A look into MFA degree work by designer Saina Koohnavard.
What is your intended message for this collection?
I’m in general interested in projects that engage the viewer. Fashion design tends to do that in different ways, sometimes triggering stimuli to a certain crowd or niche. But the intention of Made You Look is to be able to engage any viewer. The collection explores laws of Gestalt psychology to investigate figure versus ground. Since human perception is governed by visual dominance the collection experiments with our mind’s categorical system that decides what we perceive, in turn focusing on what layers, colors, opacity and transparency can do to interfere with that system. The project discusses our perception of pattern and color and how with small measures these components can outsmart our senses, highlighting the importance of psychological methods and techniques in design rather than scientific or mathematical.
About how long did the work take from conception to completion?
It’s hard to say how long the process took from conception to completion. I’ve had a one and a half year journey to work my way to this collection. The process really started with a pre-collection I did that explored two-dimensionality versus the body, called (I)Deal With It. That collection was done in knits and the intention was to continue from there. But then I always get too excited to the point where I want to challenge myself to look at things from a new way. So the 2D-collection developed into a new project, which in turn developed into something else. I think that the Made You Look-collection really started to come to light during early spring where I had done a bunch of tryouts and showed them to my sister. I had no idea what I was doing and the process was just getting out of hand. She is a civil engineer and sat down and looked at my things. Then she said, “Saina, I can’t believe you’re not seeing this. You’re dealing with visual dominance. You know? Gestalt psychology? Here’s how it works.” And then she gave me a crash course that I later on investigated further. That’s one of the supervisions that I’m really thankful for.
What was the hardest part about creating this collection?
As always, there’s the time limit. The entire process, from (I)Deal With It to Made You Look was creating garments that worked as idea generators. And since it really felt like I had worked with the project for so long, I came to the point where I just got fed up and that was hard to handle. I’ve realized that I enjoy working at a fast pace and making fast decisions. When you’re in an education system finalizing your degree work there are certain steps you need to take, certain methods and analysis that need to be done. I’m not saying that those moments are unnecessary or wrong, on the contrary they are rather useful, but it’s easy to “rest” in those thoughts and that can slow down the process, not enabling some ideas to come to light.
How did you get started as a designer?
Where I come from people knew they wanted to be lawyers, engineers, doctors or study business. I just knew that I wanted to do something different and work hard for it. I’ve always been interested in writing and music and composed songs and wrote short stories after school. I can’t really remember what made me interested in fashion. I guess that personal style and clothes have always been interesting to me. I moved to London when I was nineteen to study a one-year course in fashion design at London College of Fashion. It really started from there. I had great teachers and met wonderful people who showed me what fashion design really was behind the scenes of all its glamorousness and mysticism. The teachers were strict, to the point and completely honest. A real slap in the face you could say. In retrospect I’ve learned a lot from that time and responded well to that form of teaching. It made me curious to see what else was out there in the field. A few years later I enrolled at The Swedish School of Textiles in Borås in Sweden and studied fashion design there for five years.
What do you wish people knew about your creative process?
That it is a process. I meet people, inside and outside the field, that have a certain strict view of what fashion designers are like, who they hang out with, what they do and what they think of the world. That’s probably because fashion has been so attainable and of such great influence to so many people. Mostly I wish for a more open perspective upon the field of fashion and a more open perspective to its designers.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
It’s really such a cliché but once you step outside of that comfort zone you really learn a lot about yourself, your priorities, what your abilities are and how much you can push yourself. Being strong enough to look past what others expect from you can be a great idea generator and confidence booster. At times that journey can be quite a lonely one. So when you’re in for the run find yourself someone who’ll hold your hand along the way.