Representing the creative future

Work In Progress: Rhiannon Wakefield

Meet the RCA graduate who developed a fabric that moves with its wearer.

Though her graduation was over a month ago, RCA student Rhiannon Wakefield hasn’t stopped educating herself. Fascinated by the way graphics and colour react to the moving body, Rhiannon installed a series of live experiments which led to the development of a kinetic textile that reacts to the body of the wearer as they move around. On the brink of having her fabric patented, Rhiannon will continue exploring the relationship between textile, garment and body, hoping to take her work outside of the fashion industry alone.

What was the starting point for your final collection?

My work revolves around a fascination with the way that graphics and colour react on the body with movement. I’m interested in camouflage, disruptive patterns and visual trickery. I’ve explored this through a series of live experiments using light, paint and textiles on the body in combination with experimental photography.

How did your idea develop?

These experiments inspired further exploration of fabric innovation, and resulted in my development of a kinetic textile which reacts and responds to body movement. I believe in the importance of understanding and appreciating the relationship between textile and garment, with the harmony between the two allowing for every piece to be completely unique to its purpose. The relationship between garment and wearer creates a distinct yet transitory reaction with every movement.

The end result of utilising the kinetic fabrics was that each garment became an investigation into human interaction with clothing and motion. The body is integral to the final aesthetic, the full experience of the garment is only completed when worn. What the development and use of this new fabric enabled me to present, is a new clothing experience with multi-faceted garments that react to each body type and are therefore fully personal to the wearer.

How do you apply this to the different fabrics?

The fabrication I developed over my collection has so much scope moving forward, I have patented the concept and am now working with InnovationRCA to commercialise and sell the product. It’s use could be so versatile and the potential spanning not only within the realms of fashion design.

What is your background and how did that inform your work at RCA?

I have a background in fine art and my mum is a children’s book illustrator so I was instilled with a playful and quizzical approach to the arts even from childhood. I studied my BA in Fashion Design in North London at Middlesex University. I then took a year out after whilst I tried to figure out what I wanted to do and where. I then worked with the designer Alex Mullins where I started as an intern then taking on more responsibility and managing the studio for a year.

Being immersed in a creative environment from a young age no doubt spurred my interest to work within such a dynamic and innovative industry. I feel like my BA enabled me to begin to understand my design process and gave me a skill set that allowed me to start exploring the realms of graphics and garment that I found most interesting. Having that year to work within industry was invaluable.

How has your work and technique progressed over the past year?

I think that the way in which I’ve worked over the previous year has been much more analytical and focussed especially on fabric innovation. I have found my methods of research and construction in general during my MA have been very different to my original training, but in a really great way.

Do you prefer to work alone or with others?

I love both. I’ve spent the last two years concentrating solely on my own creative concepts and, to be honest, in a bit of a bubble. However, during my time at RCA I have had the pleasure of working on projects with Microsoft and Brioni, both exceptionally different and interesting. It was a great challenge to work more collaboratively combining my own aesthetic with that of two such established companies. Now is the time that I am taking my work into the real world and industry, I’m excited to see how I can take what I have started to create and apply it.