While many brands welcome a deep dive into their production and process, newer labels like ROBERTS | WOOD are often bravely showcasing their experimentation too. Vulnerability is explored in the label’s AW18 ‘Kinderschema’ collection, which considers how ‘ideas of cuteness’ can actually be to our evolutionary advantage. We hear from Katie Roberts-Wood on fostering a deeper appreciation for design.
On developing her technique…
“ROBERTS | WOOD is very driven by the making process and the blending of technology and hand-craftsmanship to invent new construction processes. I have invented a special non-stitched construction technique where the garments are put together through a process I call ‘hand-linking’ – a combination of special cutting methods and linking the fabric together that doesn’t require stitching. This is the technique that I am most known for and which we explore in different guises in each collection. The technique becomes apparent when you look inside the garment to see the intricate way that it has been put together. To me, the way it looks inside is as important as the way it looks outside. This may be a secret that only the wearer will see, but I think it creates an important bond between the wearer and the garment.
One of our signature pieces is the ‘x-ray dress’ which is made of transparent 100% silk organza, which has ruffles ‘hand-linked’ through its surface. When the light shines through the garment, the linking through the fabric appears almost like an x-ray of bones showing through the surface.
We make up every one of these special pieces in our small studio in London. The process is much too specialised to be outsourced, so we have evolved our own idiosyncratic methods of in-house production for these pieces. Having only local and in-house production means we can have confidence in how our pieces are made.”
On ‘emotional sustainability’…
“Sustainability is a huge and important subject, especially in the fashion industry. Often I think people only think of the sources and types of fabrics used (which of course is a huge consideration) but I think there are many other aspects to sustainability that can be looked at.
I’m very interested in the concept of ‘emotional sustainability’. This essentially means that a consumer forms an emotional connection with a garment (or product) and is therefore more likely to keep it for longer, hopefully forever. The theory is that if we only buy what we really love, and keep and look after those things, then we will buy less and waste is reduced. This is a principle that is generally the opposite of the concept of fashion, which is all about the ‘new’ – the sad result being that many more things are produced than will ever be used or loved. I think that huge and pointless waste is a terrible shame.
Not over-producing is very important to our brand. We are making very limited numbers of each design. We want to make thoughtful and intelligently designed pieces that people will love and want to keep. The motivation to start the brand came from a desire to make products that are inherently special – not just have a temporary value because they are ‘on trend’ or temporarily ‘fashionable’.
When I was studying for my masters at the Royal College of Art, I wanted to investigate how, as a designer, I can help to foster a more meaningful and long-lasting relationship between people and their clothes. I wanted to explore different methods designers can use to encourage the relationship between the product and consumer and slow down the ‘churn’ of garment production that goes hand in hand with the culture of disposability, which I found to be a really overwhelming and off-putting part of the fashion industry. An example could be engaging the consumer through the rich narrative of the brand’s special production methods; if the customer begins to understand how much love and invention and effort has gone into the design and production of their piece they are going to feel more connected to it, and hopefully treasure the garment for a long time. If we can add these extra layers of meaning into the garments as well as creating something beautiful, I think we will have achieved truly good design.”
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