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Cunnington & Sanderson’s “emotional constructions”

Matthew Cunnington, winner of festival d'Hyeres 2008 and John Sanderson’s new collection, recently presented at Milan’s White Club, features garments charged with symbolic meanings.

While searching for new shapes and silhouettes that could allow the wearer to experiment with forms and at the same time express new emotions, Matthew Cunnington and John Sanderson came up with what could be defined as “emotional constructions”. In their garments every pleat and fluid draped motif hides a metaphorical meaning; every silhouette conveys a message, unravelling micro-cosmos of emotions. Every colour chosen hints at the wearer’s state of mind: black symbolises the loss and evokes emotional intensity, metallic tones give out a sense of hope, while tumultuous prints symbolise dichotomies in life such as chaos and order.
Cocooning, protecting and at times forming a barrier from the outside world, Cunnington and Sanderson’s new designs project the wearer’s feelings and inner emotions directly on the garments.

Dazed Digital: What inspired your new designs?  
Matthew Cunnington & John Sanderson: For this collection we first decided upon our concept. Our sources of inspiration developed from mourning weeds and the emotions and rituals that we associate with them and created silhouettes that capture these emotions. Other sources of inspiration include artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Lowry.

DD: How would you define the aesthetic of this new collection?
MC/JC: A combination of structure and drape, order with chaos, protective and revealing.

DD: Did you find it challenging designing it?
MC/JS: Designing a collection is always enjoyable once we have chosen the inspiration and emotions we want to capture. The process of deciding the inspiration, right through to the finished garment, covers every emotion you could think of.  

DD: Do you feel fabric is important in creating your silhouettes?
MC/JS: Definitely. Sometimes we start with a silhouette and then source the fabric to enhance the garment and the personality we are trying to portray and create an emotion through each garment.  Sometimes it is the other way around, finding a fabric and then draping it upon a mannequin. Textures in many forms are principal in the development of each design, from course wool appearing masculine, to fluid metallic drapes of jersey. We endeavour to highlight the emotion in every individual garment so the silhouette is very important to us along with creating a balance of structure and fluidity.

DD: In Matthew’s “Hail Mary” collection there were some strong symbolisms and emotions, are there any special meanings behind this new collection?
MC/JS: Yes, as we said one of the main sources of inspiration were mourning weeds, with each garment expressing its own personality and emotion. One of the major influences in the collection is taken from the Victorian ritual of keeping cuttings of hair from a loved one delicately plaited and encased on brooches and in lockets. Some of the main emotions are of strong structural silhouettes, some of which express barriers and defence while other garments are more fluid and chaotic. Various shades of black engulf the collection evoking a sense of loss and despair. Metallic tones lift the shadows resembling a sense of hope and light. One garment in particular - the printed silk jersey dress with the “Chaos” print - highlights the contradiction of both formality and chaos. The dress is symmetrical in design representing order whilst the print itself appears chaotic, with various lines and shades that interlink. While some garments appear to have a sense of order - such as the box dress and box top where emotions are kept inside, other garments such as - the ‘dislocated shoulder’ coat where the attention is focused on the shoulder that has fallen away from the body and the ‘inside out’ blazer dress where the sewn seams are made visible for all to see as if it was no longer possible to keep the emotions hidden inside, convey a sense of chaos.

DD: Do you think that independent showcases such as the White Club can help young designers even in our financially critical times?
MC/JS: We were extremely excited to be a part of the White Club. It has been a great experience in being able to showcase our new collection in such a prestigious city such as Milan. We feel that independent showcases such as The White Club are more important now than ever. The White Club provides a great platform for new designers to share their work with the public. Obviously the financial crisis is a major concern to us in just the same way as it is to every other industry. We have chosen our own path to take and of course it is difficult, but we feel strongly that this is the right one for us. We love the creative process and in a very uncertain economic time, it is our creativity that helps us to be more positive.

Photographs by Aldo Castoldi