A Nationalisation of People – MDES Collection
Although being in lockdown at the beginning of this project, I was still able to attend my work as a maintenance engineer in a Glasgow Clydeside factory. Opening in 1899 as an automobile manufacturing company, it soon became a munitions factory through both World Wars. It then became what it is today, a manufacturer of truck axles, gearboxes, and components. Working here allows me to take in the details, noticing the vast scale of the factory, the strength in its structure and a patina, full of retained memories and stories. Nationalisation in the 1970s and 80s decimated the area where the factory resides, reducing its population of workers from tens of thousands to handfuls of men over the subsequent years.
Nationalisation of industry caused the country wide dispersal of people once the factories closed, and with that came the rise of the council estate. Still living close to the area I grew up, meant I was able to conduct real primary research. Looking at the high-rise flats where families and people were crammed in. These towers took on a community all their own across the floors. Council estates get bad press, full of stories of crime and violence. Although this is partly true, they also build a different type of person. Determined, strong, industrious with nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was surrounded by everything and everyone who had shaped me, and I wanted to personify this in my final collection. Creating fabrics and garments which echo the lives of these people and the rich intertwining history of both Scotland’s council schemes and its heavy industry. Cultural and social consideration has been prominent in my thoughts throughout this project; I did not want to have a collection which felt like a parody of Scottish working-class culture, instead aiming to celebrate our rich history of industry and what the workers did for our economy. I also designed my collection to be a neutral, unisex collection, a nod back to both the men and women who shaped me growing up. Adding gender into the work only served to isolate and constrain but by removing gender it opened the collection up to a wider audience, becoming more inclusive.
Consideration of responsible design within my work is paramount, being a weaver and creating cloth from virgin materials is unavoidable to a degree. For this reason, I have always tried to use less where possible and really consider where I find my materials alongside the processes I use to create. To circumnavigate the issue around virgin materials, I source dead stock wool from large scale production mills. Paying very little or nothing for yarn provides my work with new design criteria. I am forced to create with what I have. Mixing, blending and brushing and considering woven technique, builds colour and texture into the cloth, creating sophisticated design with minimum wastage. Being a fashion led programme I looked at developing new ways of creating garments by re-using discarded denim garments as trimmings and yarn, giving them new life and adding aesthetic vibrancy to my work. Exploring the blurred lines of being a textile designer in a fashion design setting results in a coherent and exciting collection which mixes classic garment silhouettes with fresh textile concepts, celebrating my view of Central Scotland through a personal lens.
Sincere thanks go to Bute Fabrics for sponsoring my final collection, supplying me with yarn, and also The Worshipful Company of Weavers for awarding me the Stuart Hollander scholarship which allowed me to purchase new equipment enabling me to fully realise my collection.