The Harris Tweed Authority Educational Trust has long supported Fashion & Design students. It is vital that the next generation of design talent knows what is like to work with Harris Tweed® fabric: understanding its definition, composition, how it handles on the cutting and sewing table, how it performs and hangs in the tailoring process.
Each year a few, fortunate, carefully-selected, final year students receive a donation of their choice of Harris Tweed® fabric for use in their graduate collection.
We asked a couple of recent graduates to share the results. The depth of care going into the design and planning of their work is remarkable. Inevitably, lockdown and the ongoing world situation has had a direct impact on how they worked as well as what they produced.
We begin with Calvin Blackburn, a Scottish designer, with a background in Philosophy, whose work is firmly rooted in storytelling.
Calvin told us: “During the initial wave of lockdown, I was thinking about how, as youths, our bedroom becomes a kind of subconscious altar to the things which help formulate our ideas about reality…This led me to create my own fictional universe for my garments to exist within, another world with its own characters, mythology and landscape…inspired by my love for global folk tales, ancient spirituality and garment antiquity.”
During an early research visit to Samye-Ling Buddhist monastery in Dumfries, he was drawn to the rich reds and burgundies he saw there and that influenced his choice of fabric. “I find the symbolism of this specific shade of red fascinating, as it conjures up warmth, healing, wisdom, drama, strength, romance. To me, it is a very emotional colour, something both personal and universal.”
Limited space and resources, brought on by lockdown, also affected Calvin’s work: “Developing my graduate collection from home naturally came with a magnitude of unexpected challenges! Deeply appreciative of the opportunity to work with Harris Tweed®, my intention was to preserve the sanctity of the cloth, so I developed a method of working that involved zero waste and traditional cutting techniques (akin to kilt or kimono making).
“Through the use of folding, I used all five metres of the donated fabric, minimising seams to create a sense of softness and drape that you might not otherwise expect from the properties of tweed. The sheer volume of the coat ended up being quite a feat to construct when manoeuvring around my bedroom!”
All the hard work was worth it. The result is a dreamy, draped garment, fit for “a vulnerable warrior [who] must vanquish the shadow in order to return home.” It is Calvin’s personal favourite and one that certainly meets his desire to create “a vision of modern mythicality.”
Whatever lies ahead for this young talent, we hope that he continues to explore his love of storytelling through contemporary, luxury design with our world-renowned fabric.
To see more of Calvin Blackburn’s work and to follow his next steps:
The Harris Tweed® fabric that Calvin chose for his work is FWD-YC216 and was handwoven for Harris Tweed Hebrides.