Exclusive Interview with KellyDawn Riot
I was always fascinated by Darwin and his adventures and discoveries, that has been possibly my biggest influence
BFW: Your collection is being showcased at the Sustain catwalk on Friday 16th October, what does sustainability mean to you?
KDR: Sustainability isn’t just a ‘trend’ to me it is a design philosophy. I think all designers will inevitably move towards and have to incorporate into their brands/collections. Transparency in the fashion industry is becoming more and more prevalent especially after disasters like Rana Plaza.
It’s not about taking on the world, its questioning what can I do to make this less damaging to the environment, or where can I get this produced; where I know workers are fairly paid and treated. If we all took small steps like this towards sustainability the fashion industry would be a much better place.
BFW: When buying clothing, do you buy sustainable brands?
KDR: I’m lucky to live right next door to two really neat vintage stores so my first step is usually to reuse rather than buy ‘new’. However, I’m always up for supporting local and sustainable designers when I do branch out from thrifting.
BFW: How important is it to support these sustainable fashion?
KDR: I would say it is important if you are buying ‘new’ to support sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion is usually more durable and outlives fast fashion trends. So really, you’re investing in forever pieces. They ensure you get the very best quality in the most ethical way.
BFW: You have recently graduated and since won the "Scotland ReDesigned's New Talent Award". How did it feel for your collection "Every blooming thing" to catch people’s eye straight away?
KDR: In all honesty I was quite shocked. My aesthetic is quite unusual so I was surprised at how well received it was. It definitely made me think I was on the right track and inspired me to keep going. I had a wonderful support structure in Scotland Redesigned, Love Your Clothes Campaign and Orsola De Castro. This made leaving college and going straight into the industry not as daunting.
BFW: Where do you gain your artistic influence from for your collections?
KDR: Print wise I’m really interested in scientific illustrations. I always have been. I use to love looking at the illustrations in science class in school instead of paying attention!
I was always fascinated by Darwin and his adventures and discoveries, that has been possibly my biggest influence but I do really love the work or Ernest Haeckel and William Swainson also.
BFW: It is clear from your previous collections, that you have a distinct aesthetic to your work, what is your research method when creating a new collection?
KDR: When creating a new collection I am OBSESSIVE! Too much so I’ve been told! I never really know what I’m going to make. I just start visiting galleries, museums and picking up stacks and stacks of magazines and I photograph everything. Once I have stacks and stacks of research I filter it right down into two folders: print and silhouette.
Everything is all hand drawn and therefore can be very time consuming, however, it makes my work slightly more unique in a way, as most artwork these days are created digitally. Silhouette wise, I usually know what I want straight away so I create the looks and filter them down so they are cohesive.
BFW: What are the problems that occur when creating a more sustainable piece of clothing?
KDR: I found materials to be quite difficult. A lot of digital printers will only use pre-treated fabrics from a certain supplier- a lot of those materials can be synthetic which I try to avoid. I wanted to digitally print on peace silk and hemp for Formication. However, I kept hitting a brick wall with companies who would do that. So for me as a print designer I’d like to see suppliers introduce more organic, natural and animal friendly fabrics to digitally print on.
BFW: How did you decide to draw upon your Scottish routes and engage with this in your designing?
KDR: I was born in Kent, raised in Ireland and I’m now living in Scotland. I moved here to do my MA two years ago as it’s got a great reputation for fine art and my designs. I feel like, are somewhere in between art and fashion.
The collection is inspired by all the curiosities I saw in museums, galleries and exhibitions in the first few months of moving here. I’ve always had a childhood fascination with nature and moving to Scotland reignited that enthusiasm.
BFW: What makes you different from other sustain fashion designers?
KDR: I think the fact that each garment is an engineered print, so each panel tells a different story making the body a multifaceted canvas, telling a different story at each angle.
Alongside this all the illustrations and images are hand drawn and hand painted before being digitally printed. This can be time consuming but I think it makes a strong impact and sets me apart from other designers.
BFW: On your website, you talk about your obsession with the Blitz Kids, what interests you about them?
KDR: The Blitz Kids just encompass everything I adore about men’s fashion, it was expressive, bright, and there was no conforming to the ‘male aesthetic ideals’. Leigh Bowery has always been my muse since I first became interested in fashion. Most people had pictures of their crushes plastered everywhere. I was the weird one with pictures of Leigh Bowery!
BFW: How have you seen the sustainable fashion industry change in the last 5 years?
KDR: With disasters like Rana Plaza and the disappearance of the Aral Sea basin, alongside films like The True Cost and Campaigns like Fashion Revolution Day people have began to wake up and question who made my clothes? What is it made of? Where is it made? While a few years ago I’m not so sure if so many people would’ve second guessed this.
BFW: Describe your fashion collection in one word.
KellyDawn Riot will be showing her collection at the Sustain Catwalk Show on Friday 16th October.
Interview by Maisie Franklin
Instagram: @kellydawnriot Twitter: @Kellydawn_riot