Employing plaster and wood to inform her silhouette and play with the idea of ‘breaking free’, Amanda Svart’s RCA graduate collection explores modern principles of femininity. She questions the existence of freedom within the constraints imposed upon us, and is fascinated by the attitudes and responses of resilient women faced with overpowering authority, “determined not to have their will curbed.” Considering such frameworks in both a metaphorical and physical way, Amanda darts between fragility and power, capturing what it means to be a woman. The result is sleek, natural and calm: a vision of luxury fashion which is quietly confident.
“The in-depth, cross-disciplinary research and experimentation we do before we set out to make design decisions, is more reminiscent of an artist’s approach than an artisan, who takes the starting point in a more utilitarian approach.”
Do you consider your work to be an extension of your own identity?
Whether conscious or unconscious, I think your work is always naturally personal and an extension of the self. Like my work, I am very feminine but not in an obvious sense. I grew up in the countryside, spending most of my time outdoors in a very down-to-earth manner. I didn’t like pink at all!
Who do you most look up to artistically?
I admire Richard Deacon’s art for its abstract qualities: the structures are unpolished and organic. I’m drawn to natural and rough textures which aren’t always considered ‘pretty’. This is often reflected in my material choice, where I enjoy natural materials that reject artificiality. At the same time, I’m also a logical and structural thinker and my design process mimics that. I think this may also stem from growing up in Sweden and the general mentality people have there.
Can you reflect on the approach at the RCA?
The Royal College of Art spans all areas of art and design, and this makes life as a creative considerably easier, as you can access specialised workshops manned by technicians who have a vast knowledge in their field. Multidisciplinary work is encouraged, and this access to resources is a rare opportunity which I have treasured. It makes your research and development more original and I worked with materials that were not necessarily intended for my end-product — using plaster, wire and card to develop shapes and structures. In my collection I also decided to work with non-conventional final materials, such as wood, to strengthen my concept.
The in-depth, cross-disciplinary research and experimentation we do before we set out to make design decisions, is more reminiscent of an artist’s approach than an artisan, who takes the starting point in a more utilitarian approach. In my mind, the two worlds of art and design meet when you as a fashion designer apply the theoretical and practical research through the filter of your personal design aesthetics to create clothing, which has a utilitarian function to fill.
“I wish that people would give greater recognition to independent stores and designers; relying less on fast-paced consumption of cheap, buy-and-throw-away items.”
Did you gain industry experience prior to studying at the RCA?
I spent time in the luxury industry both in design roles at Lanvin and the craft-focused atelier work at Viktor & Rolf. I also gained studio experience at Meadham Kirchhoff and Roksanda Illincic, as well as more production-based experience at Marc Jacobs. This has given me valuable additional insights into areas such as pricing, but also fostering an understanding of what customers are looking for in the store.
At university we sometimes enter into a bubble of our own vision, where we don’t follow the expectations of the real world and demands from the industry. Recently, I have been exhibiting the creations designed for the Hyères Festival, where I was awarded Prix du Public this year, as well as my final collection for the RCA at the commercial trade fair Tranoi in Paris. It is invaluable to receive feedback about each piece of the collection, both the pure showpieces and the more wearable garments.
In what way would you like the fashion industry to change?
I wish that people would give greater recognition to independent stores and designers; relying less on fast-paced consumption of cheap, buy-and-throw-away items. There are a lot of talented people who are engaged in the industry on a smaller scale, creating a beautiful, strong conceptual language.
It’s tricky as I also understand that it is unreasonable to expect the long-term availability of garments at an ultra-low price point; this cannot be sustainable in the long run. We risk losing perspective of what things really cost and get accustomed to buying lots of things, rather than spending money on craft, quality and originality. This tendency is not isolated only within fashion but with everything we consume in life.
How do you feel about your whole experience at the RCA and are you excited to head out into industry?
The RCA has developed my identity as designer and I feel more confident on the whole. The school altered how I consider design projects and this will help me in whatever path I decide to go, now that I’ve graduated. Since 2008 I have spent two years at Central Saint Martins, three years at Westminster, one year in the industry and two years at Royal College of Art; I am thus naturally keen, and excited, to head out into industry to apply what I have learned. I’m inclined to establish my own brand at some point, but I treasure the experience and stimulation you get from working with a good design team at an established brand.
Words by Lilah Francis
All images courtesy of Amanda Svart