The Arts Interview: Michelle Woong

Fashion designer with a creative fascination for ‘the unnoticed independence of women’

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

The Arts Interview: Michelle Woong

Fashion designer Michelle Woong

Born in Malaysia, I moved with my family to Ireland and attended both Loreto Primary School in Gorey, Co Wexford and later Carlow Vocational School.

I first became interested in knitting and crochet when I was younger after coming across it as an activity both at primary and secondary school level. However, I also grew-up in a creative household with my brother studying digital animation production at college, and supportive parents who enjoyed woodwork and baking in their spare time.

Currently, I am mainly focused on knitwear, creating designs from textile ‘swatches’ while exploring and combining various techniques from knitting and crochet.

I then use these alongside printed textiles. A good understanding of skill/craft, creativity, interest, and patience, is essential to the process of developing a fashion orientated collection. That said, there is more to knitwear than just a jumper! Technique develops with time and the cultivation of new identities. For example, growing-up I loved knitting as a hobby while at home but was fortunate enough to pursue it as a career option when I chose to study at Limerick School of Art and Design. What was most attractive about this move for me was that the college offered a specific course in knitwear and textile design.

At LSAD, I was given opportunities in the ‘real-world’ of work when I interned with both Ka Wa Key, a menswear knitwear designer in London, and Katie Hanlan a knitwear designer in Dublin.

Studying fashion, knitwear, and textile design, taught me an appreciation of the craft and this strengthened my passion to work in the sector eventually. However, I am also grateful to my tutors who taught me technical and digital skills and encouraged me to develop a great interest in creative knitwear. The course also showed me that the textile and knitwear industry is a progressive and advancing sector both internationally (and locally here in Ireland).

My graduate show, entitled ‘Her Morning Elegance’, is a reflection upon the unnoticed independence of women throughout their daily lives.

Challenging the concept of romanticism, it looks at female empowerment while celebrating feminine vulnerability. Overall, this collection was fundamentally made on the domestic knitting machine along with printed textiles. It used lace eyelets, Stitches with mohair, and tape yarn, together with the original designed prints drawn from my own childhood garments. These were then printed onto fabrics like chiffon and georgette. Inspired by a traditional technique called ‘hairpin crochet’, I manipulated the basic construction by developing and adapting it from the original crochet into knitting.

The title of this collection was initially inspired by a song by Oren Lavie entitled; ‘Her Morning Elegance’, together with influences adapted from nightwear.

The emotions gleaned from these influences evoke in the viewer and wearer an appreciation for both the end and the beginning of a day. The collection focuses on the relatively unnoticed independence of women over the course of their daily lives. The resulting outfits are delicate, romantic, intimate and also formidable. They demonstrate independence of mind and body.

In the foreseeable future, I would love to pursue an MA in knitwear and ultimately see myself in creative knitwear or textile design.

Here I would master textile techniques as a craft while also exploring the value of traditional and creative textiles. Currently, in order to maintain my practice, I am focused on knitwear, creating designs from textile ‘swatches’, which are small examples of fabric demonstrating the look and feel of a completed garment. I thoroughly enjoy the process of exploring and combining various techniques like knitting and crochet alongside printed textiles. A good understanding of craft skill, creativity, interest, and patience, is essential to the process of developing a fashion orientated collection. My inspirations mostly come from personal experience, and cultural appreciation. My designs usually develop in my sketchbook after I have ‘swatched’ my textiles. However, I am drawn to all kinds of textile techniques, currently developing new ‘swatches’ to explore such possibilities. For me, traditional skills are even more exciting when supported by new perspectives in innovative and creativity. Craft technique develops with time and cultivates new identities for itself, by reinventing and preserving its existence in forms that we value real-time.

For more information about Michelle’s work please visit www.instagram.com/ michelle.woongtextiles
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