Literature: The must have fashion accessory…

Jaume Plensa's 29 palms

Jaume Plensa’s 29 palms

As a lover of books I’m always interested in ways that literature can be expanded into other art forms as a means of generating an interest in the written word. The Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is a good example of this. His recent exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park demonstrated how text could form the framework of large scale sculptures, enabling readers such as myself to spend hours devouring each word while other visitors simply appreciated the form and structure.


The incredible Alhambra Palace, Granada

And where do you start with the Alhambra Palace in Granada? The intricately stylised walls at first look like decoration but in between the images are over 10,000 Arabic inscriptions which are currently being decoded. Is this the world’s largest book or a piece of architecture dating back to 889? Well, it depends on the reader…

Within fashion Agnes Richter’s embroidered straight jacket is particularly inspirational. Agnes Richter was a German seamstress held as a patient in an insane asylum during the 1890s. During her incarceration she documented her thoughts and feelings directly onto her straitjacket. This remarkable cultural artefact was collected by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who collected the artwork of his patients at a Heidelberg psychiatric hospital in the early 20th century.


Agnes Richter’s embroidered straight jacket

One of the featured figures in Dawn of the Unread is William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, aka the 5th Duke of Portland. The Duke was known to wear up to three frock coats at once, enjoyed wearing false beards and was generally a sartorial nightmare. When not annoying the Victorian equivalent of Gok Wan, he focussed his attention on ridiculously ambitious building projects, most of which took place underground.

Visually this lends itself perfectly to the graphic novel medium but his story is also something that can be told through fashion. Based on Agnes Richter’s straightjacket, what peculiar thoughts would be embroidered into the Duke’s (many) jackets? I’m currently talking to Claire Ritchie about this.

Claire is an interdisciplinary practitioner merging the edges of fashion, textile and anthropological garment research. She’s currently embarking on a new body of work based upon the concept of the ‘jacket’ and how this might be visually deconstructed and re-manipulated using the addition of vintage embroidered patches, badges and other visual motifs to create a truly autobiographical or fake ‘life’ for the garment. This links into past customization projects which Claire has completed for members of the punk and metal subcultures and also brands including BSA motorcycles.

A specially commissioned jacket inspired by the Duke could make for a very memorable catwalk as well as the perfect means for Claire to launch her new line of clothing.

An abridged version of this blog can be read at Creative Nottingham 

Andrew ‘MulletProofPoet’ Graves will be bringing the Duke back to life for us, Please visit his website here. 

2 thoughts on “Literature: The must have fashion accessory…

  1. Pingback: When lettering walks on the wild side | Ellen Waldren

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