Larger-than-life posters of British fashion icon Zandra Rhodes greeted us as we climbed the stairs to Kitty Joseph’s studio, just a few days ahead of her AW16 showcase in Paris. This might seem out of the ordinary, however Kitty’s studio is based in the Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London, a vivid pink and orange building founded by Rhodes in 2003.
Fittingly for a textile and print designer, Kitty’s studio is a super-concentrated cocktail of inspiration. Not a single square inch is free of fabric tests, sample swatches, clothes, sketches, books - even colourful blocks of Lego. Having completed a degree at the prestigious Chelsea College of Art and a masters at the Royal College of Art, her entire graduate collection was unexpectedly (although not undeservedly) snapped up. Inspired by Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama, a circular panoramic rainbow walkway atop the ARoS building in Aarhus, Denmark, Kitty’s first collection was a simple collection of clothes titled Colour Immersion.
Since graduating, Kitty’s cut her fashion teeth collaborating with milliner Piers Atkinson, mentor and friend the afore-mentioned Zandra Rhodes, stylist Kim Howells, Lady Gaga, and former Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Carine Roitfeld - and the obsession with colour continues.
As Kitty explains, the inspiration for her Colour Fields collection came from 'looking at Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color - I wanted to play on the relationship of just two colours in isolation.'
Have you designed knitwear before? No, I was too impatient! I found knitting and weaving too slow. But a lot of things that I do now are inspired by the way you would think about weaving a textile, or designing a knit.
How do the UMd sweaters and scarves fit into your AW16 collection? I was, in a way, restricted by two yarn colours, which was great. I developed my palettes and started mixing two colours in different ways, like this lovely pixel effect [in the UMd sweaters]. It’s something I've explored in past collections, using two colours in a kind of fine spray effect so your eye mixes the two. I've got this gradient idea executed in a kind of speckle, almost like taking ideas from pointillist painting. I also started playing with stripes and checks [on other garments] because that’s a perfect vehicle for exploring colour. I always like the idea of colour slightly distorting the shape [of the silhouette], which I've developed further with the pleats, because you get an added light and shade.
Kitty showed us some of the additional fabric designs she’d developed after collaborating with UMd, in which she uses a pixelated gradient print on the fabric - you can see this in the pleated gradient skirts of her AW16 collection. The pointillist pattern of these pieces mirror her UMd designs, but the pleats and differing shades add another dimension to the explosion of colour.
What are you most looking forward to next season? I’m really excited about the Missoni exhibition that’s coming here to the Fashion & Textile Museum. Their use of colour is so inspiring. Especially in the last couple of seasons, my work has been more about exploring colour in very simple graphics: stripes, gradients. It’s become quite focused.