Since graduating from BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Knit in 2015, alumna Josephine Cowell has continued to develop her distinctive feminine style as a designer and maker of luxury knitted pieces. Following her final BA collection, which was sponsored by French lace producer Sophie Hallette, she was awarded a full scholarship to study her postgraduate at The Royal College of Art. She has used this opportunity to combine complex and intricate techniques with a ‘knowable’ sense of immediacy to her work and vision from London College of Fashion. We spoke to Josephine this summer to find out how she is creating a new feminine aesthetic, working with LCF alumni and her plans after RCA.
Hey Josephine, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I create knitted textiles. Sometimes for a fine art context, usually for fashion. I also use a lot of styling and photography to build a mood around my collections.
When did you know you wanted to study and work in fashion…
When I was little I was a veracious drawer. I drew and painted every day, the main thing I drew was women in crazy outfits, lots of bows and bonnets, dresses made out of flowers and things like that. When I was a bit older, about 10, I customised my clothes and made my own weird accessories. Then I would have friends round and make them wear my creations and have ‘fashion shoots’ in my front room. I think I was quite bossy.
How would you describe your design style and aesthetic?
My aesthetic is formed through contrasts. I like to take the recognisable (through motif, texture, whatever) and recreate it with subtle elements of subversion knitted in. There’s always a tension between the elements that draw you in and then the element that pushes you away.
Does it match your personality…
Can you tell us about your final project at LCF and how your work has developed since?
My final project at LCF was called Wrapping and Exposure. It explored a desire to be wrapped up and covered, looking at themes around comfort and protection. These ideas were contrasted my looking at the catharsis of self-exposure, both physical exposure (of the body) and in terms of exposing oneself emotionally through artistic practice. The outcomes for this project were a range of tactile, fleshy, fury knitted pieces which could be applied to the body in different ways and were both inviting and slightly repulsive at the same time.
What inspires you to design and create?
I’m a heavily conceptual designer, I need to be exploring and questioning issues I feel strongly about to keep me stimulated. I’m interested in the framing of women and their bodies in society. The identities we are slapping onto women through the imagery that surrounds us. I want my designs to be critical and thought-provoking. Once I’ve started creating the textiles I become inspired by the materials and their potential. I’m a very technical maker, so innovation and creating new surfaces is my aim.
Congratulations on being awarded a full scholarship to The Royal College of Art. What projects have you been working on there?
While at RCA I’ve worked on several projects approaching themes around femininity in different ways. In my first year, I made resin, silicone and mohair boxes for an exhibition called No-Body. I also collaborated with another LCF alumni, Thomas Costello on a capsule range of fabrics and garments inspired by clashing motifs and textures and questioning the boundaries of taste. For my final major project, I produced a range of fabrics and garments based around the idea of creating a new feminine aesthetic.
You went to RCA directly after LCF, how has the transition been?
Quite tough actually, an MA is much more self-directed than a BA, so I had to get used to that.
Why do you love what you do?
Because I get such a sense of satisfaction when I create something new, something beautiful or something which I feel communicated effectively what I’m trying to say.
What are the three most important things you’ve learned since leaving LCF?
You are nearly finished your MA, have you got a plan for life after university yet?
I love every aspect of creating knitted textiles and garments, from research and mood building to development and production so I feel there are a few potential avenues. So working for a big designer, textile innovation, or something around trend and image creation are options. In my personal practice I’m keen to collaborate with people from different disciplines like ceramics, jewellery etc. because it’s exiting to see how textiles cab be applied alongside different practices.
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