Melbourne based designer Natalie Hutton is one of only eight Australian finalists in this year's international World Of Wearable Art finals. Taking her label Claudia Savage to the iconic New Zealand event, she will be up against designers from 17 countries, and is one of only two Melbourne finalists, an impressive feat. The World Of Wearable Art celebrates its 30th year in 2018 and features a massive 148 finalists.
For Natalie, her feature piece, Echoplex – Goddess of Reverb, took eight years to bring to fruition. It has been a labour of love in every sense. The garment itself weighs about 15kg and features 50-metres of hand-stitched honey-combed silk panels. Each individual panel took eight hours to complete by hand and the gown has 40 panels. This balances on a waist cinching corseted bodice that aims to give a four-inch waist reduction. All up, the gown took Natalie about 500 hours of sewing – time she dedicated in between her work creating edgy made-to-order one-of-a-kind fashion garments.
"I'd had the design on paper back in 2010, but after it fell out of my head I took a good look at it, laughed and put it in the 'brain imaging more than my hands can engineer' pile, where it sat taunting me with its epic challenge," she says. "Despite being on paper, it never left my head for very long and what I'd guessed to be a good few hundred hours of hand sewing for a good five to six years. I paired it with a pair of vintage headphones I pulled apart and rebuilt with a coating of steel spikes and Swarovski crystals – this piece and indeed the collection it belongs to are all inspired by sound and how I see it."
Claudia Savage's seven-piece collection is aptly titled Synaesthetics, inspired by the term synesthetic, a perceptual phenomenal. Its no surprise that Natalie's inspiration is based in sound, the daughter of a musician, it is in her blood. Her perception of sound, and indeed music, is where she derives her creative ideas. "The designs are all physical representations of the shapes, textures and weights I experience while listening to music," she says. "I chose clothing as a canvas because it offers huge scope for design ingenuity. The need for flexibility, movement, structure and precision of both construction and aesthetics and turning it into wearable artwork has become a challenge I love setting myself, especially when working with clients on custom pieces."
The unique experience of the way Natalie hears music and translates that into her own artform sets her apart. She recalls the inability as a child to separate sound from her other senses, something that would often keep her up to the early hours of the morning. As an adult, she has harnessed that and created something spectacular. "Somewhere in my head there are some wires crossed so when I listen to music, it has shape and texture to it," she says. "I think the best way to describe that to someone who doesn't experience that would be to say that I see a screen saver of moving colours and shapes and they carry weight and that weight inherently has texture and flow which can be translated into the movement of fabrics or the coldness of a metal surface for example. Add to that a good helping of on the fly imagination and I can begin to manipulate the shapes. In short: My brain throws images at me and then shrugs its shoulders and says 'you should make this but I've no idea how – have fun with that!'"
There are more pieces planned for the Synaesthetics collection, something Natalie is currently working on. Having found an outlet, especially a competition, that suits her style has been an inspiration within itself and she is already working towards the 2019 competition season. "The World Of Wearable Art was the first time I've come across an event that I might actually fit into," she says. "I've always straddled a line of being too artsy for fashion and to fashion for art. So, the prospect of creating wearable artworks was something I already felt I had a handle on, if only from the perspective of my piece not fitting into a traditional fashion world yet being something of statement of my own or a client. Also, deadlines - they're somewhat of an unhealthy addiction for me, if I can put myself through the creative hell of sleepless nights, bloody fingers and an existential crisis… I'm there."
Natalie Hutton will join the other finalists at the World Of Wearable Art finals in Auckland New Zealand on Friday 28th September 2018. For more information on Natalie's label Claudia Savage, please visit www.claudiasavage.com