Natalie B Coleman graduated with a degree in fashion from Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD) and an MA from Central St. Martins, London. She worked in the fashion industry for threeASFOUR; New York and Ragna Frodadottir; a textile designer in Iceland, before establishing her own womenswear label in 2011. With a background in strong narratives and quirky romance Natalie creates beautifully feminine contemporary pieces with special attention to fabric, finish and detail. Natalie is currently the course director and fashion design lecturer of the fashion department at LA College of Creative Arts, Dublin.
Second Skin Collaborators:
Textile Artist: Caroline Schofield, Digital Fabric Printing Company: The Silk Bureau, Pattern Drafter: Julie Tuohy, Sewing Technician: Audrone Jomantiene
Natalie B Coleman
“I was inspired by books from my childhood, ‘The Enchanted Wood’ series by Enid Blyton. I fell in love with the beautiful fragility of textile artist Caroline Schofield's work and her approach complimented the dark, whimsical fairytale aspects of the work. We used Caroline's embroidery techniques to create threaded vortexes that were then developed into digital printing patterns that look like lace tunnels on the silk organza.”
These are the first books I remember reading when I was about 6 or 7 and they threw me into a world full of escape, dreams and imagination. I learned important things for survival in growing up such as the secret of forgetting, what it would be like to live in the Land-Of-Do-As-You-Please, the Land-Of-Dreams, the Land-Of-Take-What-You-Want. I learned how to tune out and feed into these fantastical stories whenever I needed to. I always thought that books saved my life, that I could run away through the pages and travel into make-believe, it seemed more manageable to deal with the thought of eating muffins that turned into butterflies and climbing up into lands full of seagulls and secrets than dealing with being a child in an adult world. Through my research I came across the cult comic book V FOR VENDETTA, it references the Land-Of-Do-As-You-Please and captures the struggle of loss of freedom and identity in a totalitarian imagined future world but also the redemptive saving wonders of the human spirit. It led me to think about our human fragilities, in particular the fragility of childhood and when I came across the artist Caroline Schofield’s mesmerising work with textiles and crows, the idea for Second Skin started to come together in my head. We used Caroline's embroidery techniques to create threaded vortexes that were then developed into digital printing patterns that look like lace tunnels on the silk organza. The vortexes are symbols of the slides through the faraway tree from one world to another and I guess are indicative of the childhood to adult journey. The Silk Organza with the print and hand-drawn illustrations of the book’s characters are so light and faded; it is almost like peeping through curtains from one world to another.
"Eve: All this riot and uproar, V... is this Anarchy? Is this the Land of Do-As-You-Please?
V: No. This is only the land of Take-What-You-Want. Anarchy means "without leaders", not "without order". With anarchy comes an age or ordnung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order... this age of ordung will begin when the mad and incoherent cycle of verwirrung that these bulletins reveal has run its course... This is not anarchy, Eve. This is chaos.”
― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta
“Translating a story from a concept into a finished garment is very personal to me. I strongly believe if you hand this over to outside production the 'specialness' of the label can get lost. It is during the process that the magic happens and been able to work in a collaborative manner so closely even in terms of geography can make a lot of difference.”
Explain why you identified preferred manufacturing/ production collaborators?
I was part of an exhibition called Interlace with several other artists and that is where I was introduced to the work of the visual and textile artist Caroline Schofield, as soon as I saw her work; which is so fragile and beautiful with a strong intensity, I felt I identified with it. I really wanted to work with her and learn more about the process and thought practice that goes behind her work.
Audrey Jomantiene did the making for me, she is an excellent seamstress and she came highly recommended, she used to work with John Rocha. It is extremely difficult to find good sample machinists in Ireland, the skill set is just not available here. Julie has years in pattern making experience and I knew I could rely on her to be efficient and follow instruction.
Provide comparative analysis of relative costs for production in a.) Ireland and b.) Internationally:
a) If I was to produce this garment, keeping the digital printing process in the UK with the Silk Bureau and the making in Ireland: with the costing as detailed below the dress would retail for €3,210
b) If I was to use a different digital printer in Spain (the minimum is 300 metres) the fabric and print would be much cheaper. €24 per/metre including the quality. If I used the factory in Porto, Portugal then the making would again be much cheaper (dependent on minimums of 50 per style.)
The final retail price would then be €1,200.
Provide an analysis of the additional benefits relating to sustainable and ethical production, quality control, authenticity, country of origin, impact on target market and sales:
Making your garments in-house is so important when it comes to sampling or one off pieces, it means you have complete control. I normally make all the patterns and toiles myself in the studio as the designs change so much during this early stage of the process. For translating your concept into a finished garment it is very personal and I strongly believe if you hand over this to outside production the special element to the label gets lost. The downside is that it is more expensive and that you can price yourself out of the market place as it is a more expensive workforce here plus there are hardly any fabrics produced in Ireland any longer so courier costs and importation tax and VAT issues have to be considered. The benefits of having production in Ireland would be to have excellent quality control over the finished product and being on hand to make sure deliveries are met on time.
Challenges to production must be documented in respect of skills, costs, and access to materials:
The cost of sewing this garment and making up the pattern
Print dress : Made (Sew cut) 18h €288
Pattern Drafting: €100
Print development 20 hours: €500
Silk Spandex Crepe De Chine digital print: £88.35
Silk Organza: Digital Print: £152.80
Zip Buttons & Organza for facing: €15
When digital printing is involved, it is not possible to do it in Ireland as there is no Industry available here. It raises costs as it is dependent on the Euro against Sterling variables, also for courier costs with each delivery The Silk Bureau charge £30 for their courier. If you want to try to find cheaper printing it is dependent on minimums and the best and cheapest I have found that is still in central Europe has minimums of 300 metres. You also have to use the fabric that they have in stock as it goes through a special treatment before it can be digitally printed so this can sometimes be restricting to your product development.
Official photography by Rich Gilligan, production photography by Evelyn McNamara