Many designers claim an architectural approach to cutting, but few are as spatially aware as recent graduate Ana Laura Leon. “When I make clothing, I plan for the interaction to be three-dimensional,” she explains. “To me it’s important to work towards crafting an experience.” Born in Cuba and raised in Miami by way of Toronto, Leon initially planned to study painting and sculpture at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago, known for its rigorous attitude towards conceptual art theory and practice, but switched to the fashion department to pursue a conversation on space with a more immediate, tangible human element.
For her senior collection she focused on the illusion of motion, creating garments that change their appearance with the movement of the viewer rather than just the wearer. “I researched a lot of early animation techniques and ended up creating a set of lines and then repeating those lines in front of the other. It’s better known as the moiré effect; I just changed it in scale.” She achieved it by layering sheer fabrics covered in lines or mesh patterns, providing her garments with an infinite array of final appearances depending on their position and proximity to the eyes of the beholder. After initially being inspired by mock-ups covered in lines of masking tape, Leon preserved elements of process in her final pieces, even using wire hangers as closures to comment on the materiality and physicality of her work.
“Every bit of development becomes part of her body of work, part of the feeling and mood,” says her former professor Shane Gabier of NY-based label Creatures of the Wind. “The collages of fabrics, sketches and miniature mock-ups become these intricate, beautifully composed works of art on their own. She’s incredibly curious and has a fantastic sense of dimension and spatial reasoning – super mathematical, but somehow very natural at the same time.” Leon’s work argues that creation is not a passive spectator sport, that engaging the roles of maker and viewer simultaneously makes for a healthy and powerful dialogue. It imbues her work with wonder and a significant beauty. “During my time in Cuba, I was exposed to a lot of historical buildings and considered the relationships people have with spaces,” says Leon about her architectural inspirations. “It was a dialogue between the limited materials and potential solutions. I learned about the installation artist Rebecca Horn, who addresses these very spatial themes. In some of her earlier pieces she creates body extensions and documents her interaction with the surroundings. In concept this approach helped me understand roles a little better. It helped me understand what I was working toward.”