Lauren Jin’s graduate collection is so close to the skin, some may even think it represents the surfaces underneath. Using muted nude tones and occasional hints of bright red and yellow, the series of garments celebrate the human flesh and its simplicity through a familiar yet untried approach. The conversation — or, rather: the tension — between confidence and insecurities within, can be found through the revealing and concealing of certain anatomical features. Initially working from sketches of her own unveiled body, we get an insight into Lauren’s past experiences influenced by media-fed images of beauty, and her ability to disregard the idea of imperfection. Creating subtle yet intricate pieces that not only encourage self-love and acceptance — but also embrace femininity in its purest form — the collection encompasses womanhood, from drawing the body to dressing it.
Do you consider your work as an extension of your own identity?
This particular collection was deeply personal as I used my own body as the genesis. It was about an embracement of the self as a woman; designing for other women, and what that really meant to me. In the past, I never looked at myself for inspiration. I always looked at other women who I thought were ‘ideal’, whether it was the physical or the conceptual. So using my own body and creating my ‘ideal’ woman from scratch was a new experience. I always advocated loving one’s body and embracing the self as it is, but never really did that myself. Once I did, I not only felt better about myself, but also as a designer I was able to confidently progress in terms of what I wanted to say in my final collection.
The approach to design at the RCA is very liberal and individual, with students being encouraged to create their own research. How did you do this, and how has it affected the way you interpret a concept?
At the RCA, the way one student does research is so different from what another does. For me, it all started with the life drawings that I did of myself. Over the summer, I did quick, 30 seconds to 1-minute sketches of myself in front of a mirror. I neither critiqued myself, nor had the time to think about that. I simply drew what was in front of me. Eventually, the two drawings that I picked from the pile I had accumulated over three days of drawing became the backbone of my entire collection, from colour choices to silhouette and mood. There was a lot of back and forth happening throughout the process. Sometimes I would have to backtrack in order to re-evaluate what didn’t work out and other times I would just accelerate.
Can you speak about the significance of experimentation and development?
In the past, I would experiment and develop my concept to a certain degree, then sketch out designs and make. It was a very linear process. However, at the RCA, I realized that’s not always the case. I think there are going to be instances where I am required to work from a structured and linear process, but there are also going to be concepts that don’t allow for black and white, just grey. Now I’m aware of these different tactics and well equipped mentally for the future.
When developing and transforming your collection, how important was working with different creative forms and materials?
For me, it was a mixture of how to utilize these materials in a way that doesn’t scream ‘art school student’, especially because my design ethos is about subtlety. I think for my process, that hardest aspect was to defy gravity: to create the illusion of floating circularity.
Thinking in a broader sense when approaching design – do you understand your work as design or as art?
I would have to say design. I think the two entities separate the moment you can’t wash it or constantly utilize the product. If the garment can only be worn in a certain environment and in a certain time period, then it becomes wearable art, because the wearer becomes restricted rather than the product becoming a choice. I have always emphasized the idea of the everyday, or rather, the choice to wear it everyday. I would much rather see my clothing on someone in the street rather than in a museum. So I would hope that my collection veers more towards design.
How do you feel about your experience at the RCA? Are you excited to head out into industry?
Like any school environment, there are times when things aren’t working out both mentally and physically, but overall my time at the RCA was a creative eye opener. After my BA, I wasn’t ready for the industry, but I think now, I’m just about ready as I’ll ever be for the industry. My plan at the moment is to try to find a job in the UK or Europe, if not, depending on the situation, I might go to Japan or go back to NYC.
In what way would you like the fashion industry to change?
I wish it would slow down a bit. Due to its fast pace, many good designs end up becoming shadows before you know it. I feel like it’s come to the point where people appreciate good design ‘for the season’ and quickly move on to the ‘next thing’. It’s a shame that every season, the clothes end up becoming archived and rarely seen due to the volume of commoditised goods. In the end, everything becomes ‘stuff’ – nothing more, nothing less.
Words by Grace Ahn
All images courtesy of Lauren Jin