Inaugurated from her kitchen table, London-based menswear designer Dharma Taylor moulds dream-like, cultural DNA. Influenced by shifting paradigms, figures like Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Baudrillard’s Theory, her prints, wearable 3D builds and tapestries visually decipher her message.
What introduced you to your creativity?
I started specialising in hand printing for textiles around 17 when I was at college studying Art and Design. Here, among other areas, I studied a hybrid of printing techniques such as lino, block and screen printing and 3D elements like working with textiles and construction.
When I went to university in Kent to do fashion, I began experimenting and developing my own style by hand-printing designs onto garments made from scratch: I’d cut the patterns for the clothes at uni and then I’d be printing the material at home, on the kitchen table or the living-room floor as the school didn’t have facilities for this then. My early portfolio of work focussed on experiments with colour and silhouette and construction. Growing up initially in Greenwich (before moving to Hertfordshire) has only recently visually informed my work, as a way in to create narrative tapestry.
What impels your concepts?
For me, I think there is a sense of eclecticism in terms of the conceptual development of my work, which is probably an extension of my personality. I can be into Caribbean fictional literature and poetry; literary figures such as Franz Kafka and also be into the likes of Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who makes films that are usually quite slow paced and other-worldly with really long takes and shots of just tropical countryside and wild animals, but at the same time his moving pictures address a kind of power and urgency about the need for, or the fact that, sometimes it feels like there’s a lack of a true democracy in society and that can be inspiring in terms of just wanting to be active.
Inspiration can be derived from a variety of sources ranging from technology, literature, ancient civilisations and the dynamic differences in cultures and recognising that there are so many similarities in these apparent differences - finding threaded ideas in each of these sources to feed into my work. I think it’s important to be able to create something about yourself, and an idea that is not necessarily concerning other people. Draw your inspiration from inside and not from others to concentrate on what resonates with yourself and develop that.
You have a clear, individualistic aesthetic. What ignited this?
Whilst at the London College of Fashion doing the masters in Menswear, I was introduced to 3D printing. I still use techniques learned from my time there to make and produce the headgear that feature in the capsule collections. Incorporating the use of software such as Blender to design the models but producing them by hand to create crafted wearable 3D builds. My self-produced hybrid lo-fi video entitled ‘London Parallel-Worlds’ would play on a loop over the top of a rotating wireframe animated gif. A pretty stripped back, but effective approach to displaying the print-saturated headgear on a model. This way of working feels very organic [to me], in the sense that I’m creating a set of unique characters that hopefully other people can relate to in some way.
I’d like to think my work is part of a design culture which respects and embraces craftsmanship, authorship and location. I feel that fashion industries are very different from the clothing industries in that fashion represents a culture and cultural heritage interlinked with value in design. The original prints created over a series of seasons hold the ‘DNA’ that formed the fabrics for the collections at the time. Sometimes, like with one particular gold looking print entitled ‘African Plug Socket’, I’d make the design for the print using 3D design software platforms. With my roots in print, I might look to my early [print] work sketchbooks as a language, and progress these prints into woven fabric to produce another dimension to these patterns.
Can you tell us anything about what you're working on right now?
I’m currently creating a series of large-scale hand-woven tapestry work. The tapestries were originally planned to be digitally woven from digital files on a jacquard loom. Although it would be easier and faster to get them made like that in Belgium or the Netherlands, they were incredibly expensive to produce that way, so I decided to start producing them myself by hand and with a distinct style.
The tapestries are illustrated from photographs of my childhood hometown during the late 80s early 90s documenting the original style of architecture, interior, my family as we lived there and half dream-like hyperreal super sharp shots of the surrounding landscape to create woven tapestry scenes in the interests of preserving this unique period in social history through the medium of textiles.
Digital art and the influence of developing technologies is becoming more and more significant in mainstream culture now. It seems we are simultaneously becoming and adapting to a digitalised world. What do you think about this?
Yes, I agree. Like with the retrospective project I’ve just done for the revamp of my website. It was heavily influenced by digital culture to re-present the headpieces via an interactive 3D homepage-moment so visitors can understand how they're made. I think in a lot of ways it’s a good thing to be able to adapt to this digitalised world, like the way collections in galleries are accessible to everyone now through digi channels. But at the same time, I’m very old school and paradoxically find myself resisting mainstream culture. I feel that more often than not, different technologies distort clear ways of communicating.
I’m personally interested in the shifting paradigms of fashion design and technologies in an artistic context and the relations between fashion and the museum - that fashion and art are both inherently ornamental if not utilitarian in some way. It’s nice to see presentations of work that undermine the traditional understanding of fashion as ephemeral, something which I think the digital world is.
You have mentioned in previous interviews your fascination with parallel and alternate realities. I can relate to this myself and my interest in this is something I often ponder on. Can you say the same? Do you have any thoughts as to what this interest is motivated by?
This is something I think about a lot and I get a sense sometimes that there really are powerful ways of tapping into a safe other realm, parallel to ‘reality’ as we know it and that there are ways to work with this possibility to literally be the best at what we choose to do, if that makes sense? I remember reading an interview an old friend did about what success is in our time: it said something about times having properly changed now and so a personal success is prevalent more than ever. He said something like “you could be working 9 to 5 for someone else or a company you’re not really keen about paying for your overheads, but when you get home, you’re making these amazing ceramic pots (or something similar) and that’s a success in itself”. So that perspective can be viewed as an alternate reality and I think it’s this kind of way of viewing things that keeps me motivated. At the same time, I started reading Baudrillard’s theory and concept about hyperreality where our reality and the simulation of reality can be indistinguishable. I feel the digital world right now contributes towards this.
interview KATE BISHOP
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