Hello readers, I have some good news for you. I'll be looking after the British Library Instagram account for a while; I'll be posting pictures of our flagship St Pancras building, amazing collections, exhibitions, events and the people that use us. If you post a picture of us, tag it with #britishlibrary and I'll 'regram' some of the best.
When I first collaborated with the British Library Business & IP Centre for a trend forecasting event in September 2013, I presented the key fashion trends for 2014 in womenswear, menswear, textiles, graphics and accessories. One of the trends was “Cartoon Reality” and showcased the resurgence of comics and superheroes influencing designers and makers. The trend fit within a larger concept called Pop!, a whimsical and edgy design direction filled with bold colour juxtapositions and graphic statements.
Fashion and comic book art share an exciting relationship. Comic book illustrations have fueled the imagination of many fashion labels, from high-end designers such as 3.1 Philip Lim and Tom Ford, to high street brands Topshop and ASOS. I call this the “Pow Wow!” effect. In the 1960s, Pop artists who delved into comic art and illustrative drama such as Roy Lichtenstein came to influence Donna Karan, Moschino, Viktor and Rolf and Yves Saint Laurent.
Whilst researching the trend, I came across such a large amount of visual content, stylized editorials, and quirky garments created in the last few decades that it’s clear the relationship between comic book graphics and fashion has reached a tipping point. Comics and superheroes have become a perennial source of print and pattern inspiration in fashion, revisited season after season and acting as a complement to core items such as whimsical polka dots, logos and graffiti art.
It’s only natural comic art would influence fashion designers as they are always on the hunt for captivating imagery. With bright colour palettes often used against black and white lettering, this makes for impactful visuals, which designers use on garments as their canvas. The layout of comic book pages with their exaggerated fonts and messages also inspire stylists and fashion editorials in publications such as Vogue.
The designers who are currently building our fashion landscape also grew up with comics and superheroes. They instinctively reference their teenage years, children’s books and favorite superhero movies, all embedded in their visual consciousness. This is clearly seen in collections by designers like Jeremy Scott who often uses comic book imagery such as monsters seen in his Autumn/Winter 2014 collection.
The sexually seductive nature of female superheroes also inspires designers of the likes of Tom Ford to create alluring silhouettes with references to comic book splashes of colour and text bubbles as seen in his Fall/Winter 2013 collection.
On a deeper level, the relationship between comics and fashion goes beyond the idea of using the style as a purely graphic source of inspiration. Comics can be subversive vehicles for sexual and political statements, which is precisely the focus of Comics Unmasked. As it stands, subversion is fashion’s second name.
Throughout history, the designs that stand the test of time are the ones that challenged our perceptions of gender and body image as well as channeled designers’ sense of humour and whimsy. Fashion if anything else, is about making a statement, in between shocking the audience and creating awe. Designers use clothing as a powerful tool of expression to surprise, seduce and turn the shocking into the beautiful.
Name the punk era and Vivienne Westwood in the 1970s, Balenciaga and his cocoon shaped jackets in the 1950s, or Yves Saint Laurent’s popularization of trousers for women, and you will find in each one of these examples a deeply subversive spirit aimed to provoke change.
More recently, we see alternative music groups collaborate with high fashion brands to create thought-provoking street wear. The best example being South Africa’s Die Antwoord and co- founder/rapper/illustrator Watkin Tudor Jones (also known as Ninja) whose subversive futuristic rap is paired with Basquiat-inspired characters and street punk styling. The group and its impactful graphic streetwear fronted Alexander Wang’s T campaign in 2012.
Cartoon comic artists and fashion designers have created a great dialogue and creative exchange. We classically saw cartoon heroes on jersey t-shirts and the growing influence of street style on high fashion in the last 50 years has made it possible for cartoon graphics to gradually make their way onto silks and organzas. The subject matter moves effortlessly from paper and celluloid to fabric as its canvas.
As street style and bold graphics continue to influence the high fashion, this trend is set to grow from strength to strength - so stay tuned. For a full view of the cartoon research and sources used for this article visit my Pinterest Cartoon Reality Board.
Geraldine Wharry and Trend Atelier are hosting Fashion Forecasting: Trend hunting and gathering on 24 June 2014 in our Business & IP Centre. Get the tools you need to identify the fashion trends for 2015/2016 - find out the more here.
I've come across a lot of creative businesses run by small teams or one individual. It's a common challenge for these businesses to create new work and take care of the business side.
Elizabeth Carrick, designer of womenswear label Blonde + Ginger, said her biggest challenge is "Needing to do everything yourself and trying to be good enough at it all! I love the designing and the creative side of the business but I need to develop my skills in other areas, such as marketing. You are never going to be great at every role you need to do but you can’t afford to not try your very best."
This afternoon I ran into Eleanor Lewis-Bale of letterpress label Marby & Elm. She's been so busy doing business admin like invoicing and packaging that she hasn't had time to explore and be creative. She finally made it to the Library to look at our typography collection for inspiration.
To help creatives get organised, learn business essentials and stay sane(!) we've partnered up with The Design Trust to deliver a FREE webinar series. These are perfect for pre-start and start-up creative businesses including freelancers, sole traders, practitioners in design, crafts, fashion, photography, video and film.
Webinar 1: Create your business plan for
your first year Thu 17 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00 You can
write a business plan to get finance or funding, but also to plan ahead and
prioritise your workload. Think of a
business plan as a roadmap for your journey. In
the end you will have the tools to create a business plan that you will be proud of and will be using regularly.
Webinar 2: Your first 10 steps in marketing Thu 31 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00 We'll look at how to do practical market research and why niche marketing is essential
for small businesses. You'll get loads of practical tips and
marketing actions that you can use to help get your business started on the
Webinar 3: How to cost and price your work Thu 7 Nov, 11.00 - 12.00 Pricing
your products or services isn’t easy. You might
not know how to do the maths, or you find it hard to put a value on your
creative ideas. This is a step-by-step session on how pricing and costing works. Learn about different models, international pricing, discounting, premiums
The British Library has one of the largest sound collections
in the world, covering the entire range of recorded sound from music, drama and
literature, to oral history, accents and dialects and wildlife sounds.
We are opening up these collections for filmmakers to play with as part of our annual Spring Festival short film competition.
We are offering you the exclusive opportunity to write a treatment for a film or multimedia photostory, working with a selection of sounds from the British Library's accents and dialects sound collection – with cash prizes for the best project ideas.
The VoiceBank was created between November 2010 and April
2011 as a result of the British Library exhibition, Evolving English: One
Language, Many Voices. During the exhibition visitors to the gallery were
encouraged to make a sound recording to help the Library capture contemporary
a word or expression they felt was special in their variety of English
(the ‘WordBank’) and/or reflections on their relationship with their accent
(the ‘VoiceBank’). In total 15,000 recordings were made and the Library is now in the process of
cataloguing and making these sounds available for research.
You will have exclusive access to a selection of 24
downloadable sound recordings. From a Pakistani/Yorkshire accent to saying "code" for "cold" in Nottingham to the word "meekin", defined by a small group of friends as being indecisive, there is a wide variety of accents and words to play with.
We want you to use the sounds to create a new short film
rich landscape of regional accents and dialects. Challenge stereotypes, focus
on local identity or our present
day-to-day lives. Force us to listen, concentrate and connect meaning to
voices. You can use the sounds directly in your film or as inspiration for your
narrative. Your film cannot be longer than three minutes.
A shortlist of 10 IdeasTap members will be awarded £500 each to create their film. The final 10 films or multimedia photostories will go before a panel of industry experts, who will select one overall winner to receive £1,000 and a screening at the British Library Spring Festival.
You can download the sounds and find out more on the IdeasTap website. The deadline is Friday 29 November 2013.
Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices British Library exhibition
I am thrilled to announce the winner of our Propaganda design competition in partnership with Artsthread (drum roll please): Kingston University graphic design graduate Olivia Twaites and her portrait series Shred Heads.
In celebration of our current exhibition Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, we set a brief to create a new design, short film or illustration to influence the British public to change their attitudes and behaviour around their health. It was open to creative students, graduates or anyone who has been working for less than three years in the design industry.
Olivia's portrait series comments on depression in the workplace. She explains: "The stress and pressure of our modern day working lives has become increasingly acknowledged as a predominant factor behind many cases of mental illness, specifically depression. Open plan office layouts and soulless corporate working environments can sometimes lead people to feel a distinct lack of privacy and individuality that may negatively impact their mental health."
We thought her design was innovative, skillfully executed and persuasive - a key propaganda technique. Congratulations Olivia!
We received a lot of great entries. Here are the runners up:
Aya Arden-Clarke The Future of the Future is the Present - A short film underlining how we harm our bodies through unhealthy diets.
Seanna Doonan Georgie Doon - A short film about the short and long term effects of binge drinking.
Adam Weekes Life's Little Helpers - A book and poster series illustrating the goodness and the remedies healthy foods can bring you.
Thank you to all the entrants. We hope to see you and more creatives using our collections for inspiration. Keep following this blog and @BL_Creative for announcements about future competitions.
I hope you're all enjoying this sizzling hot summer weather. I was curious to see the sartorial landscape of our piazza so I snapped these photos of some Readers. No doubt they will be relieved to return to our chilly Reading Rooms after their lunch break!
L: Tim is preparing a conference paper on gothic fiction. I love his spotted shorts and classic leather satchel.
R: Natasha is using our Business & IP Centre to help grow her social enterprise. She's also sporting spots!
L: Sergio, in those wonderful canary yellow trousers, writes about film and his friend Roger, with those thick black-rimmed glasses I hope never go out of style, writes about 18th century music.
R: Neda and Areej are both doing their masters in management of innovation at Goldmiths. I spotted their fiery orange-red outfits from across the piazza.
L: Chantal is doing her masters in photography at Goldsmiths. Her jeans look great with her orange socks and two-toned brogues.
R: Jessica goes to The School of Oriental and African Studies and is writing her dissertation on gender violence in Colombia. The pretty print on her dress has a slight South American feel to it.
I'm in Sicily surrounded by the beautiful mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale. I can imagine the fun Romans where having here in the fourth century - it is really a palace of luxury! The mosaics illustrate a wide range of subjects including mythology, animals, plantlife and scenes of every day life - like these athletic "bikini girls".
When I searched "Italy" and "bikini" in our Images Online collection this photograph of a beauty pageant popped up:
Our Images Online is a great resource for designers, but I encourage you to become a Reader and see the originals. Throughout the year I'll be hosting some Inspired by events where you can view a selection of collection items hand-picked by our expert curators. You'll be able to ask them questions and gain a more in-depth understanding of our vaste collections. Hopefully you'll walk away inspired to create something new.
To celebrate our Propaganda exhibition, we ran a spectacular LATE at the Library. We had DJs Alexis, Al and Felix (Hot Chip), band-of-the moment Public Service Broadcasting. If you couldn't make it, here are some of the photos. You can also enter our Propaganda design competition.