Amit Baruch: The Art of Storytelling through Textiles
Amit Baruch’s desk is a messy mix of colours and patterns. A fluffy teddy bear catches my eyes as she starts talking about her last project, “Love Wins”. The tone of her voice is calm and excited at the same time, as she starts telling the story of Masoud, an Afghan taxi driver she met on the deserted streets of 4am post-house-party London. Her desire to satisfy her curiosity and her will to explore leads her to make odd and unexpectedly inspiring encounters — at times befriending strangers on the street and snapping pictures of memorabilia in their houses, to use as reference for her work. But while her influences may be far and wide, tuning into her modern surroundings, her aim is to essentially create timeless pieces as opposed to making something new. “I wish to create a new type of fashion production and consumption, that can be suitable both for a commercial use and to be displayed in galleries,” she explains.
What drew you to studying fashion?
I come from a family that is considered a pioneer in the fashion industry in Israel, the country where I was born. I did my BA at Shenkar College of Art and Design in Israel, where I mostly got to design for women. Eventually I fell in love with menswear and I decided to do it for my final work.
Did you come to the RCA straight after your BA or did you experience the industry?
I graduated in 2011 and moved to London, where I started working as a commercial fashion designer. That was a super cool first step. I then became a trend director for one of the brands, where I was delivering seasonal product directions to the designers. I have been doing this for the past three years: freelancing in trend forecasting and collecting research materials for various commercial brands.
Why did you decide to do an MA?
In my late teens I started developing a curiosity for contemporary art and I read about the RCA; I thought it would have been nice to dream about it. You know, a little heartbroken Tracey Emin fan, classic. In the third year of my BA, I was offered an internship in London. Here I met a few RCA students who introduced me to their world.
You mentioned that your work is inspired by the idea of “serendipity”. Can you elaborate on this?
It relates to the odd chances and surprising encounters that I welcome as a new optional corporeality and embrace as a mode of being. I allow myself to flow with the intricacies found along my path –– little eye-catching details that interest me without knowing where I will end up or what the outcome of my curiosity will be. Often the content of my work relies on coincidence. I am drawn to story-telling and story-tellers who project their taste in the objects around them and the surroundings they live in. This is for me the definition of an ‘epiphany’. The moment I am attracted to the subject and start realising how someone’s taste was forged. This allows me to attain a deeper insight, my curiosity tends to bring some interesting face to face interactions.
Can you tell us about some of the inspirations behind your stories?
My last three projects were all about my journey through understanding the difference between good and bad taste. I wrote a three-chapter story examining personal taste through notions of time and place. The first chapter was about my grandmother’s quirky taste and her peculiar bathrooms. Suddenly I found interest in this familiar and familial house I always knew. The second chapter was about the story of an English couple I met in North London. I was gazing at the street from the bus window on my way to the studio when a few colourful ties lying on the fence of a house caught my attention. I decided to have a closer look and soon found myself in their home. I talked to them for a few hours and took pictures of their political memorabilia and other spots in the house. The last chapter was about Masoud and his imaginative taxi. All three emerged purely by chance, I do not normally plan my narratives, they seem to always come along my path, it surprises me as well sometimes.
Can you tell us about the taxi-driver who provided inspiration behind your collection?
I met Masoud last April at 4am coming out of a house party — temperature sub zero, no working cellphone. We were trying to find a cab home on a deserted street in north London and the mission seemed impossible. And there he was, our hero, disguised as a foreign taxi driver, appeared from the dark night in a flamboyant red Toyota Prius. Although it was dark, the aesthetic choices of the car seats and the elegantly applied details all over the car caught my attention. I began sounding out the tactility, chatting to the driver, and I asked him questions. Soon enough I was enchanted by his character. A few months later, in September, I booked a cheap cab home and here he was again! He told me the tales of his migration from Afghanistan, leaving his beloved country aged 13 with nothing but a backpack, making his way to Europe in a year long journey, I listened avidly. He told me about his childhood love and described with honesty the way he could not forget her and how, after many years and against all odds, they managed to find each other again.
What textiles processes have you been using within your collection?
I use combined stitch and craft with contemporary processes (Irish, embellisher, patch work, digital, dye sub, cut work) and combine them in order to depict a new context to create textured patchworks, depicting cross-cultural viewpoints. There is a clear palette of colours I am attracted to when initially researching and photographing. This will usually define the further process I take the materials through. I love working with found objects and my own layers of imagery.
Who do you want to be your customers? Are your textiles meant to be used for garments?
My approach encompasses fashion design, stage design, film, photography and music. I connect to quirky wearable clothes that tell a story, and I admire contemporary designers who establish a personal style that is recognisable across various disciplines. This is how I would like to see myself. My fabrics are meant to be used for garments as I am also designing menswear.
How would you like people to describe your work?
Sentimental, authentic, intimate, humorous, rich, timeless.
Words Teresa Fogolari
All images courtesy of Amit Baruch