Words: Rachel Smith
Found garments are deconstructed and carefully remade – new forms, new weight and textures, by Brooke Georgia. The designer of Being plays with the interface between art and fashion.
“I’ve always been into the story of the found thing – even if I completely deconstruct it, I think its story is imbued in what you’re making,” says Brooke.
Until recently, Brooke was better known as an artist. In 1999, she completed a Bachelor of Design in Craft Art at CPIT (today’s Ara Institute of Canterbury), where Sharon Ng, of NG fashion and design store, was one of her tutors. Her fascination with fabric showed itself straight away, grown from years of op-shopping and rearranging clothes. Here it became fabric sculptures, drawings and installations – work that she has exhibited locally ever since.
“In 2015, Sharon asked what I was up to. I told her about the T-shirts I was making and she wanted to have a look at them,” says Brooke.These were not ordinary T-shirts; hand-dyed cotton, each different from the other, embellished with hand-stitching, fabrics of lace, linen and leather. “She took a chance on it really – she understood what I was trying to do.”
For Brooke the decision to work from existing garments was a given. “It was partly conscious, partly a continuation of my art making, and enjoying the story already inherent in a used material. A lot of my art making was, and still is, from found materials.
“I’m really interested in working from fragments, in re-contextualising what is available. In this way I very rarely work from whole cloth. The conscious part is being aware of the horrors of the fast-fashion industry and the rate of clothes being thrown out every day and not wanting to add to that, but also being an avid op-shopper and just coming across so much great raw material.
“So even though my designs have grown out of my love of vintage, I really think it’s the way of seeing in my art making, in my life, that’s the root of it.”
This year has been one of development and discovery for Being. An opportune fashion shoot by the Art and Coco team has seen Being garments picked up by music and modelling industries. Conversation with Steven Park, designer of label 6x4, has allowed Brooke to develop a growing understanding of her own approach to creating garments from an art object perspective.
“My design process is really intuitive,” Brooke explains. “I’m thinking of them like a sculptural object – there is no back to front, or inside out. They’re all one-offs because they’re all a response to what I’ve found and the fabric. In the end, it’s all about how a garment fits and falls.”
What this means in real terms can be seen inside Brooke’s studio in Waltham, a shared space with her partner Bren Olykan, himself a designer and maker, working in wood and metal.
A black dress sits on a mannequin. Stitched in an imitation of sake bag construction, the dress began from an offcut of fabric and several found T-shirts, which were cut apart and then re-formed. On the rack, merino knitwear is pieced together with French seams that create structural lines across the garment and allow it to be worn in many ways, sometimes teamed with silk in a juxtaposition of contrasting fabrics. A jumper has been formed through its partial destruction, the front section burnt and then “re-stitched obsessively”.
“Dyeing helps to integrate the pieces back together,” says Brooke, who uses shades of tea, soft and deep blue, blacks and greys. The dyeing process also brings its own surprises when working with second-hand garments where the exact mix of fibres is difficult to determine.
Accessories hang from the wall of her studio – long gloves, fabric strand earrings and a pleated collar that doubles as a headpiece. On the opposing wall are a selection of Brooke’s ink drawings. Drawing is a daily practice and part of her intention to retain and develop the overlap between her art and her garments.
New season skirts, jumpers, coats and wraps from Being are in NG. They are teamed with a window installation design by Brooke, a progression of earlier installations at the boutique. “There’s always a new idea – it’s got its own impetus,” she says.