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Annabel Luton

The designer's graduate show was awash with exotic bird of paradise prints on billowing skirts and dresses inspired by femme fatale Mata Hari

Inspired by Mata Hari, the mysterious vixen rumoured to be a spy in the 1900s, Annabel Luton's graduate collection at Central St Martins' (Fashion with Print BA) show presented sumptuous hand-printed fabrics paired with kimono style sleeves and deconstructed cropped jackets. Worn high-waisted with wrapped leather belts, the billowing skirts in calendered cloths with an exotic bird print were simultaneously restrained yet overflowing in all the right places. We speak to the recent graduate about her inspirations and techniques for her first collection.

Dazed Digital: How old are you and where are you from/based?
Annabel Luton: I am 23 and living in Bow. I am half Norwegian and half English.

DD: Tell us a bit about the new collection. What were the inspirations/themes behind it?
Annabel Luton: My collection is based on the femme fatale Mata Hari the part time spy and oriental dancer from the 1900s. The garment silhouettes are mainly based on the costumes worn by Greta Garbo in her portrayal of Mata Hari. I also looked into the Miao tribe of southwest China, and their “calendered” fabric. This is a process which the tribe uses for their sacred fabric where they dye cotton in indigo and then through many processes cover it with egg whites or pigs blood and hammer it until it shines in a coppery red tone. This fabric is really luxurious, I was interested in the way it was made and used this fabric for the details of my collection, small tops, collars and cuffs.

I wanted to pair the luxurious association of this and velvet with other dishevelled fabrics. So, I used the idea of faded and mottled prints. To achieve this effect, I used many different layers like batiking the fabric with hot wax then dying it, sponging on my drawing of the bird through layers of laser-cut stencils before screen-printing the face of the birds, or burning out the top layer of the fabric to make it see-through... The idea of birds really came from the mysterious idea of Mata Hari.
DD: Do you feel your prints are an integral part to the clothes you design? Would every one of your collections include prints and would they work without them?
Annabel Luton: I think I will always do something to the fabric, I find it really interesting learning about traditional processes and why different tribes and people do them – like the calendering. I like quite wearable shapes in clothes so the technique, print, and finishing on the clothing has to be the most luxurious detail. Print techniques and mixing colour will always be a part of my collections; I think that’s what makes it special.
DD: What was the most important thing you learnt across your internships with Galliano, and Felder Felder etc?
Annabel Luton: Experimenting as much as you possibly can with everything, especially print techniques, unusual fabrics and mixing things together. It was also really interesting seeing the whole design process, from concept to garment ready to be distributed and the time management involved in delivering a collection.
DD: Do you have anyone in mind when you are designing?/Who would be your ideal icon to wear your clothes?
Annabel Luton: For this collection, Greta Garbo lounging around while seducing men as Mata Hari.
DD: Who are your favourite designers?
Annabel Luton: This changes the whole time, each season I like different things. As a label on the whole I like Prada.

DD: What are you most excited about next?
Annabel Luton: Designing and experimenting with prints, getting a job, researching for my next collection and trying to pay off my overdraft sometime soon.