Carolyn Corben – Design Director

Each week we have a lecture from a designer of different disciplines. What I like most about this lecture series is being able to put a face and a name to design work that you recognise. Today’s lecture by Carolyn Corben was no different. Initially starting her career as an “Art-Fashion designer” after graduating from Goldsmiths in Embroidery and Textiles, Carolyn collaborated with a fashion student, calling themselves “The New Renaissance”. They were a fashion orientated company, but added more of a craft element to the clothes, either with the skill of embroidery or the way they used the materials involved. The company’s ethics became the idea of using old things to create new garments, but not merely for the obvious ecological reasons, but because as designers they were always searching for new ways to use existing materials to create something unexpected.

From working this way The New Renaissance began to get commissioned to make one offs, and were asked to design the shop window for Liberty’s in London. This in turn developed in to the company creating a few more commercial pieces for Liberty’s and other small retail outlets in London.

After showing a controversial collection (where the garments were styled for each individual model rather than using the models merely as clothes horses) and working with Niaomi Campbell at the event (apparently she IS a total nightmare to work with) they were approached by Moschino to create pieces for another show. By this time they had developed different techniques, and found that selotape was a brilliant material to make garments out of if layered correctly and lined with felt (otherwise sweat deteriorated the tape…..ew!). They used this technique for the garments they created along side another design idea they had by printing images on to paper, laminating it and then cutting it in to small squares to then attach to the outfits using a standard shop Kimble gun. Carolyn admitted that these techniques may not be practical for commercial clothing, however these items were more like pieces of art and only needed to last as long as the shoot did. I find the result stunning, almost like a more contemporary version of fringing.

Up to this point the work had mainly been stills, photographs for magazines etc. Carolyn found that she began to get frustrated with the directors on set, not always shooting from what she perceived to be the best angle and directing in the way that could have improved the process.

One of my favourite items Carolyn showed were the set of Weather styled powergen people for the ITV weather sponsorship. On this project The New Renaissance were commissioned to do the costumes, arrangements and styling of the small video clips. It was at this stage The New Renaissance felt they were able to take on the role of directing themselves as they felt on this project they managed most of the directing work themselves after being given such a free rein. Carolyn has a beautifully visual style that is unique and I found to be clearly evident in all of the work she showed and although I don’t understand all the technical side of creating adverts and music videos, I can certainly appreciate the amount of hard work that goes in to creating each one.

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