Friday, October 3, 2014

WHEN MINIMALISM AND MAXIMALISM MEET: A Q&A WITH KIRSTY WARD

Kirsty Ward wearing a self-created necklace [photo by Hayley Benoit, provided by Kirsty Ward]

Prize-winning couturier, former Alberta Ferretti designer and '07 graduate of Central Saint Martins, Kirsty Ward brings brilliance to the brink of bourgeois fashion. During London Fashion Week, tassels and polka-dots land atop layers of multi-tier draping as Ward presents her 9th collection. Launching her own brand in 2010 after 3 years of working for Alberta Ferretti, Ward becomes an overnight sensation, called out as a Rising Star (2011) by Elle.co.uk, a Designer to Watch (2011) by vogue.com and a chosen exhibitor for Selfridges' Bright Young Things (2011). Ward's UK-made ready-to-wear is synonymously paired with her handmade jewelry, formalizing the relationship between simplicity and embellishment. An emphasis on form drives the uniqueness of her brand as season-after-season, she continues to surprise; a signature interplay between hardware and soft wear  often results as a multitude of ring-splayed pieces in metallic enlightenment meld with textured translucence. Keep reading for my Q&A with designer Kirsty Ward...

Kirsty Ward inaugural collection Spring/Summer 2011 [photo by Marielle Amelie, provided by Kirsty Ward]

You've graduated "with distinction" from one of the most prestigious programs at Central Saint Martins and--continuing on a path of excellence--you've been identified as Rising Star (2011) by Elle.co.uk, a Designer to Watch (2011) by vogue.com and a chosen exhibitor for Selfridges' Bright Young Things (2011). At this point in your career, what does "success" look like to you? In your eyes, what would complete the transition from "one to watch" to "one that's watched?"

I think that success is a moving point, depending on where you are in your career. At the start, I was happy that people wanted to buy my pieces and feature them in influential magazines. But now I see success to be something else. I just want to keep building my label. I feel you always need to strive and push. Also, at the end of the day, I'm really lucky to have a career in something I love--I love being able to create things that make me a living!

Spring/Summer 2011 [photo by Marielle Amelie, provided by Kirsty Ward]

Rumor has it that your inaugural collection was inspired by 1980s bad taste and tacky Christmas decorations. What elements of the 80s and holiday d├ęcor did you incorporate into your designs? What inspired your current collection? What are your "signature" element(s) that are carried forward from season to season?

Yes, that is completely true! We used tinsel and lamella. I even inserted the tinsel between sheer layers for the inside of the trouser waistband (a nice little detail for the owner/wearer).

My collections move on from where I left off the season before, often adding a different element to keep the collection fresh. For SS 2015, I played around with mild distortion, experimental pleating, asymmetry and embellished polka dots.

My signature aesthetic is a play on contradiction--masculine meet feminine, sporty meets luxe. I play with fabric and jewelry texture. I often say where maximal meets minimal.

Spring/Summer 2015 [photo by Alexander Jordan, provided by Kirsty Ward]

Your designs exhibit a spirited interaction between the hardware of your jewelry and the "soft" ware of your layered looks. How does your design process work? Do you start with the jewelry or the clothes? How do you maintain balance and prevent one aesthetic from overpowering the other?

I design the pieces together but not as complete looks. For SS 2015, we have clusters of tassels on the garments and the jewelry has lots of cluster formations too. Also, we've played with asymmetry in both garments and jewelry. They are designed to compliment and echo each other, but also both work separately. Balance just happens naturally, but it also helps when we style the looks that we don't 'plonk' too much stuff into one look.

 Spring/Summer 2015 [photo by Alexander Jordan, provided by Kirsty Ward]

At some point in the creative process, artists may second guess a particular idea--or scrap it altogether. Tell us about a time when you looked at a sketch, design or sample and wondered, "What was I thinking?!" In your design process, how do you know when to scrap an idea--or do you just continue on and carry it to completion regardless? What's one idea you started and never completed? What's been your favorite piece to date/why?

An idea will generally get scrapped quite early on if its not working, or I'll make it in a different fabrication. Often I look back at certain collections and think that there is far too much going on--too much shape, too much embellishment or in hindsight it needed more balance. 

I have so much in the studio thats been pattern cut, cut out and never been sewn as we have run out of time. Each season, there is at least one piece that's been left behind--Unloved. 

For SS2015, my favorite piece is a silver and neon yellow statement necklace. I've already worn it personally so many times!

My favorite Kirsty Ward collection so far--Spring/Summer 2014 [photo credit: Vogue]

Alberta Ferretti scooped you up right out of fashion school. What did you enjoy about working for an established brand? What did you learn in working for Alberta Ferretti that carried through to your personal brand today?

I had never really planned to launch my own label so working at Ferretti was great, we had access to the best fabrics, best beads, best materials. The design process was quite free and I spent my days either draping 3D designs on the stand, designing/making embellishment samples, mapping out embellishment patterns for the red carpet pieces etc. Also the catwalk shows at Ferretti were amazing as the budget enabled the best models, best hair stylists, best casting directors. Something that I would never be able to afford in a million years.

I learned that fashion is very international at Ferretti (it doesn't just revolve around London!) and that it's important to listen to your customers. Also--that it's very important to have a strong aesthetic.

Kirsty Ward 2013 [photo by Alexander Jordan, provided by Kirsty Ward]

I've won a trip to your hometown. Taking pity on a bumbling tourist, what sights and foods you would recommend? If you won a weeklong trip to the US, where would you visit? Is there any food you’ve never had that you would want to try? What was the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted?

My hometown is a small town in Oxfordshire called Faringdon. It's quite rural and I would recommend packing your walking boots and exploring the nearby White Horse Hill. The area is also good for farming. In the summer, I would suggest going to Millets Farm to pick your own strawberries (and eat more than you put in your basket whilst going around the fields).

I would love to go on a road trip around the US, I'd start off in New York and visit all the amazing galleries and museums, I would also love to visit loads of the small towns in the middle of nowhere and do lots of people watching. Then I would like to end up in Yosemite national park maybe squeezing in a cheesy trip to Disney world on the way (I’m a british tourist, don’t judge me). I would also fill my pockets up with lots of american chewing/bubble gum as you guys have a much better selection than we do in the UK.

I'm a big fan of sweets & candy and have a very sweet tooth! I’d quite like to do a candy tour of the world and collect/taste everything. When I lived in Italy, we used to go and have aperitivo (food that they serve to you with your evening drinks--in my case, prosecco) after work. It's my favourite kind of food--lots of olives, breads, meats, cheeses etc… all sourced from local farms, to share.


SS 2015 Accessories [photo by Kirsty Ward]

What floats your boat? Care to share some favorites? 
  • My almost-husband (we get married next month!), David Longshaw. He has his own label too! We met whilst both working at Alberta Ferretti
  • The theatre
  • Going for random midnight walks around London
  • Designer shoes (I tell myself that I’m investing in my feet)
  • Big fan of puppies
  • Fan of Nicholas Ghesquiere and Miuccia Prada
  • big fan of huge statement jewellery and oversized menswear (I often trawl through ebay to find 5XL shirts, the proportions are always crazy
Kirsty Ward AW 2012 [photo by Alexander Jordan, provided by Kirsty Ward]

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