Costume designer Verity Hawkes shares sketches and the creative journey behind the fashion-forward new campaign from The&Partnership with LBB’s Laura Swinton
When UK store Argos wanted to promote their line of homeware, they turned to the fashion world to create a surreal catwalk-inspired campaign. Launching today, the campaign was devised by The&Partnership, with added flair from directing collective Traktor.
But what’s a fashion show without a collection? Stitching the whole campaign together is an elaborate wardrobe of outfits whipped up using Argos’ furniture, crockery and home accessories. Costume designer Verity Hawkes had her work cut out for her. While the maximalist campaign is rooted in an arch sense of humour, the collection had to be authentic to the kinds of creations one would see during fashion week.
“We wanted all of them to be stylish; I especially didn’t want them to fall into the ‘extreme almost ridiculous’ that some collections have,” explains Verity. “They all had to feel cool and wearable, but they also had to have a joy to them like the plate dress or the umbrella dress - a nod to Comme des Garçons. For it work as a concept, you had to believe all of the looks could be sent down a real runway.”
The process of developing the collection began with a session at the studio of producer Nick Landon, where Verity and the team got hands on and playful. “We played with products putting them on our heads, backs and so on; seeing what could be achieved depending on size and weight of objects and their suitability to transform into fashion,” she says.
The early stages of the design process was a group effort. Traktor’s Patrik von Krusenstjerna, Nick Foley-Oates the production designer, Nick Landon the producer, creative director Danny Hunt and the The&Partnership creatives all mucked in to generate ideas. After that Verity went off to create designs would work with the products to create a complete look.
Throughout the process, Verity says that the spirit of collaboration was strong. “What is fabulous about TRAKTOR and Patrik is that it’s always a collaboration, and that there is also always freedom to exchange ideas and find the best possible solutions,” she says. “Working with them is a joyous process that allows much creativity.”
Verity drew inspiration from the aforementioned Comme des Garçons, but also the likes of APC and Celine – and for the striking yet simple silhouettes she looked to Japan. Another important factor was colour – in order to inspire a sense of cohesion and give them impression that the whole spot was part of one singular collection, the designs had to fit a defined colour palette.
The costumes themselves were constructed in Romania with a team of makers who worked alongside Verity and her assistant Cat Ladd. “We tweaked and adjusted the looks as we went along, finding out what worked and what didn’t,” says Verity. “There were quite a few prototypes before we got to the final finished garments.”
Along the way there were severable technical challenges to be overcome, not least making the collection wearable for the models. Some of the heavier, bulkier products required some clever harnessing and hidden engineering to make them work. There were some smart workarounds too. The plates, for instance, were too heavy to construct an entire dress. Instead, they printed the designs on paper plates to match the real ones allowing them to use as many plates as they needed to make the dress. Equally, the the hose pipe was also too heavy and the wrong gauge to register on camera, so they recreated the appearance of a hose by painting insulation pipe.
Ultimately, though, what really made the collection work were the models, says Verity. “The models were definitely instrumental in making this a successful commercial. They were real troopers who totally got into the idea. Working every look effortlessly, no matter how restricted their view, or how heavy the dress or chair.”