andrea short’s clothes are inspired by grief and childhood

Following the death of her father, the New Zealand designer began trying to create clothes that provided her fragile memories with a physical presence.

by Shannon May Powell
10 April 2017, 1:40am

For New Zealand designer Andrea Short, clothes are a way to lend physicality to memories. Through construction, she plucks flickers of her past and spins them into a product she can hold onto. While recollections fade and warp, clothes can be protected. They aren't quite so vulnerable to time. When her father passed away last year, she found her memories became especially precious. To navigate her grief she created Klexos, her honours collection. It was a way to set her own past in amber, or rather fabric, by focusing on shapes and styles she remembers from her childhood. The result is a delicate collection, deliberately reflective of her own fragility, that mixes the sweetness of the past with the tenderness of the present. We spoke to her about the catharsis of construction.

The title of this collection, Klexos, references klecksography, the art of making images from inkblots, which is used in psychoanalytic tests. How did that become a point of reference for you?
I discovered the word while I was researching John Koenig, who is the creator of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. He defines Klexos as "the art of dwelling on the past," and explains how our lives are written in indelible ink, how we cannot change the things that happen to us but rather how we can use questioning to enrich an experience — with a hope to bring new beauty and meaning to tragedy. I found his explanation captured the underlying themes of my collection.

How so?
On the 18th of March 2016 my father passed away quietly at our family home. It had been a busy week for me leading up to my first year showing at the Dunedin fashion show. I had only been able to visit him that afternoon for a brief moment. After I heard what had happened, I felt vulnerable, confused, and longing became a common feeling. I wanted to capture this essence within my collection, by bringing the wearer and viewer back to a sense of childhood. 

You've mentioned the collection was born from the desire to keep memories alive, what were you specifically trying to hold onto here?
Reflecting on my childhood helps me to stay connected to the memories with my father. We all have a fear of forgetting details of our past. Throughout all my collections I've aimed to capture these fragments and develop them into pieces of art.

How do you go about imbuing inanimate objects like clothing with these memories and moments?
I believe clothing can evoke feelings of nostalgia, and can connect people to their own past. I have achieved this by recreating silhouettes and simple shapes, which resemble an item of clothing I might have worn during my childhood. I wanted to create a transparent collection of garments that revealed the wearer to the audience. I chose to juxtapose the feeling of innocence portrayed by the clothing, against the human body. During the early stages of grief, I felt as though everyone around me could see through the appearance I presented. I wanted to capture this sense of vulnerability.

Did designing this collection help you to process your grief?
Klexos was created for an honours project, alongside my collection I wrote an auto ethnographic- dissertation. My dissertation was a curation of journal entries I had kept after my father's death. Nothing felt real and every moment seemed to slip away. Being able to look back and reflect on the thoughts and emotions I had experienced was a great way to bring a creative approach to an often, isolating experience.

This journey has been about letting myself feel emotions as they come, rather than shrugging them off. I think I cried more the closer I came to the conclusion, because it was such a meaningful collection of garments, I felt like another chapter of my life was ending. When I am designing I often put my whole self into the process, it can be quite draining, but also emotionally cleansing.

Do you feel that these themes will come up again consistently in your next collection or are you planning to explore other themes?
I believe the themes of childhood and retrospection will always be a part of my work. I enjoy the feeling of being emotionally engaged, but I hope my next collection will have a brighter underbelly.



Text Shannon May Powell
Photography Ruby Harris

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