Interviews

Wandering through drawing & around the body: In dialogue with Philip Delamore

The following conversations took place at London College of Fashion, in October-November 2010, between the curators of the exhibition, Charlotte Hodes and Flavia Loscialpo, Helen Storey, Philip Delamore and Simon Thorogood.
C&F – As new technologies are emerging within the fashion industry, how do you think that the role of drawing has been re-configured in recent years?

PD – I would say that probably for most fashion designers very little has changed, as they are using exactly the same processes that they have always used in sketching, in doing a 2D sketch, which is then translated into a 3D prototype. I think that some designers have begun to experiment with a new vocabulary that technology or an emerging technology allows, which consents to describe a three dimensional shape. Particularly in architecture, people like Frank Gehry have explored the idea of drawing in three dimensions. In terms of the way fashion is created, with 3D scanning technologies we can capture 3D data about the body and visualise cloth in a three dimensional way, or pre- visualise things in new ways. How this relates to drawing, I do not think that is something that is really happening yet. The experiments that I have been doing maybe point a way to what might happen in the future in terms of being able to describe three dimensional space quite quickly in a sketch, and translate those ideas into a three dimensional form. I guess I am playing with the idea of how one might notionally do that.

C&F – According to you, are technologies such as body-scanning opening up new possibilities for the exploration and representation of the body?

PD – Absolutely they are, in both positive and negative ways. Certainly, we are now able to capture data about people’s bodies, and essentially we are now able to capture their three dimensional body shapes, which is something that traditional measurement could never do. Everybody’s body shape is individual, unique. In order to better understand how clothes fit people’s body shape, this is a really big step forward. It is something that tailors and couturiers have understood for a very long time. I believe that, for the production of ready to wear clothes, this is a really big step forward.

C&F – How do you feel that your drawing has helped you to understand the body, particularly the body in 3D?

PD – I think that what is interesting about such drawings is that they are actually drawings onto the body, so you are physically exploring a surface, which is very different from sketching a two dimensional representation of a surface. In fact, it allows you, firstly, to take a line for a walk, and describe something that is not necessarily relating to a physical feature, or a seam or a traditional way of breaking up a three dimensional surface. You can follow a contour or a surface in any way that you choose, in an aesthetic path rather than in a construction path, for instance. There are indeed different approaches to design: some are very technical and work on flat 2D patterns which are then taken to 3 dimensional forms, while others are much more about draping on the body, and then they reverse that down to 2D patterns. I think that the physical act of drawing on a body allows you to feel your way around a 3 dimensional object, and I guess it improves your understanding of what the topology of the body is.

C&F - Does this trigger a different creative thinking in respect to working in 2D on a piece of paper, where one has to actually create the armature of the body before he can continue to work?

PD – When you are drawing on a body, the armature is already there. Interestingly, since you are recording it live, you are controlling the start and the end, being very much aware of the physicality of the person that you are drawing onto. But it is not until you look at the drawing that you then begin 16 to realise how little you need to describe, and how little you can show of a person in a way that a line describes somebody’s characteristics. This is something quite emotional maybe.

C&F – Do you think that the assimilation of emerging science and technology into the creation of fashion is encouraging a multidisciplinary approach to design?

PD – Yes, definitely it is. I think that you have a convergence because there are people in very different disciplines that are using very similar tools. It is possible to think about an architect, a fashion designer and an aereospace designer being able to have a conversation. It has been quite interesting for me, as I have recently had conversations with someone from Rolls-Royce Aerospace, where we were comparing practices in terms of physical prototyping from 3D.

It is amazing to have these discussions, and to understand as well how much tacit craft skill is implied, for instance, in creating a turbine blade design. They in fact feel the surface and understand from touching whether it is right or not, while I had imagined that it was much more removed, cold and computer driven than it actually is. I think that the ability to create three dimensional objects quite quickly now allows you to improve on the design much earlier on.

C&F – What is interesting about the drawings that you are doing is that you are working on a computer, but you seem to actually be trying to bring the tactile within that structure.

PD – I think that what will be exciting in the next ten or fifteen years is that we will not be sitting at keyboards any more, and many interfaces that are now being developed are much more natural. Thus, people could go back to the way they use to working, that is, architects on drawing boards, designers on mannequinns. The computers will disappear but the data will still be captured. For me, this is interesting about using a device that is a natural drawing device.

I tried lots of different ones, as a big robotic arm, or cantilever, and it is amazing that, as soon as you can feel the weight of something, you are distracted and the line begins to disapppear. Now we begin to see gaming devices that allow you to have a more natural interaction; there is much more freedom, and I think this is really stimulating.

C&F – Once you briefly talked about the possibility of considering a digital drawing as a sequence of undrawn drawings. It is a very interesting and almost poetic observation.

PD – This is about the unseen and the unexpected. And of course it is about the idea of doing a drawing with one perspective, which is your perspective, and then being able to replay that from every different perspective because you can then look at it from every given angle. I had that analogy with a life drawing class where everybody in the class, around the model, would have a different perspective. In replaying that, you can then be surprised by your own work.