Parsons School of Design, 2020
I’ve always been inspired by post-apocalyptic worlds, what they would look like and what they symbolise. Watching the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road”, I was extremely inspired by Imperator Furiosa; she is the epitome of a strong, fearless woman. The story of “Mad Max: Fury Road” takes place years after the collapse of civilization; the Citadel is a desert fortress ruled by a tyrannical warlord who enslaves apocalypse survivors. Imperator Furiosa is the protector of “the wives”, the warlord Immortan Joe’s five concubines, drawing on the overarching theme of the film of women being considered property and the fight for gender equality in society.
I chose Imperator Furiosa not because of what she wears, but because of what she represents. With her shaved head and warrior-like complex, she pushes the boundaries of androgyny. My character actually only wears one outfit throughout the entire movie: a ratty slouchy t-shirt, a series of four belts fashioned as a form of corset, motorcycle pants, and combat boots. She also has a mechanical arm. Because the entire movie timeline occurs within two days, there is no imagery of Imperator Furiosa wearing anything else, which really challenged me to think outside of the box in terms of research for design inspiration. I was inspired by her essence, the world she lives in, the people she interacts with and the modes of transportation she rides that alludes to her personality. “Mad Max: Fury Road” did not disappoint when it came to visual inspiration; the cinematography, costume and set design were striking. I initially took a look at the society she lives in as a whole, what her relation and role in the society is, how she interacts with others, etc. I was particularly inspired by her world and the landscapes shot throughout the film: arid and barren desert landscapes. I conducted further primary research of aerial photography of desert landscapes to inspire my colour story for the final collection: deep oranges, a range of browns and even sky blues.
Imperator Furiosa has an intentional scar as a form of “branding” on the back of her neck which played on the concept of ownership of women, I looked a little bit into scarification in tribes in Africa and found some beautiful imagery of symbolism through scars. My character also has a mechanical arm, which led me to do a lot of historical research into armour, specifically European gauntlets and chest plates. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was holding a special exhibit, “The Last Knight: The Art, Armour and Ambition of Maximilian I”, which showcased armour of iron, bronze and leather ranging from 1459-1519. I looked into corsets from the early 16th- 19th centuries, looking at the cultural context of how it restricted women physically and in society as a whole. The last garment I researched was the motorcycle jacket, looking in James Dean, Patti Smith and Marlon Brando.
When fabric hunting, I knew that I wanted to design a fall / winter collection even though the post-apocalyptic world Imperator Furiosa lives in is hot and dry. By creating a collection for cooler temperatures, it challenged myself to think of bigger silhouettes. I looked for heavier fabrics and found myself being drawn to more unconventional materials like vinyl, vinyl suede, corduroy, latex and PVC. For the heavier fabrics, I stuck with deep browns and black, while for the slightly lighter fabrics, I went with rusty oranges, red and muted blues. I also included some ‘see through’ fabrics like the nude latex and the silk organza, which I actually made in my textiles and materials class here at Parsons School of Design. I degummed silk organza through a process of boiling the organza in soda ash to create an organic dust effect, which coincidentally fell in line with my character choice. The organic pattern was made by creating resists with rubber bands for the treatment process. All of my designs include elements of hardware drawing from my motorcycle research, looking into specific engine parts. Gunmetal eyelets, rings and zippers are utilized along with contrast-coloured piping and seat belts for accessorizing straps.
My collection definitely has a lot of interesting elements, but are a combination of inspiration from armour, corsets and motorcycle jackets. I played with pleating of fabric to mimic the structure of stacked plates of armour, as well as mixing ribbing fabric with solid to create the illusion of structure. Big oversized shoulder and silhouettes represent power and individuality, these being overarching themes of my collection. I experimented with different sizes of the traditional motorcycle collar, playing with singular and double lapels. I experimented with lacing in random but functional places on my tops and jackets to create cohesion through the idea of corsets and individual fabric panelling with contrast-stitching to mimic plates of armour. Another cohesive element of these looks are the duo-toned latex gloves I designed to go with specific looks, I wanted my collection to exude a seductive confidence without being over-the-top raunchy, hence the use of nude and black latex. I wanted the looks of my collection to have strong silhouettes varying in length from fitted-cropped to billowing-oversized, with contrasting fabrics, piping and stitching. Structure, power and femininity are all themes throughout my collection, I feel that I really pushed the envelope when it came to designing new combinations and silhouettes of pieces. Overall, I am very pleased with the outcome, and it truly represents a conceptually-cohesive collection inspired by Imperator Furiosa: a modern-day “warrior”.