BA (Hons) Fashion
Ellen Price / Fashion
The concept for this collection came to me when I was looking at all the different parts of my life that were seemingly very separate. On one hand I was about to enter my final year studying fashion, a subject I love and am passionate about. On the other hand I was volunteering in Holbeck for a local charity that support women who are caught in life crippling addictions, many who have turned to street prostitution to support their habit. As well as volunteering in Holbeck I was also living there, right on the edge of the managed approach. I moved to Holbeck to become part of the community; to live in a place where I could invest in people and walk life alongside them in both the joys and the struggles. The different segments of my life seemed separate, like they didn’t fit together. How could support work and fashion, work together? How could living in one of Leeds’ most deprived areas work alongside the glitz and glamour that fashion promotes? I decided to see how I could use my love of fashion to influence my other passions for good. How could I use my fashion practice to care for people like the ladies I support, and hopefully through them to ultimately influence the area that I live in?
Throughout my time at Leeds Beckett, I have always held a firm ethos that all fashion should be fair, ethical, and sustainable, and have tried to reflect this ethos in all of my projects. By using only organic and sustainable materials in this collection, I am taking a stand against unnecessary chemicals that are damaging both our bodies and our earth. By recycling damaged scarves and using them as a main body of fabric, I have explored the idea of what would happen if we took something that society views as undesirable, and chose to invest in it? By taking time to value and invest into the undesirable thing, then what was once seen as trash is now transformed into treasure. And if we can do this with scarves - why can’t we do it with people?
Through my time supporting addicts I have become very aware of the different street names for various drugs. When on placement going through the dye swatch book, I discovered there were many pantone colours that have names which could be linked back to various different drugs. For example, the Pantone colour “Purple Haze” is a beautiful lilac/blue in tone, whilst also being synonymous with a strain of cannabis by the same name. I found so many of these references that I decided to use them as my colour pallet using this as a starting point when sourcing ethical and sustainable fabrics that matched with the earthy tones. The print design that can be found repeated throughout this collection stems from my research into the emotional turmoil of being trapped in addiction – reflecting the caged, imprisoned feeling that many people who struggle with drug abuse describe.
The silhouettes in this collection aim to blend and merge the divide between social classes in our society. Whilst researching addiction, I became very aware of the stereotypes and stigma that surrounded drug misuse. It is often found that when society think about someone struggling with substance addiction, they think of a person who is unkept, living in squalor and often homeless. In reality this can often be the furthest from the truth – there are many “high functioning addicts” in our communities that struggle from the same substance abuse but manage to live a functional, and from the outside “normal” life. These stereotypes can not only be degrading and damaging to the most vulnerable in our society, but they can also harm the high functioning addict as this viewpoint can make it harder for the high functioning addict to recognise their problem and get early professional help. This lead me to deconstruct professional and tailored pieces, synonymous with bankers who work on Wall Street (a place famous for its high functioning drugs misuse) - and to distort and mix these pieces combining them with every day casual wear, with the aim to break down social barriers and to make this collection accessible to all.
I believe that the true remedy to addiction is deep connections and a supportive community, clothes cannot provide that – only people can. Saying this, I truly do believe that fashion can be used as a tool to spread awareness, funds, employability, and hope. But not without people stepping outside of their comfort zones and opening conversations that they might normally avoid. I know I plan to use my skills in any way that I can to deepen connections and draw people into community, and I hope my collection inspires others to do the same.