Roberts Wood: friends and femininity

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For AW19, ROBERTS | WOOD invited the audience into the world of Katie Roberts-Wood’s surreal studio atelier, to create an intimate theatre of the designer’s process and consciousness. The idea developed from Roberts-Wood urge to demonstrate the very unique way she designs, engineers and constructs garments. In a rare live performance, the normally introverted designer created a completely non-stitched showpiece, demonstrating the hand-linking technique used throughout all her collections. 

Seven kindred spirits from different disciplines joined Roberts-Wood, bringing their own practice to the collection, entitled ‘Viscera’. They included artists Frida Wannaberger, Rosa Johan Uddoh and Jessica Rose Bird; set designer Kei Yoshino, British born Ghanaian designer Kusheda Mensah, photographer Nhu Xuan Hua, ceramic artist Noa Weintraub.

“Each co-collaborator’s looks is the result of an intimate conversation that touches not just how they look but how they think and their states of mind,” writes journalist Tamsin Blanchard. The result: “a series of conversations that were an opportunity to stop and reflect on the importance of their clothes, an exchange of ideas that sparked creative interventions”

Prints throughout the collection draw reference from Roberts-Wood’s past experience studying medicine. Imagery from her father’s Gray’s anatomy textbook is digitally manipulated, distorted and collaged with details from sixteenth century paintings, in particular the artifice and physicality of ‘Still life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase’ by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder in which fleshy petals are distorted and blended, forming frames around the hand-drawn medical illustrations. 

The prints are engineered in combination with Roberts-Wood’s pleating technique - to create images that change, appear and disappear as the wearer moves. “I’m interested in how what you wear changes the way you feel,” says Roberts-Wood. They also reference the importance of hands to the designer. Roberts-Wood subverts the idea of traditionally undervalued ‘women’s work’, especially in the making of textiles and clothing, to reframe women’s hands as powerful tools of creation, femininity and making. 

Nothing speaks these themes louder than Roberts-Wood’s own unique artisanal techniques. Signature ‘silk bone’ dresses are fragile yet strong, their anatomy exposed through a translucent skin. And trademark ‘non-stitched ruffles’ are shaped into sculptural silhouettes, further referencing anatomical forms and the natural world. In a new development of her signature hand-linking technique, in which one pattern piece is cut multiple times and linked together without a single stitch, Roberts-Wood creates a  twisted vortex which appear both in the clothing and during the AW19 set. 

“This is a collective vision of powerful, intuitive women and a rare insight into their more intimate creative processes,” says Blanchard. “For Katie, it’s a moment to take stock of her journey so far. Ultimately, this is a celebration of femininity, independence, freedom of choice, and how such qualities are perceived.”

@ROBERTS.WOOD | #ROBERTSWOOD

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By BEL JACOBS

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