What do we actually define by a brand’s ethos? And just how important is that in shaping the overall aesthetic and creative practice behind a name? For Cunnington & Sanderson, their ethos is their trademark; their work, a fashion narrative with a signature style, and a fascinating fashion story to tell.
Experimenting with tailoring and volume, the designer duo uses innovating cutting and elaborate draping to form silhouettes that unexpectedly emerge through an endless dialogue with the fabric itself. Their creations are bold, sculptural pieces of extreme craftsmanship; a rare combination of traditional techniques and fashion-forward aesthetic innovation.
For the award-winning brand, the construction process works as part of a very personal fashion narrative waiting to be told. Each individual garment undertakes elaborate draping, sculpting, and is crafted according to its own unique characteristics –characteristics that eventually become its emotional symbolism, its story.
We caught up with John and Matthew to discuss creativity, sustainability, and the emotionally charged vocabulary of their clothes.
You are a design duo, how does this influence the design process
We always base our collections on a narrative. Every garment has its own characteristics and emotive symbolism. At the beginning, the heart of the story is chosen, and then as a design duo, we build a whole world around it. Working in unison we collect objects, depict music, emotions, silhouettes, words, phrases, art, sculpture, symbolisms, and begin sculpting them together. When the narrative is written we transfer this world into our draping and garment design. Excellent communication is key as well as compromise to ensure we are both on the same page with the same vision. This is always achieved because we both involved with the creative directions throughout the whole design process, from the concept, research, development, draping, editing, structure, pattern cutting, finishes, fabric choice, colorways, fittings, production, etc right until the garment is worn by one of our loyal and valued customers. Having two perspectives is really exciting. We both have different ideas but because we design in the same way by draping onto the stand to create new, original, and thought-provoking garments, the results are always complimentary.
You have described your ‘Occupied’ collection as a certain iconography of emotions. Are we afraid to wear our emotions?
We believe that clothes can express how we are feeling or how we want to feel, either subtly or extrovertly. Clothes can make you feel confident, attractive, or more relaxed. They can heighten a mood you are already feeling or they can express the emotion you want to express. We want to inspire people to wear what they want.
Emotions are a key element that we portray in our garment designs, and we hope people make a connection to the personality of their characteristics.
For example, the “Occupied” AW1819 collection focused on breaking the stigma around Mental Health by creating awareness and giving hope and encouragement to others. In our view, the bed can be a solitary sanctuary and become an entire universe. In the collection, pillows, bed linen, and blankets are worn as everyday clothes just as emotions are worn for everyone to see and are no longer hidden. Comfort is found in the non-conformity.
You have been avid advocates of sustainability and ethical fashion – how do you ensure it
We aim to create and design clothes for somebody who can recognize and appreciate craftsmanship, creativity, and originality in clothes. For someone who understands the importance of sustainability. Our brand promotes slow fashion and aims our designs to people who do not follow trends but cherish quality clothes that they make a personal connection with. We design zero waste garments using luxurious & organic fabrics and we use environmentally friendly processes that are transparent. Working closely with traditional Yorkshire Mills such as Abraham Moon & Sons who show a transparent and traceable process where all processes are made in -house and in one location.
Constructing, deconstructing, editing – how do you both know when a garment is finished
We decide a garment is finished by instinct, a moment of feeling like when you get goose pimples, and we can see that the structure holds within all the credentials that inspired its own creation. We imagine the same way a sculpture or a painter knows. It is important not to overwork an idea always aiming to capture the creative process and not to look placed or forced. Allowing the fabric to breathe and drape with gravity capturing movement, shape, shadow, space, volume and to appear as though the fabric is sculpting the garment by itself.
A garment is far more than just something that is worn. It should be cherished. Hours of dedication and passion is put into the creation of one of our designs. For us, each piece is special because if it was not it would not have been created.
There is a certain symbolic element in your garments design. Tell us more about it.
From the Occupied collection, the pillow top was the first design –and it went on to inspire the whole collection. Other garments include the tailored jacket which is worn as a skirt with sleeves as pockets, a laundry dress with elasticated detailing like bedding to capture what once was and a hollow dress that appears detached as an empty unworn dress on the front of the wearer.
The symbolic elements build up the characteristics of the garment. They can be inspired by many things including personal experiences or even historical events. These elements are then expressed through fabric texture, colour, creative pattern cutting, uniques finishes and detailing. Importance is always focussed on fabric placement – how the fabric drapes naturally by its own weight and how the movement just one center-meter can change the whole mood and appearance of a design.
What are your future plans and projects?
Designing a range of zero waste garments that are made in sustainable fabrics. And of course, continue to design and create innovative garments by developing new ways of working with digital technology and sustainable processes.
Cunnington & Sanderson are very proud to have been selected by prestigious buyers and renowned stores for the Not Just A Label x Joor x 100 Project. That means that from now on, we also present our work on the international leading wholesale platform JOOR, where the whole selling process is made online.
Any comments on the current situation? How do you view the Covid19 pandemic?
We hope that after the pandemic of the Covid19 people will give independent fashion designers the credit that they deserve for their craftsmanship. Clothes should be valued and purchased for quality and originality and not for fast fashion that turns into damaging disposable waste.
Image Credits – Photography Rafael Kroetz – Model Zoe Herveva – Make up & Hair Sabine Nania – art direction Cunnington & Sanderson