“I take a lot of inspiration from furniture design.”
“I take a lot of inspiration from furniture design,” Bell continues. “I developed a way of creating wood bending and wood sculptures and that allowed me to reference curves and chairs in the garments.” She’s inspired by furniture designer Martino Gamper, who did a project of 100 chairs in 100 days. “I loved the way his process was to use one chair to inform the next,” she says. “He has this continual process and progression throughout his work. I try to be like that sometimes when I’m working. I take reference from what I’ve already done to influence the next thing.”
The references to chairs go beyond Bell’s own interest in furniture design. They’re part of her conceptual approach which involves visually representing the burden of masculinity through items that we use to carry our weight, such as chairs and bags. As part of her research, the designer looked at how different cultures carry their weight. Southeast Asian men, for example, fix straps on their heads to carry bricks and other materials around construction sites.
Wood carvings, projected shadow ‘prints’ and sculptural tailoring all come together to create contrast between masculine strength and vulnerability. Workwear-style garments constructed from light cotton evoke hypermasculine images of manual labour whereas the shadows and the poses the models adopt reveal a more delicate viewpoint. While wood can be associated with heaviness, the way Bell used wood veneers in her collection brings a touch of light playfulness.