This interview is part of DREAMERS, a collaborative project with MCQ that couples aspiring artists to their heroes for a one-on-one advice session. The conversations are recorded, redacted, and can be read in their entirety on my.mcq.com.
Thursday 27 May 2021, 10:30 UK time
Callum Hansen: Could you start by outlining your creative process and how you’d work on a project in general?
Gareth Wrighton: In fashion, we’re obsessed with putting ideas on the body, and that’s something I’ve come to love a lot. An idea is not just an object on a pedestal, it’s believing in that idea enough to wear it. The thing that separates me from just being an artist is that I do quite artistic themes but through the medium of garments, textiles, and fashion photography. I think there’s something about wearing an idea, it just twists it and takes on a new meaning. I also approach a project with a couple of rules, which could be: “I’m going to take the pictures and then print them and then it will become a garment” or “I’m going to make a garment out of dental floss.” If that’s the rule, then I’ll fulfil that rule and the object will be this cursed dress by the end of it, it’s going to be the worst thing. I sometimes think, “What’s the worst garment I could make?” and I kind of latch on to it. I use the medium of knitting quite a lot, but it takes time. So I find myself devoting weeks to just making these ridiculous garments that I kind of adore. I often use pop themes and a sense of humour, but it’s all incredibly personal.
“The reality is that in the industry there’s no time to go to the library and research. ” – Gareth Wrighton
Callum: I always notice the humorous side of your work but also that incredible craftsmanship and time has gone into it, which I really like.
Gareth: Thank you! Going back to your initial question, I often do a whole project that’s about a facet of something that I’m obsessed about. On the surface you see these characters and they’re just inventions ‒ the creation of a mind’s eye. But below it is where I’m personally at, talking about what’s important. It’s like using clothes instead of words, and in that way they’re not limited by the English language, and you can share ideas with many more people.
“You can take a screengrab and send it to the client; that is the more realistic way of working now, you can’t do a sketch book for every project.” – Gareth Wrighton
Callum: The collection seems like a perfect way to showcase that – it’s so visual and can’t be ignored. How do you keep motivated and excited to make things? That’s something I’ve been struggling with recently.
Gareth: I’ve been struggling as well, but I think setting parameters helps. I think I’m a sucker for a brief. Even if it’s a personal project, like how to knit a guitar plectrum into a look, then that’s already pushed you into a direction. And I think I need that, because if I don’t, then I’ll just navel gaze and nothing will happen. I’m trying to just have a habit of working. Because if it’s self-directed work then suddenly you work the whole week from 7am until 11pm, and that’s just such a waste of time. I think if you concentrate this into a period of Monday to Friday from 9-5, then it becomes more of a joy.
Callum: Do you do a lot of research for your work?
Gareth: I kind of don’t believe in having an idea and researching it, because once I’ve had that idea, I’ve already got a backlog of research-ready. Recently, we’ve been doing much more fast-paced jobs where the brief is quite urgent, and the reality is that in the industry there’s no time to go to the library and research. You really do have to call on your little Rolodex in your head. You can take a screengrab and send it to the client; that is the more realistic way of working now, you can’t do a sketchbook for every project.
“You don’t have to be a martyr. Find like-minded people in all of these realms, and the work is better for it.” – Gareth Wrighton
Callum: When you’re tackling a new project, how would you use a new medium or new material? For example, if you wanted to 3D print something and you haden’t done it before. Having graduated uni as well, I suppose it’s a bit harder to realise things without the facilities?
Gareth: Something that I really learned at uni was just that the people you’re there with are your best resource. The people in your class. You’ve all had the same experiences, you’ve all laughed at the same thing, you’ve all looked at the worst script together. You don’t always realise how tight you work. Recently, as you say, I needed to do a 3D printed piece and I immediately thought: “Zach just worked on a project and had a 3D printer in the corner of his studio.” So I asked him about it and then he turned up with this piece of 3D printed jewellery ‒ it was brilliant. I’m learning to delegate because I need to do everything, and if it was 2016, I would have bought a 3D printer and done it myself. But I think the work is richer because I got in contact with someone, and opened that project up to them as well. You don’t have to be a martyr. Find like-minded people in all of these realms, and the work is better for it.
Callum: You mentioned that you’re very multidisciplinary, and I’ve personally found a lot of pressure to specialise in something. Do you think being specialised is an outdated thing? Because a lot of people in the past have told me, “If you specialise in one thing, you’ll get better at it quicker and you’ll become more successful,” but I kind of disagree.
Gareth: Yeah, that’s crap, to me. You should do everything. Because if you’re making a garment, you’re going to learn something and you can then apply that to your photography. And then no one else who’s a photographer has been that hands-on with a garment. You can apply that methodology to everything. The fashion communication course at Central Saint Martins threw me at the start, because you do everything, and you’re expected to be incredibly broad. But just by doing that, you’ll find where you’re supposed to go. Everything that I learned, like making a video game myself, went back into making clothes. You’re just suddenly applying the wrong technique to the wrong medium. It’s then that you form a visual language, and then it is suddenly yours.
“I like the idea of the piece that’s an NFT in itself being a comment on digital finance.” – Gareth Wrighton
Callum: One thing that I felt you might have an opinion on is NFT’s. What do you think of them coming into the art and fashion worlds?
Gareth: Because I’m self-taught with digital stuff, I’m still learning what on earth NFT’s are! I think there’s a misconception that I’m like the digital whiz, but I’m 28, you know, I’m old [laughs]. So I’m still working out what it is. I’m wondering how valid some of my works would be as an NFT. There are certain pieces that I see going for incredible money that I just think it’s like digital Banksy. Do you know what I mean? I like the idea of the piece that’s an NFT in itself being a comment on digital finance. That’s why I think my piece ‘The Maul’ could be quite an appropriate piece to sell, as it’s a digital shopping mall. As an NFT, that’s quite funny to me, and it feels quite medium appropriate. It’s using the fashion image to make a comment on fashion, just like using knitwear can be used to make a comment on a garment. That’s one of the core principles that I think runs through my work.
Callum: It feels a bit like our culture is at a turning point right now, don’t you think?
Gareth: It definitely feels a little bit like we’re on the edge of something. And that there’s something new that’s going to be born but I just have absolutely no idea what it is. When my class graduated, it was 2016, and that was a notoriously bad year – all of these pop stars kept dying, elections happened, voting, referendums. That was a bad year. And you couldn’t have imagined what 2020 would be like. In hindsight that is beautiful, because we’re gonna look back on this and just realise, “oh, we were in the future.” Designers are creating the look of now, and there are all these movements coming up. So, it’s all there. In hindsight, it’s a beautiful thing.
Interested in learning more? You can find all the interviews from the DREAMER series here.