Gina Pierce is a textile designer who produces her own range of fabrics and wallpapers for sale to interior designers, architects and the public. She is inspired by the history of particular locations, researching antique fabrics, old maps and building for imagery. In her own words, she says that her aim is to:

create beautiful and interesting designs inspired by people, places and stories from our recent histories. They can evoke memories of the past, reminders of events that may have been forgotten, and which can be celebrated and given new life. 

She is also teaches textile design at London Metropolitan University, where she encourages students to use traditional as well as new technologies in the belief that this will enhance their creative practice.

Fabric of the City (2015) 

In 2015, Gina invited fourteen leading East London-based textile and fashion designers to create original work in response to the rich heritage of the Huguenot silk weavers that made Spitalfields a leading textile centre in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The designers visited not only the V&A, but also the archives at the Museum of London, where curator Beatrice Behlen showed them the original Spitalfield Silks. 

spitalfield silks.jpg

One particularly exceptional example of the stunning designs created by the Huguenots for the very wealthiest in society is the Fanshawe Dress, which features their distinctive silver thread and lace. 

The Fanshawe Dress, 17th century, Spitalfield Silks collection, Museum of London

The Fanshawe Dress, 17th century, Spitalfield Silks collection, Museum of London

It is these features that served as a starting point for many of the designs featured in Fabric of the City, the exhibition curated by Gina Pierce at the Cass Gallery at London Metropolitan University in July 2015 . For example, Jane Bowler’s Copper Dress drew inspiration from the Huguenots' use of metallic thread. It was constructed by inter-weaving hand-cut plastic pieces with soft metallic strips, allowing the material to flow organically over the body of its wearer. Bowler’s fascination with material innovation, process and craftsmanship – practised by applying traditional techniques with a modern twist – mirrored the Huguenots’ inventive choice of materials and skilled craftsmanship.

Jane Bowler, Copper Dress, exhibited in Fabric of the City, Cass Gallery, July 2015.

Jane Bowler, Copper Dress, exhibited in Fabric of the City, Cass Gallery, July 2015.

 

Robin Archer from the House of Harlot showed this latex dress with a silhouette that resembles that of the 17th century Fanshawe dress. 

House of Harlot, It's Not Huguenot, exhibited in Fabric of the City, Cass Gallery, July 2015

House of Harlot, It's Not Huguenot, exhibited in Fabric of the City, Cass Gallery, July 2015

Karen Coughlan's Gin Drinking Gloves featured imagery based on the plants used in the manufacture of gin and Hogarth's Gin Lane etching, showing the unfortunate fate of babies of gin-drinking mothers.  Like the other two items, these handmade gloves with metal work embroidery were inspired by the Fanshawe dress on view at the Museum of London.

Karen Coughlan, Gin Drinking Gloves, exhibited in Fabric of the City, Cass Gallery, July 2015

Karen Coughlan, Gin Drinking Gloves, exhibited in Fabric of the City, Cass Gallery, July 2015

During the exhibition, Gina commented:

“It’s surprising how few people have heard of the Huguenots, as their influence on craft and design was incredibly widespread, with the legacy of the weavers in Spitalfields having a lasting effect on the local textile industry. This exhibition highlights the creativity of designers who still thrive in the city, continuing the tradition of working with fabric and fashion in the Spitalfields area.’’

Gina's own contribution to the exhibition was a rug that featured an abstract landscape inspired by fabrics found at the Museum of London and the V&A's Clothworkers Archive. These stunned her with their intensity of colour, riot of pattern and incorporation of precious metals. But she was also motivated by the wish to understand the Huguenots' working processes. While she was inspired by the intricacies of their weaving techniques, what she really wanted to know was how the underside looked - something that was only possible by seeing the garments up close in the archives rather than on display in a museum.

Sources

http://myfashionconnectglobal.blogspot.co.uk/p/fabric-of-city-exhibition-cass.html, accessed 25 July 2016.

The Back Story: The Fabric of the City Exhibition, http://thefabricofthecity.org/menu/, accessed 25 July 2016.

The Fabric of the City: a major new textile exhibition at the Cass, http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/news/news-stories/university-news-2015/july-/fabric-of-the-city-/, accessed 25 July 2016.