Leeds School of Arts

Depicting Cultural Judaism in my fashion design work

BA(Hons) Fashion student Lottie Blankstone shares the inspiration behind her final year collection and excitement for presenting it as part of LEEDS 2023 at the RUN photoshoot and catwalk show.

Model wearing a white gown designed by Lottie Blankstone from Leeds Beckett University. Only shoulder, neck and torso visible.

The theme of my final year fashion collection has been informed by my own autoethnographic observations of the Jewish religion. It depicts ‘Cultural Judaism’, and how this strain is a celebration of the unity of the religion, without focus on religiousness. The focal point of the collection is drawn from my own personal reflections and how I relate to Judaism.

I have drawn inspiration from the white tablecloth which is the base dressing of the Shabbat table. The white tablecloth is something that has always had a feature on my family’s Shabbat table, and in Judaism the symbolism of ‘white’ correlates to the idea of purity. This aesthetic has been echoed through to my line-up: it is an all-white collection. I am using donated white tablecloths as final fabrics for the clothes, which ties in with our core ethic of prioritising sustainability, as well as adding a personal touch that has been extracted from my research.

Gender themes

Other symbolism that is crucial to my collection are the candlesticks, which are also featured on the Shabbat table, and the men’s white shirt. The white shirt can be seen as a typical uniform of the Jewish man – which I wanted to explore and deconstruct in the context of my commitment to creating genderless designs.

Making my collection genderless was a natural choice. I don’t see a reason for clothing to fit into a gender binary. I have always dressed and shopped in both ‘menswear’ and ‘womenswear’ sections, so that mentality is instinctively reflected in my designs. I’ve chosen the Jewish religion as inspiration behind my project, therefore a modern take on their Orthodox ideals of gender is an important point to make. A genderless collection is reflective of what I would wear but also what my friends would reach for.

Human-centred inspiration

My research was ignited by my summer adventures in 2022. I am a senior leader of a Jewish Youth Movement, Habonim Dror, and had again volunteered to lead their summer camp. Habonim Dror is a Socialist-Zionist, Culturally Jewish, Youth Movement. They have had a lot of influence as to how I identify with my Judaism, and it is something that I have been involved with since I was 13. To dedicate my final collection to something I’m so passionate about and that is a massive part of my identity was essential.

The summer continued with a trip to Budapest, a city that is rich with Jewish history, and to Israel, where saw an exhibition on ‘Jewish Art and Life’ at the Israel Museum. This exhibition gave me lots of primary resources for garments, shape and drape, to begin my initial research and development. The final part of the puzzle to completing my initial research, and perhaps the most important of all, the celebration of Shabbat and the symbolism of what elements create the completed Shabbat table.

At home, with my family, we celebrate Shabbat every Friday and have a special Shabbat dinner together. I wanted to encompass this in my final project as it is something very integral in my Jewish upbringing.

Presenting at the RUN shoot/show and working with Matty Bovan

I am extremely honoured and excited to be a part of RUN with LEEDS 2023. The fact that not only the public, but people from the fashion industry will get to see my work is something that I feel proud to be a part of.

RUN is our fashion programme in collaboration with LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The build up to the photoshoot on 4 April, and the catwalk show on 1 June is a driving force behind such an intense last couple of months and makes everything seem extremely worthwhile and thrilling.

Professor Matty Bovan has been an inspiration to us all. His advice is always welcomed as he spurs continuous creativity onto all of us. Without Matty, we wouldn’t be involved in something as incredible as RUN, so we are all very grateful that he is with us and has given us this opportunity and platform to present our work to the industry.

Next steps

My dream is to be a menswear designer in the fashion industry. I would also like to expand my knowledge into the footwear sector of the industry, as it is something I have always been fascinated by. My goal is to work my way up in the industry and continuously learn from those around me while building on the skills I’ve been developing as part of the Fashion course at Leeds Beckett.

RUN is an exciting line-up of events overseen by internationally acclaimed Yorkshire designer, and Leeds Beckett University Professor, Matty Bovan. RUN is a fashion-first for the city, and will debut the graduate collections of Leeds Beckett University’s Fashion Class of 2023, inviting the public as spectators in an immersive experience, brought to life by the creative talent and students from the university. To find out more about the events, follow @leedsbeckettofficial, @lbu_lsa and @leedsbeckettfashion on Instagram.

To find out more about studying Fashion at Leeds Beckett, please visit our website.

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