Textiles as Wearable Art

Photography courtesy of Ian Sheh - see full credits at bottom

This article I could write in my sleep.  Of the eight years Katherine Soucie has been working as a designer and textile artist, I have known her for over five.  I have written several articles on this amazingly talented individual and have a deep-seated admiration for what she is working to accomplish as designer, artist and socially conscious human being.  It is about so much more than just creating garments to wear.  It is about sustainability, individuality and changing how we view fashion. 

Her collection is called Sans Soucie - without a care.  The first time I heard this it took me a minute to absorb as each piece is very labour intensive to make.   They are, however, effortless in appearance and easy to wear, pack and care for. I have always felt these garments were best shown on dress forms as they were designed with a woman's body in mind rather than hanger appeal.  How many times have you seen something that looked great in the store, but when you put it on it just didn't do anything for you.  Sans Soucie garments are meant to be brought alive by a women's curves so the reverse it true.  You have to take it off the hanger and put it on.  Best of all - your body doesn't have to conform to the shape of the garment, the garment adapts to your shape.  Do I hear a hallelujah?

Soucie was studying textiles at Capilano University when she became aware of the vast amount of waste in the fashion industry and felt her focus as a designer should be to bring about change.  It was the development of a process to stabilize nylons (that's right - women's hosiery) into a usable fabric that led to her current work. “I was given the ability to create my materials from scratch! This gave me complete creative control and allowed me the opportunity to develop something from fabric to finished product.”  She purchases nylons destined for the land fill.  The fabric is stabilized, dyed, silk screened, sewn into basic blocks and then created one at a time on dress forms using straight pins and a pair of scissors.  The palette in each series comes from her life experiences at the time.  Low moments might create a black and white series, while joyful times might bring energetic colour.  The inspiration for a collection's silk screen design can come from a wide range - barbed wire, structures viewed under a microscope, art, etc. 
True to her desire to influence the industry, she does not release a S/S and a F/W line each year (plus holiday and resort wear). A new collection is released about three times a year as a limited run art series because for Soucie, "...fashion is art. In it we find our sense of individuality being expressed...”  As this is a waste product that constantly varies, each series is dictated by what she has available at the time of creation.  “One series I put out may just be dresses because that's what I can produce from the material.  Another might be all interior pieces - blankets and throws.”  She also uses every scrap of fabric so there is no waste.  

Change is also a natural part of Soucie's growth as an artist.  While a Sans Soucie garment is always recognizable, new ideas are constantly being incorporated.  Last year saw a new flow and energy in the collection as she integrated a revolutionary drafting concept, Subtraction Cutting, learned at a workshop by the inventor, renown British fashion designer Julian Roberts. Studies at Emily Carr University on embroidery as a construction technique created a new textural element.   Once a Sans Soucie garment is produced, the designer works hard to make sure it doesn't end up in a land fill.  If your body has changed or if the garment has worn out, she will take it back and find a way to use the fabric to make a fresh creation for your wardrobe. 

Katherine Soucie has moved into the international arena with an invitation to show at Esthetica in London Fashion Week and an internship in Germany.  Her growing influence was also brought home with the inclusion of eight of her designs in new coffee table book titled 1000 Artisan Textiles.  The coming year will see her immersed in work on a study grant, developing workshops, student mentoring, and charity commitments, but the direction she is most excited about is developing collaborations with other artists.  This is here where she thinks the potential for some really amazing new work lies.

For more information on Katherine Soucie and the Sans Soucie line please visit her website at /www.sanssoucie.ca.  To read previous articles in Vancouver Fashion eZine go to - 
Nov. 2007 - http://vancouverfashionezine.com/magazineissue03/fashiondesigner01.html
Photography credits
Photography - Ian Sheh
Hair - Victoria Kuzma
Make up - Kelly He
Model - Olga Glughovska
Accessories - Bronsino Design
Jewelry - CrowBooty
Shoes - Nika Design