Hanging in Hoi Polloi, kedgeree with an espresso martini on the side, casually dressed and cool hair (“I was always a tomboy growing up and still am really”), Seetal Solanki sat right in front of me. While the light settings changed every five minutes -the restaurant needed a little time to wake up-, West End Girls played on the background to my heart’s content.
Talking about openings, Seetal first started out in the creative industry with a Jewellery and Silversmithing course, moving on after two yours to study BA Multi Media Textiles at Loughborough School of Art and Design; topped up by an MA in Textile Futures at CSM. “During the course of my MA I interned at Hussein Chalayan on his SS07 show, where the dresses were motorized and transformed into something else or completely disappeared.” she says. Having worked at numerous fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen, Chloé, Missoni as well as high street projects, she’s decided to stick with James Long for a few seasons in a row now. “It’s amazing working with James; he gives me the freedom to come up with my own art direction. It’s really a luxury. It builds a stronger direction for the current season and collection. It’s collaboration.”
James Long AW2014
Her Tumblr is an eclectic array of shapes and colors and she tells me that research is a massive part of her process, which she loves. Her signature is quite abstract and painterly, nature being something that’s always inspiring, as is David Attenborough. “Flowers are a staple when it comes to print and textiles, so everyone is always looking for the ‘new’ floral. Florals are not really my thing to be honest, although I do love having them in my home as well as plants.” In between a mouthful of porridge and a sip of green tea, we suddenly switch to technology.
Do you wonder what those Google glasses are like?
Google glass? What is that?
They now have these glasses, those things you saw in science fiction movies fifteen years ago: they’re now real.
(Laughs) Are they virtual?
You can internet on these glasses, it’s just a screen, I think it’s voice activated… It would be so annoying, imagine if you would say ‘yeah I was just googling … the other day’ and it just starts happening in front of you.
Oh no no, that’s just too much.
In five years that’s probably gonna be reality.
No, I can’t do that.
Well in a few years we might have cat-eye and aviator shapes.
If you have that visual thing in front of you, then if you walk down the street… Can you actually walk down the road if you got that in front of you? I mean, technology is pretty amazing, I do accept technology, but I’m not like a gadget person. I think they’ll get to a point where it’s just embedded in your lens, probably.
Future is contact lenses, I suppose.
What about people who don’t wear glasses? I don’t wear glasses.
Well, then you’ll now have a reason to wear them.
I do love technology and its many aspects, and Textile Futures was also a lot about that. So it is a very important part of the future.
Just like 3D printing.
Totally, but it’s scary as well.
You can print a [in unison] gun.
…that actually works.
Very do-it-at-home. I mean, you can make these things yourself if you’ve got a blueprint and know how to design. Who’s gonna stop you? It’s dangerous. Chemicals are the next thing.
What’s really interesting in terms of textiles is Suzanne Lee, who is growing her own fabrics. It’s like a bacteria that actually can grow under controlled conditions, and it will grow like a skin, and it will become fabric. So, it’s incredible, and it’s something that’s she’s developing, so that’s something that’s very future but also eco. That could be quite endless.
Creative direction for Alvar magazine
Then I do wonder how the pressure at CSM compared to the pressure she had to face once working, because her schedule sounds, well, quite full-on. “I have to manage with tighter deadlines so much more, and so on. The beauty of education and CSM is that it is ‘your’ time and you are able to work on and create your own ideas and it’s a luxury to be able to do that when you’re working. It’s what every creative strives for. I am in a position now where I can work on my own ideas and make them a reality after a lot of hard graft over the past 10 years.”
How does she start a project? “I normally start off by trying to understand the concept and trying to narrow down the direction so that it is clear, focused and has a point of view. I research and this will take many forms, the internet, books, reading, writing, photography (my own or others). A lot of the time I use an eclectic use of research and sometimes the ideas are eclectic too. Ambiguity is something that really inspires me as I use both sides of my brain on a daily basis. Once the direction is clear and research has been formed, moodboards are created onto large foam boards. I can start off by painting, drawing or writing. These then start to form and the end result starts to become apparent which then leads to the final piece. Each project or brief comes with its own bespoke way of working I would say.”
Talking about the industry’s need to keep up with developing a new sense of creativity every few months, she mentions a change. “Everybody wants to be themselves now. The generation before wanted to be somebody else because it’s like a fantasy,” she says “but nowadays people just want to express themselves and be more unique, just be honest.”
Here’s a shortlist of what Seetal loves: her favorite menswear designers (they have their own identity and will never steer from this, staying true to their identity while being innovative) are Kapital, RRL, Comme des Garcons and Junya Watanabe. In her playlist you’ll find Fleetwood Mac, Björk, Beyonce, and Debruit. She admires Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor, Cy Twombly and John Maeda, and her small library’s got an extensive range of books varying from ‘Pets with Tourettes’ to Bukowski and Patty Smith’s biography.