18 Aug From Renderings to the Runway: Wearable Drawings by Elvira ‘t Hart

Elvira ‘t Haris a fashion designer and illustrator from the Netherlands best known for her Wearable Drawings. Bringing her fashion-based sketches to life through laser cutting technology, she has had her work displayed in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and worn by icons such as Lady Gaga. We  talked to Elvira about her inspiration, process, and success behind this collection.

Describe your work and different series.
My work is best described as ‘Wearable Drawings’. In the different series I am exploring different executions or different ways to use the characteristics of drawing in wearable garments.

 Does your work reflect your personal style?
It does, I love making jackets and love wearing this type of jackets. However I barely get the chance to wear them. My outfits are very basic when I am at work, they shouldn’t be distracting. I often wear black or grey jeans, black shoes and a black t-shirt. Definitely a lot of black like in my work.

Although when people meet me however they seem surprised I am the designer, so perhaps my personal style is not reflecting my work enough. I have heard many times that they didn’t expect a girl like me behind this bold work. When I was showing my work at fashion fairs in Milan and Paris people ignored me, instead they started talking to my boyfriend I had brought with me, assuming he was the designer. It didn’t even matter I was wearing my own design.

What does your process look like?
Instead of using garment patterns I literally draw my garments, these sketches become my patterns and are cut with a laser cutter. The end result is a wearable drawing or a drawn garment.

 How did you get you get your start in design?
After my graduation in Fashion Design in 2011 I started working on my portfolio to enhance my chances on finding a job. I executed this idea of a ‘Drawn Jacket’ and people liked it so much I continued. Instead of finding a job I started my own company and am still working with this concept of ‘Wearable Drawings’.

 Where do you find inspiration for your drawings?
In everything around me. It often starts with a mood I am in or when I am listing to music and then I just start drawing.

You mentioned you started your ‘Wearable Drawings’ with the Drawn Jacket. Tell us more how you discovered the way to execute your original sketched design without compromise.
It indeed started with a drawing of a jacket that later became the Drawn Jacket.

The idea was to make this two dimensional drawing into a three dimensional garment. Instead of translating this sketch I wanted to execute that exact sketch. Keeping all the characteristics of the sketch. It was almost just the suggestion of a jacket, but this made it so attractive for me. Sketches don’t have to be finished to show what is depicted. I started developing this concept when I was still in my graduation year. At that time I didn’t get the chance to really explore all options. I was experimenting with enlarging drawings, printing them and cutting these out in fabric like normal patterns. This only worked for very thick lines and shapes with very little details and still the end result wasn’t exactly the same as the first drawing I had made. I looked for ways to cut more precisely and found out that a laser cutter was able to do everything I wanted. It made it possible to copy my drawings with all their details and even my exact signature. The first drawn jacket design was drawn by hand on paper, it took me 3 months to make this into a digital file suitable for a laser to cut.

What is the inspiration behind every piece you create?
Most of my work is based on the characteristics of drawing. However the general idea behind all my work is more about confusing people and optical illusions. Showing effects that you don’t expect garments to have.

How did it feel to have a celebrity like Lady Gaga wear your ‘Drawn Bra’ and to have your ‘Drawn Jacket’ featured in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston?
It is a huge compliment. Lady Gaga is an icon, it is surreal to see your work being worn by someone like her in such different context. My jacket being featured in MFA Boston was amazing, my work was standing next to some of my favorite designers: Issey Miyake, Hussein Chalayan, Viktor & Rolf.
I never started this work with any intention other than enhancing my portfolio and getting rid of an idea I had stuck in my mind for a long time… I am still amazed to see that my work is now living its own life, is being worn by other people and is visiting more places than I have been.

I am glad I had no idea because I am not that brave and would have been paralyzed by fear and self-criticism.

 What do you want people to take away from your work?
That they are inspired or confused whether it is a drawing or a real garment. I don’t want people to see my work only as art pieces. Ideally my drawn garments should be wearable, but also nice enough to hang on the wall like a real drawing.

What’s next?
I would love to share some news:
I made two outfits for the World of Wearable Art Awards show, New Zealand.
They invited me to join the competition two years ago, but due to circumstances I couldn’t complete my entry. This year I participated and my work is now selected for the finals!

It was a nice challenge to design something more extreme that works on a stage. I still have to find out whether I succeeded or not, but this definitely inspired me to explore this direction a bit more. I can’t share my entries yet, but they will be shown on stage in September.

Something else that is new: The Drawn Jackets as well as other garments can be ordered directly on my website! I have been making Drawn Jackets to order in custom sizes for clients for the past few years. People could only order by mail, but since very recently they can be ordered directly on my website and are still made to custom sizes.

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