Inspired by the iconic shapes in the sportswear classic, the rugby shirt imitates the blocked elements of multi coloured rugby jerseys.
The blocked pattern pieces allow for the design to include and up-cycle cotton from a variety of shirts. The design changes with every colour palette applied depending on second hand shirt supply.
A core to my practice as a sustainable designer is to re-use and up-cycle materials which is why a large part of my current work focusses on shirting. A universal everyday garment that forms the basis for every outfit and situation. Through a playful approach I adopt a variety of colour palettes to combine shirting found in charity shops and online to create newly expressive pieces.
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22nd March 2020
As the central piece to a menswear outfit the shirt can make or break a look. It can uplift or ruin a suit and is the central element of expression in an otherwise limited menswear look.
Many use finishing ribbons and contrast coloured buttons to uplift a white shirt. Others contrast the weave of their suit with a check or stripe. Casually, shirts also define a mans look, whether it is Hawaiian or a pastel patterned linen shirt in summer or a heavily checked dark flannel shirt in winter. They define an outfit and put the neutrally coloured trousers, jumpers and jackets they are worn with in a completely different light.
As such I have been captured by shirts and shirt making from the beginning of my progression as a menswear designer. It was also the first garment I properly learned to sew at uni and I was so delighted with learning the finishes and exploring the options for seaming up the thin cotton. There is something about the confinement of a highly practical and wearable shirt that really churns my design process.
Looking at men’s street style and the amount of sports jerseys worn in everyday outfits, I was inspired by sports shapes to inform my more formal shirt designs too. Combined with my love for discovering and combining vibrant patterns in charity shops I used the shapes I saw in Jockey and rugby tops to adapt my pattern cutting to be applicable to the limited space I can get out of pre-existing shirts to effectively up-cycle them.
Always drawn to the mens shirting rail in a charity shop I love finding absolute treasures of colour, pattern and quality among the unwanted clothes to then make something with reinstated value. But the true treasures are hidden in the back. Through my collaborations with Oxfams in Dublin and Düsseldorf I saw how many shirts are donated but can’t go onto the shop floor as the cuffs and collars are too worn while there is a lot of fabric in the body and sleeves that is often wasted once a shirt is declared unwearable.
Considering the great environmental impact of cotton production I find it the more important to up-cycle and extend the value and lifetime of these textiles.
So that is the story behind my obsession with making shirts. In these times I am grateful for having the skill and find it very therapeutic to climb down into my swimming pool studio and go through the process of selecting colours and patterns, disassembling shirts and sewing them into new designs. It’s a very wholesome approach to clothes making and I hope that when times change and we are all busy again I can uphold this slow and custom approach to shirt making.
Due to social distancing I will start illustrating the designs for you to see as photography with models is sadly near impossible now. See below a gouache and water colour illustration of the Jockey shirt.