Representing the creative future

The Royal 20: Lillian Archibald

When Lillian Archibald began researching for her Royal College of Art MA Fashion collection ‘Our Body’, she first turned to the mundane and personal elements of her life. This allowed her to create not only a collection of garments, but an entirely new identity as well. Initially working from various films she produced throughout the past year, her collection can be seen as an extension of her artistic career. Lillian’s lookbook images, for example, indicate a sense of motion much like a series of film stills, and evidence her abstract and emotive approach to design. Focusing on the importance of honesty, ‘Our Body’ embraces imperfections of human existence by merging two bodies as one, and developing the idea of unity as a result.

Where did your primary inspiration come from?

Honesty and intimacy has been key – my work is entirely an extension of my own identity. My work is based on two bodies coming together and beginning to merge, but their identities and genders remain defined. This union is half loving and half fighting; a tension is left in between them. There is a suggestion of a relationship and through exploring this idea, my partner and I became these two bodies – ‘Our Body’ is something so personal and real, yet hugely ordinary as it is such a relatable thing, a relationship.

My research comes purely from a series of films I produced this year. I love how I can be in control of curating an environment and mood, but essentially be documenting a very spontaneous moment between two people. This involvement from curating, acting, filming, editing, and finally observing the films myself has made me value the importance of being honest.

Prior to studying at the RCA did you gain industry experience?

I went straight from studying my BA at Edinburgh College of Art to RCA, so I haven’t had a lot of industry experience. I have worked on and off as a freelance stylist assistant at Burberry since 2011, and also interned at E.Tautz last summer. It was interesting for me to see both scales of fashion brands. Generally, I think conceptual and commercial designs are very different – in conceptual design you please yourself, whereas in commercial design you please the customer. Oddly, with my work I have aimed to do both, not because I want to sell a lot, but because I want all the pieces to be wearable, yet with a twist. I want people to initially see it as just a garment and then later experience emotions through wearing it.

When developing and transforming your collection, how important was working with different creative forms and materials, as opposed to what we may think of as traditional garments?

For me it has always been about creating a world, rather than a collection. I wanted to make a wardrobe of clothes that were believable. I have also made two sets of chairs this year with a similar concept – the chairs are part of this world.

Thinking in a broader sense when approaching design – do you understand your work as design or as art?

The thinking I would consider as art, but the products produced in the process are design. For me art is instinctive, it comes from a feeling, whereas design is a lot more contrived and done for a purpose – both have value and of course can overlap. I would like to consider my work more as art – I have really strived to get a feeling in what is essentially a very functional and relatable outcome. I think design can often be seen as too formulaic, but I really like the idea of emotional design. I think it is something we can all relate to.

How do you feel about your whole experience at the RCA? Are you excited to head out into industry, and what are your plans?

It’s been an incredible two years and it has given me such a good grounding in knowing who I am as a creative person. I have no immediate plans, but at the moment I am really open. I would be just as happy in publishing or filmmaking as I would be in fashion.