Katherine Mavridis: Purity straight out of Parsons
Katherine Mavridis’ approach to her designs is atypical to the purpose of fashion we are so familiar with: to dress a body. Whether to flatter, conceal, deceive or flaunt, fashion is at its core a second skin of our desires. It’s odd to then hear Mavridis speak of her approach to fashion as one that is devoid of the body, rather using the reduced form of cloth itself as a foundation for her sculptural forms that exist as entities within themselves.
Mavridis is one of the recent MFA Fashion Design and Society programme graduates of Parsons. Awarded a scholarship for the course, she moved to New York City upon graduating from her undergraduate degree at the University of Technology, Sydney. During her time on the MFA programme, she assisted the likes of Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Dion Lee. Her approach to design and her practice of knit is exciting in its blatant disregard for fashion’s past prescribed forms and functions. ‘Displacement and distortion’ are inscribed philosophies in Mavridis’ work, both practically and thematically.
Her design process is rehearsed and meticulous, her materials are considered ‘objects’, then transformed into structures which exist without a body. Inevitably (this is fashion, not fine art) Mavridis addresses the body and translates these abstract physical forms into suggestions of clothing. Once again, they are examined as objects, ‘removed from the body; empty, lifeless and silent’.
“THEY ASPIRE TO EMPTINESS, THEREFORE ONE COULD SAY THAT THE BODY IS WITHIN THE VOID.”
In her photo series ‘Object’, her designs sit and stand amongst a plinth, suggestive of the remnants of Classical worship. The forms created by the folds of the fabric are arousing in their textural suggestion of natural sensuality, the shadows and silhouettes of human anatomy, untouched landscapes, even a post-coital mass of undress on the floor. In her second photo series ‘Cloth’, the process of beginning to acknowledge the human form is considered with the material objects juxtaposed alongside the designs on their proposed plinth, the human body. The curve and collapse of the shapes remain the same, proving of Mavridis’ primary approach to let the cloth dictate the silhouette.
Such shapes, textures and shadows are made possible by the knitted coiling technique developed during her time on the MFA programme. The foundations of her graduate collection lie in the examination of garments in their most reduced forms, ‘tubes of cloth (a pant leg, a sleeve, a body of a sweater) with holes (openings: a neckline, a cuff opening) and points of connection’. Thus, her designs are constructed from material tubes coiled into shape. Through her abject ignorance of clothing’s familiar forms, Mavridis has created disassociated silhouettes of unfamiliar proportions, openings and purposes; a sleeve hangs below the hip or extends to a horizontal perimeter or a waistline falls forward or sits awkwardly. All seamless, all endlessly bound. This prompts us to revise our understanding of the dichotomy of fashion and the body: what we find comfortable and what we find beautiful.
When asked about the role of gender in her work, Mavridis said that ‘my designs not only transcend gender, but transcend the body itself… They aspire to emptiness, therefore one could say that the body is within the void’, the void (empty space) cannot be as selective or dictactic towards gender or body types as the majority of contemporary fashion, so the emptiness beneath Mavridis’ designs is anything it can be; a universal body.
“AT ANY TIME I CAN LENGTHEN SHORTEN OR DISTORT THE PIECES IN ANY WAY TO BECOME SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW, THE OLD FORM, FORGOTTEN.”
Though the body is absent, the effect of human touch is not. Our bodies mirror our motion so the aesthetics of the lived garment evident in Mavridis’ collection (through the motion of cloth in undress, disintegration and damage) is one that ‘alludes to the signs of life’. This wear is communicated through what Mavridis calls ‘the rip (ripped worn clothing or disintegrating frayed edges)’ and ‘the fold (natural folding of the garment and collapse of the fabric)’. The garment’s fabric falls expectantly and unexpectantly and the slits break in line with their coiled construction, highlighting the delicacy of its form. Another binary is questioned: worn or unworn? ‘Through these shifts and rips, displacing and distorting these tubes of cloth they become disintegrated forms dissipating and drawing away from the body, with an integral suggestion of impermanence and imperfection’.
Mavridis’ garments have life and time themselves, their existence open to adaptation thanks to her coiling technique that is imagined by the infinite circle, ‘at any time I can lengthen shorten or distort the pieces in any way to become something completely new, the old form, forgotten’. These aren’t finite garments, which add to their intrigue.
In the empty and silent colour of white, Mavridis’ dresses are enchanting sculptural forms with unknown beginnings and ends. The complex relationship between clothing and the body is redefined through dissociation and displacement of the familiar constructions of fashion. A retelling of these understandings makes Katherine Mavridis an intelligent and reliable source of what the future holds for the industry. Currently working on some exciting new projects that she cannot reveal yet, they will sure be as corporeal and viscerally arresting as her graduate collection.