Katie Roberts-Wood is an RCA graduate to keep an eye on in 2016. She recently presented the AW16 collection of her brand, ROBERTS | WOOD, at Fashion Scout, a showcase of emerging designers during London Fashion Week. Upon arriving at the Freemasons’ Hall in Holborn and walking up to the first floor vestibule presentation space, one was introduced to the sight of Roberts-Wood’s presentation consisting of designs with a heavy emphasis on unconventional and intricate construction methods. The designs were set in motion through dancers, rather than models, amid a dark abstract landscape and soothing music. During and after the presentation, we spoke with the young designer about the creation processes of her latest collection.
Previous to taking up fashion as her principal activity, Roberts-Wood was a medical student in Glasgow. When we ask her if this background has any influence on her work today, she responds that while she doesn’t think it has any direct reference in this collection, there is “an underlying interest in the body, anatomy and organic structures. Patterns in nature and scientific phenomena are of constant fascination to me, and I’m sure this stems from my background in studying scientific subjects.”
Rooted in technical research, which started while she was still studying MA Fashion Design at the Royal College of Art, construction is at the forefront of Roberts-Wood’s design process. As a starting point, it plays a more prominent role than any theme or overarching concept, something she says “tends to develop later in the process.” She explains that her technical process represents “an evolution of an ongoing design development, where non-stitched and unconventional construction methods and textile techniques are developed.”
“The creative maturity that she has is just unbelievable. To be delicate and romantic yet conceptual at the same time is very rare and quite strong.” – Barbara Grispini, British Fashion Council
For the AW16 collection, Katie describes how “hand-linked textiles were rendered in sheer blue and black silk, as well as heavier and rougher fabrics such as cotton drill, to create contrasting textures and a feeling of softness.” Influences were drawn from diverse sources, ranging from “photographs of Siamese fighting fish to work by the artist Jannis Kounellis.” Although, she is quick to point out that there was no a prominent inspiration, but it rather was “a very organic process of making, primarily guided by technique and what ‘felt’ right instinctively.”
She developed the idea of connecting pieces: “So many of the pieces are constructed to come apart, and can be re-combined in different combinations by the wearer.” This can potentially add to the lifespan of the item for the wearer and “represents ideas regarding luxury and sustainability that I want to develop further.”
As for the presentation at Fashion Scout, Roberts-Wood developed a concept of clothing-in-motion. Therefore, the idea of using dancers instead of models came quite naturally. “I wanted to convey the idea of these transparent, suspended pieces almost floating in slow motion, and the dancers portrayed this beautifully, moving with recursive, synchronous actions,” she explains. “There was something very ‘real feeling’ about using dancers, and yet they also conveyed this sense of the unreal with their movements, almost like they were in some kind of trance.”
Roberts | Wood AW16
“I loved the music within the whole building. There was fluidity with it all. I liked the texture, it seemed so minimalist yet dark at the same time.” – Sophie Cookson, PR at Fashion Scout
This slowed-down movement was a very conscious decision on the part of Roberts-Wood, who tells us how it closely relates to the collection itself. “The pieces are created using intensive, hand-constructed methods, so slowness felt like a very important element that needed to be translated into the presentation.” Another key theme was the idea of repetition, which related to everything from the dancers’ movements to the repetitive actions required to make the intricate textiles.
To develop the presentation, Roberts-Wood worked with movement director Sara Green, who guided the dancers in the improv performance. As for the black abstract landscape that acted as the backdrop, she turned to set designer Polly Philp, who created textured details reflecting the qualities of the garments. For sound design, she got the help of Jethro Cooke, “which completed the atmosphere and provided the feeling that the dancers were suspended underwater.”
Want to discover more of Katie’s world? Check out Roberts.Wood on Instagram or visit Dover Street Market, who stock her work in all three of their locations.
Words by Aric Miller
Videos by Shawn Soh