Bubble wrap architecture – New Waves: Rebecca Stant
Hailing from the north of England, Royal College of Art graduate Rebecca Stant wow’ed the audience at the graduation runway show as she presented a sculptural collection in re-appropriated plastics and multi-layered wadding. Drawing on poetry, architectural installations and mint tea, Stant’s questions our preconceptions of fragility and power – and her architectural vision has led her to collaborate with a wide range of artists and designers.
“I CREATE IMMERSIVE WORLDS CONSISTING OF POETRY, ARCHITECTURAL INSTALLATIONS & MINT TEA.”
Despite the obvious intellectual approach to design, Manchester-born Rebecca Stant is careful not to describe her practice as conceptual. “The word conceptual is very evocative,” she argues over e-mail – “and it makes me sound very arty and highbrow.” She emphasises the physicality of her practice, as she enjoys working ‘in real’; that is to say cutting, draping and assembling on the body using both existing garments and abstract pieces. Through her garments, she creates immersive worlds, describing them as consisting of “poetry, architectural installations & mint tea.”
Her architectural thinking came to show in her graduate collection, which took its inspiration from the work by ’70s conceptual artist Gordon Matta Clark, who is known for his massive site-specific architectural interventions. He translated intellectual concepts of deconstruction to very physical terms as he destroyed, altered and rebuilt whole buildings as art works (deconstruction was later to be picked up by fashion with the emergence of the Antwerp Six). “There is something very cold, brutal & overtly masculine in Matta-Clark’s work – voiding a building of its intended purpose,” she says of the artist, whose work she was introduced to by her architect brother. She translated this architectural disassembling to the worn garment by similarly cutting away and creating voids, using layered bubble-wrap plastics and synthetic materials. “I found that cutting away and exposing the female body gave a softness, sensitivity and vulnerability. It also had implications of rendering women’s clothes useless or functionless. Gradually I felt I was dismantling, breaking down existing ideas of femininity – not depending upon preconceptions of what it is to be powerful or sexy as a woman instead embracing this fragility,” she explains.
“AT ONE POINT I HAD BEEN USING ROOF INSULATION BUT I GOT TOLD OFF, AS IT’S REALLY QUITE DANGEROUS TO INHALE THE PARTICLES!”
The most striking part of Rebecca’s work is her materials. She constructs voluminous sculptural morphisms in wadding and vacuum-formed plastic. Typical of RCA and its emphasis on cross-disciplinary innovation, she began collaborating with RCA weave graduate Stephanie Rolph to create a digital jacquard silk, as a more refined version of the bubble-wrap she initially used. In a stark contrast to the synthetics of plastic, she incorporated horsehair in her constructions, normally hidden internally in sleeveless jackets and white wadding. “It was about finding a tension of materials to collage and curate; balancing rawness, refined pieces & industrial feeling processes,” she explains.
She purposely revealed all tailoring methods in her at times roughly constructed pieces, insisting on celebrating the craft of fashion. “Some pieces were heavily tailored while others were impulsively duck-taped together – playing with the transient nature of fashion,” she explains. “At one point I had been using roof insulation but I got told off, as it’s really quite dangerous to inhale the particles!” Her strong concept and experimentation with materials led her to work with RCA Jewellery designer Sari Räthel to develop rubber-coated metal clips, photographer Louise Oates and RCA print designer Lucy Rainbow.
Rebecca Stant joined the RCA in a transitional period, with the new Head of Fashion Zowie Broachturning the whole department on its head with exciting results. Stant was immediately attracted by the collaborative nature and philosophy of the institution, as it offered her the opportunity to learn from a variety of talented artists and designers, internal and external to the college. “It was very tough, in the most positive sense,” Rebecca says of her time there. “It’s completely absorbing – in a truly great way. I felt I was trying to define my own world & language in such a short space of time – wanting the work to feel, smell, look & sound exactly how I imagined – for it to be true & honest.” she says. Internships have included stints at CSM graduate Kirsty Ward and menswear conceptualist Aitor Throup.
Post graduation, Rebecca is already working on a ‘theoretical t-shirt project’, a more accessible version of her MA collection. She is also planning to curate a film and once again collaborate with photographer Louise Oates to produce a series of photographs. “Beyond this, we’ll see,” she finishes.