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Design duo Cunnington & Sanderson play in their latest collection with different dimensions and layers, creating through optical illusions innovative shapes and silhouettes.

Text by Anna Battista

In literature and in poetry in particular, the technique of ellipsis – that is the omission of words – is often used to raise expectations and create suspense. Matthew Cunnington & John Sanderson moved from the same principle for their new collection. Entitled “Omitted”, the collection – focused on a bright palette comprising white, nude and blue hues – is based on experiments with minimalist geometric shapes, origami-like folds and draped fabric effects that help giving an impression of movement and generating optical illusions and alternative perspectives within the garments via positive and negative spaces created around the wearer.

Zoot Magazine: What’s the story behind the “Omitted” collection?
Matthew Cunnington & John Sanderson:
This collection transports us to a mystical world where the garments appear to have created their own structure. Geometric shapes of fabric are broken up and re-assembled, turning them inside out and upside down. Origami folds, free flowing draped
fabric and inverted pleats are used to create movement and positive and negative spaces around the wearer, giving the impression that the garment created itself. The perspective also changes if you look at the garments from different angles distorting their appearance as if you were peering
through broken mirrors, but allowing you at the same time to see the constructions and details from all angles. On first appearance the collection looks harmonious, but, on closer inspection, you notice that not everything is as expected.

Zoot Magazine: What kind of construction techniques did you work with in the new collections?
We combined different types of construction techniques, including origami folding to create 3-D effects and cutting away shapes within the fabric and then repositioning the cut out elements to give a sense of movement.
JS: We tried to transform the structures to change the perspective of the designs. For example spiral laser cuts open up allowing hidden layers underneath to become visible, the weight of the leather is re-positioned to create tension, shifting the whole surface forwards and away from the wearer to form a 3-D illusion. This effect is accentuated by moving the seam lines backwards and out of view.

Zoot Magazine: Which materials did you use?
MC & JS:
Fine crinkled leather, which has been laser cut and combined with nude silk organdie, which is transparent in appearance but is also rigid, so it offers the proper structure. Silk georgette and crêpe de chine enhance instead the draped features within our work and we employed bright
white, hand-woven wool with a lacquered treatment for jackets and dress coats. Stone colour cottons evoke instead the appearance of statues.

Zoot Magazine: Are you ever inspired by sculptures in your work?
In a way we are. I like to develop our ideas directly upon the mannequin and attempt to create a garment that comes to life in front of our eyes. Changing the chosen fabrics with techniques such as draping, twisting, cutting and repositioning shapes on the stand and this process gives us a sense of sculpting and freedom.
JS: I am interested by the endless possibilities that are achievable by this process and the way sculpture can ignite people’s imagination.

Zoot Magazine: You were inspired in some of your current designs by artists such as Francis Bacon, Anselm Kiefer and Rachel Whiteread: do you feel that getting inspiration from art or collaborating with an artist can help fashion designers to bring their work to another level?
MC & JS: We admire many artists and their achievements and enjoy working with people in different fields to try and develop and share ideas. Working together with photographers and stylists
can definitely lead you to great results.

Zoot Magazine: In which way does this collection push your designs forward?
MC & JS:
We are constantly learning from our previous work, gaining knowledge and skills, but in this collection we challenged ourselves designing with fabrics that we have not previously used before to understand their possibilities, developing further pattern cutting and draping techniques
and adding an experimental edge to our work.

Zoot Magazine: Do you feel this collection represents a change in mood compared to the previous one?
Yes, definitely. Our world is not completely black and in this collection we wanted to use
colour to tell a new story that could highlight strong emotions.
JS: This collection has a much lighter, and more feminine outlook, with the introduction of a more serene colour palette. The bright white, nude and blue hues have been used to create a whimsical and more optimistic atmosphere. These characteristics are combined with sharper folds, crisp lines
and ridges to represent a hidden strength within the collection.

Zoot Magazine: How did you feel about being among the finalists of last year’s Mango Fashion Awards and will you be exhibiting this collection in any galleries in the next few months?
MC & JS: We are grateful to have been recognised by such a prestigious award and to have been selected as a finalist. This has given us the opportunity to introduce our work to a wider audience. We were fortunate to exhibit on the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona. No further exhibits are planned at present but we would love to showcase the “Omitted” collection again in a museum or gallery.

Zoot Magazine: If you had to choose a female muse who may represent the essence of your designs, who would you choose?
MC & JS:
Guinevere Van Seenus for her beauty.

Photography: Amira Fritz; Model: Caroline Schrodl; Hair & Make up: Benjamin Mayer.

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