By Susana Hernández
Josie Robinson cherishes fine craft. She uses traditional Japanese textile-design techniques as a way to reconnect to the past and reject fast fashion. Eterna reincorporates these traditional techniques into a contemporary aesthetic and allows the wearer to express their unique creative identity.
Eterna creates art inspired heirloom pieces that are designed with the hope of being cherished for a lifetime. All of the pieces are one-of-a-kind and hand-dyed using only plant dyes of indigo, madder, turmeric, and pomegranate. These give them a unique, organic colour palette. The dyes wear and change with time so that the pieces have a fluid ever-changing identity.
Robinson employs traditional Japanese textile-dyeing techniques of shibori and itajime. As the creator of Eterna, Josie Robinson believes that slow fashion is going to become increasingly important in our world of mass production.
Eterna will be unveiled at 2018 The Show presented by Tamoda Apparel Inc., on April 19 and 20 at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) new purpose-built Wilson School of Design building. The beautiful and innovative $36-million building houses a range of design programs including the fashion-design-and-technology program. Thirty-one other lines by KPU fashion design and technology students will also be showcased.
Susana Hernández: Who or what was the inspiration behind your line?
Josie Robinson: When I travelled across Europe, I became inspired by traditional craft and architecture. I looked at things like Portuguese tiles, French tapestries, and German masonry. It made me realize that I have always been interested in understanding the process behind creative work. In addition, I found that travelling helps garner a greater understanding of one’s own culture at home.
I also look to my family values. We always had what we needed when I was a kid, but sometimes if I wanted something fancier, I had to get creative. So being able to make my own clothes became an exciting creative outlet that also had a functional benefit. I became a designer because I enjoyed making things so much. I feel that is why my collection is so process-driven and defined by its materials.
SH: Walk me through your creative process.
JR: It really has to start with materials; I have always been very tactile. I love to see what fabrics I am working with, so that I can understand what the fabrics are capable of and what I can construct from them. From there, I usually turn to my outside world. I start to look to visual arts, architecture music, and science. This is the stage that I would call "idea hoarding". I tend to gather information that is a different perspective from my own design world. I find this is crucial as a design creative so that you acknowledge underserved problems and become open to new solutions for them.
From there I move to sketching and visual ideation. This is the stage that I would call "idea outburst". This is where you start to put out all of your ideas—good or bad—in order to understand all possible outcomes. For me, this means sketching, mind-mapping, and colour work. I usually start to plan my colour groups, like grouping warm and cool colours together, and deciding what colours will transition in between.
After I do this, I have to refine. I usually copy my sketches and then cut them up to make merchandise mixes, so I can decide what the collection will look like on the sales floor.
This creative process then moves to production. I drape many of my designs on a mannequin, and some I draft in CAD software. From there, it is necessary to start making samples and prototypes so I can decide how I will tangibly execute and replicate the garments.
SH: What word best encapsulates you as a designer?
JR: Heirloom. This word is important to me because it is in direct contrast to what fast fashion demands of consumers. The world of cheap fashion demands that we consume clothes rapidly and then dispose of them just as quickly. Eterna makes clothes that a person can wear and cherish for a lifetime.
SH: What aspect of design are you most passionate about?
JR: I love conceptual work. I like to gather ideas and identify problems. The most exciting stage in my process is the stage of "idea output". This is the stage where anything is possible and I am at the height of my ability to create. This type of work is very foundation level, but it is also very crucial. When you have a strong concept, you have empathy for your customer. Empathy is crucial in creating useful products for your customer. Without this empathy, one is just making things without a cause. Making things without a cause creates excess, which in turn creates waste.
In production, I really enjoy working with the natural dyes because they cannot be rushed. That slowing down is increasingly rare in a fast, technology-driven world. There is a sense that you are releasing control into the hands of the textile. You can plan all you want, but you will always get a unique result. This unique result always excites me.
SH: Who is your style icon?
JR: It is common for people to expect fashion designers to have very high-profile role models or a very glamourous introduction to the world of fashion. The truth is, most of my biggest fashion influencers came from very ordinary things. When I was a child, I looked up to people from my favorite shows like Hllary Duff from Lizzie McGuire or Raven Symone from That’s So Raven.
Susana Hernández is a graduating student at the Wilson School of Design.