• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Putting colour back into the century

ByBryony Smith

Feb 8, 2020

The Edinburgh Charity Fashion Show is just five weeks away and this year’s theme kickstarts the twenties with all the glitz and glam of its predecessor. The twenties reminisce of an emerging new world of fashion and a divorce from traditional styles and expectations. Held on the 14th March, the National Museum Scotland is being transformed into an immersive experience, complete with jazz band, drinks, music, dancing and art installations. Also taking place is perhaps the most luxurious raffle and auction that would capture even our beloved Jay Gatsby’s attention. Sponsored by the likes of Mulberry and RedHeads Wine, you could be starting off the new decade with style and perhaps ever so slightly tipsy. With 100% of profit going towards Macmillan Cancer Support Scotland and It’s Good 2 Give! get your ticket for just £32 now.

In countdown to the event, we’ll be conversing with this year’s prominent designers regarding their collections. This week’s designer is Edinburgh graduate Olivia Gabraitis. A sustainable designer, Olivia uses zero waste materials and sustainable fabrics to create garments of vibrant colour to convey sentiment and statements on the family dynamic and women’s movements. She exclusively discusses her upcoming collection for the Edinburgh Charity Fashion Show with The Student.


What do the twenties resonate with you?


From a design and concept point of view, when I think of the twenties I automatically think of the Roaring Twenties of 1920s Americana. The American Dream, new gadgets and gizmos, the flapper dresses, the glamour, the bling, the unapologetic exuberance, the gangster pin stripes, the boxy cuts, short skirts and the new daring silhouettes of women’s clothing.

I love everything about it and loved how fearless and luxurious women dressed back then and it was most definitely a turning point in women’s fashion. I suppose that time was also quite similar as to how I want the women who wear my garments to feel: fearless. It’s most likely one of my favourite eras within fashion along with the 50’s. It just had so much going on about it.


What has inspired your collection?


Family, my brother and the story of my childhood. Also subverting traditional family values, poking fun at the roles that women were expected to be within “the family” and the silhouettes associated to the 1950s housewife.

When my brother was nine years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. As a result, he is visually impaired, and he has learning difficulties. My entire family are artists; my mum a fine artist, my dad a sculptor and my brother expresses himself through graphic illustration. He describes his vision as “seeing out from a crack in a rock face” and so I wanted to understand how he viewed art through his eyes. We have been through struggles as a family during this time and have often turned to art to express ourselves and to just get it out there. It was the same for my brother. It was also about what colour means to him and how it is linked with intuition and emotion for him and his process of creating.

Also, it was about the importance of art within my family and how it brought us all together. We love art movements and Surrealism/Expressionism were our key starting points as artists. I essentially dedicated my entire graduate collection to my brother and my family and treated every piece like a piece of art in itself. I wanted each piece to almost be like a 20th CE “tapestry” like you see in art museums – everything with a meaning or a story behind it.

The shape of the fringing on my holographic fringe jumper with blue vinyls is inspired by the drawings of outlines of childhood photographs. The voluminous skirts: inspired by a letter that family friend gave us before my brother’s operation, of her reminiscing about my brother hanging onto my mother’s legs underneath her skirt when he was a child. The layered vinyl coat: subconsciously inspired by my mother’s landscape oil paintings of the seascapes of Haverfordwest, of where she grew up. Everything has meaning to me.


What is your creative process?


For my creative process I start to collect memorabilia, make collages, create art and brainstorm potential concepts by reading about certain eras within fashion. I ultimately go out to art museums first and take millions of photographs and select the photos I really like and sometimes take inspiration from a painting or a texture or something that I’ve seen and have a feeling about it. I also like taking street photography and people. I process everything by emotion and run with my gut feeling.

Then, once historical and contemporary silhouettes are researched, my favourite part is sampling and creating textile samples. This is where everything goes a bit wild and I really get my ideas going. Usually through a process of elimination and creating a toile and collaging images together, I select the designs I really like and add colour and refine them until I have my final designs.


You describe your clothing as ‘Emotionally Reactive Womenswear’. What emotion will this collection convey and in what ways will you utilise colour and shape to achieve this?


Proud. Boldness. Braveness. Empowering. I use colour through the concept of my brother and what colours he thinks is important to him to create an unapologetic feeling to the clothes. The colour blue is inspired by his time in hospital for example, with surgeons’ gowns and nurses’ uniforms. It’s all about association through memory and colour has had on his life. That’s why everything in my collection is so vivid and bright – it has an incredible importance to me and my family.

The silhouettes of my collection are used to illustrate 1950s traditional flared skirts, Marigold gloves and kitchen aprons. These elements were used to emphasise the impact that women have over the course of history and as a woman, how proud I am to see how far we have come over time.


As it’s your first year in the Edinburgh Charity fashion show, what do you want people to remember from your collection?


My colours, prints and fringe textures for sure! Also, how abstract and bonkers it is and how, much like art, it’s supposed to be subjective and make you think.


How does it feel to come back to Edinburgh after graduating last year? Do you feel you have gained a new perspective on fashion?


Amazing! A little sad though as I kind of miss it now and would love to come back and do it all again. And yes, of course. I’ve been recently gaining experience within the fashion industry after graduation and it makes you really think about how much freedom you had in terms of creativity back then, as you’re working for someone else rather than in your own collection by yourself and for yourself.

I’ve learnt that fashion is a lot more commercial and realistic than expected and more business oriented, but it’s also what makes fashion tick and so successful. I’m learning a lot this year for sure


Image: Tom Hutts via Instagram oliviagabraitisdesign