How Digital Textile Designers Make Wearable Art
The silk pocket square flashes teal and fuchsia—folded, the design is obscured, and you’d never imagine that it depicts skulls that look like tattoos.... On a humble sock, simple shapes look funky and carefree, but they actually have a deeper meaning…. These garments were designed, respectively, by Patrick Morrison of Furious Goose and Kaylan K. of Lost in the Island. And they represent a tidal shift in the world of fashion.
Thanks to digital design tools, textile design is experiencing something of a renaissance. The field attracts graphic designers and illustrators because it employs many techniques they are already familiar with, but it enables visual thinkers to expand beyond the page and the screen. Fabric offers new opportunities and challenges with designs that move, flutter, and twirl along with their wearers. In addition, some creatives see designing textiles as a way to make the switch from corporate design to crafting objects that are more personal. Clothes have the power to be more abstract and intimate than many client-based assignments.
HEALING TRAUMA, EXPLORING SYMBOLISM
For her part, Kaylan K. turned to drawing at the age of six to cope with “a very traumatic childhood” in Montreal.
“Through my patterns, I tell some of my story,” she says.
TRANSITIONING TO TEXTILE DESIGN
Patrick Morrison also started out in printmaking and graphic design, in the U.K., eventually working for brands such as Oxfam and American Express. Three years ago, he stumbled upon fabric that he knew must have been designed by vector—and he felt a longing to challenge himself creatively.
Paige says the cutouts spoke to her aesthetic preference for bold, graphic shapes and bright colors. Plus, people who might not be able to afford an art print can afford a scarf with the same design.
“It’s a shame that people think digital art is easy,” she says. “Art is art, regardless of which medium you use. You just have to bring out new ideas and make people stare at it, make people think differently.”
She wants to be known for elevating digital design to the level of fine art.
“I want to show that it takes as much time to create something traditionally as it does to brainstorm something beautiful to come out through the computer,” she says. “It’s the same process. We just have to make people see it differently.”
“I want to show it takes as much time as creating something traditionally as it does brainstorming something beautiful to come out through the computer,” she says. “It’s the same process. We just have to make people see it differently.”
For his part, Patrick loves the creative potential of the pocket square. In traditional menswear, it’s one of the few areas that’s colorful and playful. He adores the deep saturated color that silk gives his designs, as well as the juxtaposition of crisp, digital vector art with a classic article of clothing worn since King Richard II.
He’s inspired by punk, irreverent fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Emilio Pucci’s exuberant colors and patterns. Tongue-in-cheek designs and messages such as “Fury” and “Lust” are hidden in the folds of his pocket squares.
“You can be quite cheeky with it because it’s hidden away in your pocket,” he says. “There’s sartorial elegance with classic Italian and hipster styles—I’m trying to bridge that gap and make it younger. Mine look like they could only be produced in Illustrator, and that gives it a more modern edge.”
“There’s something nice about having your counter-culture in your pocket,” he adds “What I like is the juxtaposition of luxury and a little bit of shock value.”
Paige was moved toward her medium because she grew up with her mother’s collection of Hermès silk scarves. She’s currently inspired by Greek mythology and works those stories into her wearable prints.
“They’re all just crazy and incestuous, and I’m fascinated by them,” she says. “It’s like the reality TV of hundreds of years ago but there’s no imagery to them. There are only artists’ representations of these stories, so it’s a fun challenge.”
PATTERNS FOR THE FUTURE
All three textile designers hope to grow their businesses and expand into new territories. Paige Russell hopes to work her patterns into surface design and home decor, creating products like blankets and towels. “I love making fine art utilitarian and just having beautiful objects,” she says.
Patrick Morrison’s Furious Goose has penetrated international markets—his creations are currently available in Japan and Nigeria, and he’s looking into expanding his retailer base. For the future, he’s eyeing surface pattern design work such as ceramics and other homeware. “I’ll take it as far as I can go,” he says.
Kaylan K. has begun collaborating with local fashion designers to release collections of her work, inspired by African symbols, including her favorite: strength. The symbol is intricate, with sturdy lines that are self-contained, complete. She has appreciated working with other artists to create a wearable vision, but she says feedback is still a challenge. It’s tough when more than one artist brings their charged passion to create a work of art together. But she says it’s worth it once she sees the final result.
She aspires to create her own collection soon.
“I want to have a series of clothing where I tell stories through my art,” she says. “It’s like wearing a story on you that creates positivity and joy all around you. Art should be everywhere.”