL Fashion team is proud to announce the launch of its first clothing collection designed by the incredibly talented Laura Ralph, in association with the Library. Laura is an up-and-coming designer whose signature ‘two-pieces’ have been featured in Italian Grazia, German Elle and The Telegraph.

The collection takes inspiration from the British Library Olga Hirsch collection of decorated papers, which includes over 3,500 sheets of paper and 130 books in paper wrappers or decorated with end-leaves. The papers can be marbled, embossed or block printed and have been collected from around the world, from Japan to Italy.

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Olga Hirsch, nee Ladenburg, came from a prominent Frankfurt family. After her marriage to industrialist and music collector Paul Hirsch in 1911, she became intrigued by the decorated papers used to cover music scores in her husband’s library and began to research and collect them. During the 1930s, the family moved from Germany to Cambridge and the British Library subsequently acquired both the music library and decorated paper collection.

The MSL Fashion team, recognising an emerging trend for coordinates, and with a passion to work with new British talent, chose to work with Laura Ralph to select three of the papers and turn them into beautiful prints. The final pieces are made from eco-friendly, 100% cotton and manufactured in the UK.

Being ethical is very important to MSL, therefore the printing, designing and creating was all done with this in mind. They worked with the Centre for Advanced Textiles to print the fabrics as their digital textile printing process is recognised as reducing dye wastage. Laura worked with a team of locally sourced and trained seamstresses who are paid above the UK living wage for their skills.

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Semple

 

Digitising patterns originally created for paper was a first for the team, and the process was trial and error. The first challenge was to create a repeating pattern and the second to redesign the original initial design. Following this, the prints were sent off to be printed onto cotton, steam washed and finished. The pieces are then completely hand made by Laura Ralph and her group of UK seamstresses – they were cut out individually by hand, sewn with an overlocker and then a sewing machine to finish the seams.

You can buy the pieces online.

Find out more about the Library's Olga Hirsch collection.

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19 November 2014

From Street Goth to Health Goth: why Goth fashion never dies

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Geraldine Wharry is one of our guest bloggers. She is creative director of Trend Atelier, a trend forecasting consultancy based in London with clients ranging from WGSN to Samsung. We asked her to research the influence of gothic on fashion, to tie in with our current exhibition: Terror and Wonder, the Gothic Imagination. You can see more Gothic articles here and also on the Library's Gothic Pinterest board. This is what Geraldine told us.

The Goth subculture and style permutations associated with it have continuously held their place in fashion since the seventies. Weaving in and out of different influences, it’s a difficult group to pin down to one defined aesthetic but what has remained consistent is the Goth’s love for the undead and all things dark and macabre, with different offshoots ranging from Steam Punk to Japanese street style. It’s a fashion medley embracing Victorian influences just as much as Science Fiction and at times pink hair, making it a very rich subject to follow as a trend forecaster. The most evident glue between High fashion and the Goth subculture is the theatrical drama essential to its backdrop.

Street Goth

More recently, Goth fashion has entered the realm of street wear and hip-hop culture with designers such as Rick Owens, Alexander Wang and Hood By Air leading the way. Paris-based American designer Rick Owens, the most pivotal to this latest interpretation of Goth style, has his own cult following which includes rapper A$ap Rocky. With coveted sneaker namesake designs and signature long line tees, it wasn’t long before the Rick Owens look made a great impact on the entire hip hop world. By early 2013, the term Street Goth made it big on the fashion scene and was adopted by the likes of Kanye West, Drake and Jay-Z.

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What is interesting about Rick Owens’s influence on street wear is the paradox. Whilst dark and macabre, his collections have an introspective and monastic quality, a far cry from hip-hop’s usual bling and swagger. Owens is most famous for his cloak shapes inspired by the monk’s “habit” which he reworks into sculptural creations, layered and wrapped silhouettes which can evoke Frankenstein’s bride’s dress. His cultural references are far more complex, but some interesting links are worth highlighting such as the makeup used in his Spring Summer 2015 collection, reminiscent of Japanese Butoh dancers, known as “the dance of darkness”. Rick Owens has been able to combine such references with street culture, making a big statement with American dance crew “Step with Momentum” who modeled his Spring Summer 2014 collection whilst crumping and stomping. The link with music and self-expression is prevalent in Street Goth style with one group standing out - which could also be compared to Frankenstein and his bride– Die Antwoord the South African counterculture rave group often connected with designer Alexander Wang.

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More recent fashion labels are emerging out of New York’s scene such as Hood By Air’s, designed by Shayne Oliver who brings an anarchist and warrior quality to his collections inspired by a fallen hero, civil protest and street warfare. In line with HBA and Alexander Wang in New York, Nasir Mazhar in London, street wear labels are replacing dominant logos with messages around death, oblivion and anger - all within a black and white palette.

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Ninja Goth

There is a Ninja fighter quality to street Goth style, one we could also link to Samurai armours because of the silhouette. One of the key aspects to the Street Goth “uniform” is multiple layering and skirt length tees, shorts or skirts worn over skinny pants, in line with Rick Owens’s cloak like proportions mentioned earlier. Mixing surfaces, juxtaposing matte and shine with leather, jersey – even sheer fabrications – gives the monochromatic look more textural dimension. Interestingly this trend, originally led by menswear is now being picked up in Womenswear as seen in Yamamoto’s recent Adidas Y3 Spring Summer 2015 collection. Street Goth taps into youth culture, the pull between good and evil and expressing discontent, with underlying themes of urban warfare. We can also link the use of leather and elongated silhouettes with motorcycle clothing as well as cult movie character Blade, a half vampire-half mortal fighting evil.

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Health Goth

There has always been an intimate relationship between athletic clothing and street wear, therefore it wasn’t long and somewhat of a natural progression for Street Goth to influence the sports and health industry. In itself this could be seen as ironic as we don’t usually associate Goths with a healthy glow. Could the Health Goth movement be about toning your body in the most emotional, melancholic way possible? This is not the case according to Health Goth Facebook page creators Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott (the latter not to be confused with the fashion designer). Health Goth combines subcultural including Goth and cyber punk with the mainstream world of sport, bringing Goth fashion into a whole new context, tying itself to “Accelerationist aesthetics” a movement which looks at how subcultures can develop in our capitalist society, whilst subverting its visual codes – in this case Nike and Adidas.

One of the attendees at our recent talk “The New Black: from subculture to high culture“ at the British Library pointed out that Health Goth also originated from the need to sustain a lifestyle of clubbing and nocturnal habits. The fact is the media is jumping on the new term “Health Goth”, emboldened by the trend for dark monochromatic athletic gear and irony of comparing macabre aesthetics with Yoga clothing. Only time will tell how this trend will evolve as we see Goth fashion continue to navigate seamlessly from one style category to another.

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17 November 2014

How the British Library supports designers

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If you are involved in illustration, graphic, interior or product designillustration, graphic, interior or product design, we can help you.


Be inspired by our collections
The Library’s collection includes a copy of every book and magazine published in the UK, photo books, artist’s books, knitting patterns, newspapers, vinyl covers, fanzines, calligraphy, maps, stamps and more. Whether you’re interested in interior design from the 1950s or examples of gothic type, we have something unique for you.

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Image: British Library music collection

So how can you use the archive?  You need to get a free Reader Pass to see our collections in our Reading Rooms in London and Boston Spa, Yorkshire. These short animations should help get you started.

Product designer Eleanor Stuart was inspired by the Library’s Alice in Wonderland original manuscript to create a new home ware range:

Designer and architect David Ajasa-Adekunle used our Business & IP Centre to develop his award-winning Tetra Shed (below).

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Image: Tetra Shed


See our Pinterest board of designers who have used the British Library to help develop their ideas.


Get help with the business side of things
In our Business & IP Centre you can get advice and support on working for yourself and setting up your own business. This could include business planning, finance, market research (we have some amazing reports on retail trends, for example) and intellectual property.  We run a full programme of events, networking and one-to-one advice sessions. Lastly, if you have already set up in business, you could benefit from our EU-funded Innovating for Growth programme.

A place to sell your products
The Library holds one-off markets and stalls within our buildings – previous examples have included a Christmas Market, Spring Fair and pop-up market for our Gothic Music and Fashion day.  We also stock designers’ work in our Shop (onsite and online).

Watch our Spring Market video:

Read more design-related blog articles here.