A unique handmade dress created by a group of young Dundee parents has gone on display at V&A Dundee today (Friday 20 November).
Five students from Dundee charity Front Lounge, who are currently working towards the Kindred Clothing SQA customised award qualification, have spent the last six weeks learning new sewing and embroidery skills with V&A Dundee’s practising textile designers to create the 1960s style sustainable dress.
The hand-embroidered dress, unveiled by three of its creators Kayleigh Mitchell (21), Cerrys Duke (20) and Hannah Watson (21), can now be viewed as part of Sewing Box for the Future, a free exhibition which highlights how teaching care, repair and customisation skills can help address the crisis of waste in the fashion industry. The exhibition complements Mary Quant, the first international retrospective on the iconic British designer, which runs until 17 January 2021.
Kindred Clothing, run by Front Lounge, takes learners through the key stages of the garment production process, while teaching practical fashion photography skills and techniques to present themselves, their stories and their clothes.
Each element of the course is delivered by an experienced maker, with learners presenting a portfolio of their work at the end of the course. What makes Kindred Clothing unique is that it has childcare built into every aspect of it, allowing parents with young children to get involved.
The Stitch-School dress was created by Kayleigh Mitchell, Cerrys Duke, Chelsea French, Hannah Watson and Chelsie Bruce, with contributions from Jacqueline Goodall and Kayleigh Innes (Hope Hub artists) and Sarah Allan and Gary Inglis (second year Community Education students on placement with Front Lounge) over the course of six weeks in The Thomson Learning Centre with support from practising textile designers Kirstie Campbell and Syrah Jay and V&A Dundee’s Learning team.
Cerrys Duke said: “I started Kindred Clothing because I wanted to sew clothes for myself and my daughter but I didn’t realise it could take me this far. It’s been brilliant and I’m so grateful to have all these extra opportunities, not just learning to sew and making friends but meeting new people, working towards a qualification and now this!
“The V&A Dundee experience really has been fantastic. It was particularly good just using our imagination with colours, fabrics and embellishments, rather than following set rules. I never thought we’d get to make a dress that would go on public display within V&A Dundee and I can’t wait to see where it all takes me – I just want to gain even more experience and enjoy what happens next.”
Syrah Jay, textile designer from V&A Dundee’s Learning team, said: “Having worked together with the young people from Kindred Clothing over the course of ten workshops, it’s really amazing to see their wonderful dress included in the exhibition and celebrate their hard work and achievements.
“We focused on skill sharing and passing on the skills we’ve learnt over the years to the group - beginning with a range of more traditional hand embroidery stitches like French knots, chain stitch, running stitch, seed stitch and then moving on to more experimental approaches with applique, sequins, needle felting, needle punching and the application of iron-on vinyls with PVC and flock finishes in a nod to Mary Quant. We really encouraged the group to explore their creative instincts within the framework of a design brief where they were both supported and challenged. To hear that everyone involved has had a positive experience and benefited from being able to meet regularly at V&A Dundee is absolutely brilliant.”
Camilla Plekker, Chair of Front Lounge, added: “This collaboration with V&A Dundee is a prime example of what can be achieved by taking part in the Kindred Clothing course. The learners, many of whom had never sewn on a button before, deserve huge praise for their dedication and resilience. Seeing their dress come together and now form part of such a prestigious exhibition makes me extremely proud. They’ve essentially created a living part of Dundee’s history in just a few weeks!
“As Kindred Clothing evolves, we hope to provide our learners with access to an even broader range of opportunities, from training and work experience to employment. By capturing and cultivating this fresh, young talent, right here on our doorstep, we can also provide a ready-made labour force to local designers, meeting their needs and contributing to the local economy.”
Dr Jen Ballie, Design for Business Research Manager at V&A Dundee, said: “It’s fantastic to see this inspiring Stitch-School dress embellished in such a magnificent way by Kindred Clothing. The Kindred Clothing group have demonstrated that by learning new skills it is possible to love fashion and update your wardrobe in a sustainable, responsible way.
“I am so happy this beautiful piece of design created by talented young people here in Dundee will now be seen by hundreds more people and hopefully inspire others to make a small change too.”
For more information, visit http://www.kindredclothing.org/ or https://www.vam.ac.uk/dundee
Photo credit: Julie Howden