Kyle Wilkinson designs trophies for the European Commission
Building fabric sculptures, to reimagine fashion.
The brief was pretty short, the client wasn’t exactly sure what they were after, and asked us for some ideas that we thought would be suitable.
Right from the off, i knew we needed to make the trophy from fabric. It clearly wasn’t right to use traditional materials such as plastic or metals as it didn’t really fit the message of sustainability, or fashion for that matter.
Rather than sketching, i started quickly playing with fabric to see if you could create a free standing object, and rather than faffing with fancy stuff, went with a rolled up scarf to kick off, which helped understand the task at hand and showing the client the thinking and direction.
And whilst fabric, isn’t something we’d worked with before, i thought it was something that we’d be able to achieve, and the client loved the idea.
Here’s the first scarf prototype. Amazing, I know.
After deciding to add a reclaimed wooden base to provide more stability, I thought we were laughing. We’ve got a great idea, we know what we’re doing, time to get cracking.
Turns out there’s a reason i couldn’t find any fabric trophy examples – fabric does not want to stay where you want it to.
I wrapped, tied, pinned, glued and asked it nicely. All without much joy.
At this point, enter Lauren Riley, fabric technologist and designer, who knows how to construct clothes and other amazing things through her skills. After a few failed attempts at creating sculptures purely from fabric, i decided to go back to the drawing board to see how we could build in structure, as i realised it needed more strength to stand, and importantly survive the journey to wherever the winners were located in the world. I landed on the idea of using wire coat hangers.
Sustainably repurposing an everyday item from the fashion world, both felt right on message, and allowed us to build a solid frame, a skeleton almost, in which to stitch the material to, almost like a haute couture dress.
Out came the pliers, bending and pulling the wire into various shapes whilst twisting and folding the fabric in individual sections, layering things up into the expanding cantilevered shape i was looking for – so that the fabric appeared to be rising up, or frozen in the wind, phoenix like, depicting progress and a rebirth.
After getting the coat hanger frames right, we then moved onto the fabric, testing different fabrics that gave the strength needed, whilst allowing us to form the shapes we wanted to create.
We found that throwing various fabrics in the air, and quickly photographing them we could see what forms they were creating, and how the crumpled. Too tight, and we knew it wasn’t going to have the structure to hold, too flat and it wasn’t flexible enough.
Here’s an example of a test, with Lauren looking lovingly at the fabric. We had a laugh doing this.
Together, we landed on an organic cotton with a good weight, providing the right balance of structure and flexibility, and cutting sections like a tailor, so to add volume and build up the structure, with each trophy having between 6 – 9 pieces each. We didn’t use a pattern either, opting to cut sections for each individual purpose, which made the job a little trickier, but ensured each trophy was unique.
Finally! We’d made it, literally.
The last thing we had to do was choose colours, given this was for The European Commission, we went for a deep blue – a nod to the EU flag, as well as green and white for sustainability and purity (plus they looked the best).
At times this job was testing, swear inducing in fact, and we could have made them in an easier, been-done-before-way. But hopefully this shows that you don’t always need expensive materials or equipment to create sustainable design. Just creativity, well thought out solutions, and a persistence to stick to the original vision.
“Kyle Wilkinson Studio was brilliant to work with. They took our brief and created uniquely designed trophies that captured the spirit of our competition beautifully. We could not be happier with the result!”