Representing the creative future

The New MA Graduates: Hayley Grundmann

Taking us to the sequel of her BA laundry bag designs, MA graduate Hayley Grundmann leads us into the bag itself where her recent collection takes focus on old towelling and dressing gowns. Sourcing her materials with her student eye for a bargain, from foam to bin liners — the collection shows the DIY potential of the familiar and the bog standard. Rich in texture, she takes boyish shapes and low crotches, and intertwines them with the feminine palette of the chenille dressing gowns themselves. While Hayley compares her neutral coloured forms with the shrimps and milk bottles of a Pick ‘n’ Mix, we get the chance to experience the vivacious words of the maker herself.

Knowing upon graduation that you had the place for MA Fashion, how was the journey progressing into higher education?

I was put forward to do the MA interview before other people, as the tutors can select a few people from the BA Fashion every year. I deferred for a year, so I was in the last year, technically. I was put forward the same year as Serena GiliMolly Goddard and that lot. I got the place but didn’t actually hear about getting it until I was put forward for a scholarship. When I found out on that day, I was like “why are they contacting me for the scholarship? I haven’t heard anything about the MA?”, so I rang up the office saying that it was a mistake I needed them to check, and they told me that I was actually on the MA. So I had just that day to put my portfolio together, and run to this interview… It was pretty crazy!

Had you always planned to continue onto MA?

Yes, I always knew that I had to do it if I wanted to be serious. The BA was very free and I could do pretty much what I wanted, but I felt like I needed that development and critique from the MA.

You looked at old dressing gowns and towelling — why did you choose these subjects?

I think subconsciously I’ve always loved the idea of taking something so normal, so ordinary, and so bog standard and cheap, and trying to elevate it and take it out of context by making something else with it. I suppose my mind made a natural progression, from doing laundry bags in my BA to then looking at towelling, which might have something to do with laundry or washing. The process began by finding this old towel from a flea market. I really loved its raised pattern, and it all started from thinking about how I could recreate it.

From plastic bags to foam tubes, the contents of the collection take robust manmade material. What gave you the impetus to take these materials and how do you source them?

The cheaper, the better. I’m always thinking how can I create something really luxurious-looking out of something that doesn’t cost anything. I’ve been playing around with bin liners for quite a while, and I think it’s always been something that I put in my work. I just sourced from one-pound shops where you can get loads of colours and varieties. I think what all knitters think about is how they want it to look, and how they can achieve what’s in their mind – what yarn, what gage, what techniques can create that? I always think about using unusual materials just to create that effect.

For towelling, I was thinking of sponge: it’s light, it keeps shape and it’s cheap. It’s a really basic material that can be used for padding, but if you can use it in other ways then it could be embellishment or a pattern, and it could be something better than just padding.

It’s the same with bin-liners: it doesn’t fray, but it’s still hard-looking in a way. It’s cheap and it’s got that raffia kind of look. I was playing around with leather for a little while, but then I suddenly thought it was quite expensive, and I thought about how I could create the same. You don’t need to buy loads of expensive stuff, and I think the more limited you are financially, the more creative you have to be. But of course, if I got some expensive stuff, I would work with it too! I wouldn’t say “no, sorry I’m going to refuse that silk and leather and get this stuff out of my kitchen cupboard” [laughs].

The colours that you used are typical of the palette of those materials – was that by design or by circumstance?

It was actually my research on foam that decided the colour palette. Some foam created that yellow creamy colour just as it is, and the grey seemed like quite a nice pairing with it. I incorporated some older and newer foam to create the slightly different shades. The pink was also just some foam that I picked up. Then I got the bin liners of the same pink and different shades.

What inspired the boyish silhouettes of the collection? 

I wanted it to be a mixture of big, boyish shapes, but I hope it’s still feminine. But then again, if you look at how I drew the shapes for instance, and take everything else away: it is just a big boyish jumper and low crotch baggy trousers. Some elements are a little more feminine, like the long dress, but nothing’s fitted as such. Everything’s just very unisex in a way. Could fit a guy, I suppose, as well as a girl. It’s the mix again…

Everyone likes a good Pick ‘n’ Mix

Yes! Milk bottles and the shrimps — that’s my collection right there!

What would you say your collection tells about you as a person?

I had a lot of fun doing it, so hopefully it’s just a fun playful aspect of it. I obviously take life seriously but you’ve got to have fun. Easy shapes, because I think it was quite an easy collection…

But was it easy to make?

No! It wasn’t easy to make [laughs], looks can be deceiving! I mean, it’s not too overly thought about. It’s quite organic in the way that I designed it as one thing that led to another. It was working piece by piece, and it felt like a very organic process, so maybe that reflects a part of who I am: to go with the flow.

Do you feel your MA has been the last chance for playtime or final preparations for a life in the industry?

It’s hard. When you’re in it, you’re working so hard that you don’t really think too much about the bigger picture. But I suppose it is that time when you can really have a little bit more fun. In the industry you’ve got all the financial stuff to think of, which can have control over you, like how much to spend on material — whereas on the MA (obviously you have to think about your budgeting) it still feels very contained to you.

Check out Hayley’s recent collaboration with Savile Row tailors for fashion gallery Maison Mais Non here