Timothy Bouyez-Forge’s understanding of a strong aesthetic identity easily became the foundation for his final collection at the RCA. From his experiences working with unconventional materials and techniques, he tells us about the struggles of communicating the language of a collection whilst trying to incorporate a multitude of elements into a single garment. His works are a visual encapsulation of both commercial and conceptual design as he fiercely tries to balance both creativity and credibility. Taking a step back to look at his work from a wearer’s perspective, he recognises the importance of building a relationship between his garments and the body.
“Enough work must be completed before it becomes completely self-referential and far from common interpretations.”
Where did your primary inspiration come from?
Most of my initial inspiration comes from film and TV watching, and super bored idling as a kid. I was into manga, comic books and BMXing. Also, my parents raised me with their unique aesthetic in a recreation of a 30s/50s home. Being surrounded by objects with a strong aesthetic identity gave more fantasy and appreciation of escaping the visual mundaneness of the everyday, and being surrounded by fabulous items of a forgotten generation. Altogether, these were moments for opting out of reality and it is a feeling that I try to capture through my work — is this deep enough for me to get lost in? Do I believe in this altered reality? Is it credible? If so, I hope it takes others in with it.
Can you tell a bit more about your research process?
Primary research is great: it starts the project, it grounds out an idea, and it gives clear referential backing. However, I quickly move on to the concept in which bolder work can be carved out by seeking other ways of channeling ideas. It taught me to work and rework ideas repeatedly, into a place where I could edit concepts from the imagery I was creating. It was an exercise to give more dimensions to understanding what it was that I was making. Forming a vast network of trial and error is necessary, so that it starts informing and shaping each other. Enough work must be completed before it becomes completely self-referential and far from common interpretations.
Can you speak about the significance of experimentation and development?
It’s crucial, as there is so much failure in it. Failure gives its own rewards, although it may be difficult to see. It informs a great deal and it stops you from predicting how things might look or work, because it rarely turns out the way you expect it to. I had to go through endless attempts before resolving techniques, and putting practices into a place I did not think would ever be possible. Despite these failures, I persevered until I felt I had resolved the problem.
“I was aware of the responsive power that traditional garments have and I tried to incorporate that into my work.”
Prior to studying at the RCA did you gain industry experience?
After some interning I worked in the industry for two years prior to starting my MA. This helped me understand the various roles in a company, the work that is done, and the results. It taught me not to be precious, but to always be consistent and flexible.
When developing and transforming your collection, how important was working with different creative forms and materials?
Materiality and sculptural abstractions were two of my hardest challenges in making this collection. I was aware of the responsive power that traditional garments have and I tried to incorporate that into my work. The signifiers of a collar or a sleeve can bring much meaning to how people view a garment. For a while I tried to go without these signifiers, but it became apparent that people didn’t understand what it was that I was making. It didn’t translate. To subtly infuse the two was a challenge. I went on to work with materials and techniques that communicated the language of the collection. Once I had my process down, which took a very long time to get right, it was easy to manipulate the collection to differentiate itself from traditional garments. It’s hard to make abstract garments credible. Only when I started mastering and understanding all aspects of the process as well as getting a strong result did it become credible, far more than before.
“It’s hard to make abstract garments credible.”
Do you understand your work as design or as art?
I like to blur the line. However, I get too practical and functional at times, which stops me from wholeheartedly pushing my work into the realms of ‘art.’ Art and design are of equal importance, one is not better or worse than the other. In the past, I used to believe that one had more merit and started gravitating towards it, but soon realised that they need to be fiercely balanced as they both hold power to impress and disappoint. I like to play a balance of distortion on the body with details that project a failed utility or function, and with designs that make sense in another era. As designers, we invent stories from found imagery and fragmented narratives, reconstituted to fit a new purpose and ideals for fictional beings, manifesting them into reality. I believe it’s in the narrative of a collection and the storytelling that the art is present. I just design the props in the story.
How important is it to challenge people’s perceptions of the industry?
All the time, every time. I would like the fashion industry to change in many ways. It’s by far one of the most contradictory and, at times, upsetting areas to be working in. How could it be better? Maybe it could start with becoming more sincere and slow down for real and thoughtful design to flourish.
Words by Grace Ahn
Photography by Ted Mendez
All images courtesy of Timothy Bouyez-Forge