fashion | 9 march 2018
Whether it is remembered as a place of tranquility and relaxation, or brooding unforgiving surf; the New Zealand coast line is something that can generate numerous sentiments among locals. For videographer Tristan J. Brooks and fashion designer Melina Askew their gravitation to the coastline for their collaborative fashion film Saline, could only be pure instinct.
interview: tyla stevenson
video & stills: tristan j. brooks
fashion: millie askew
What were some of the ideas that were explored through your garments featured throughout Saline?
Millie: It’s a reflection on sustainability and a response to the lack of New Zealand-made clothing that use only local resources. I wanted to make a collection – not only garments but the textiles – that was holistically local.
Was the textile development a big part of your design process?
Millie: Yeah, the idea of being able to make your own fabrics and textiles speaks loudly to me because they are things you can’t reproduce… no one else can do it, it’s just your thing. But it takes a lot of time. Because I wanted all parts of the collection to be sourced from New Zealand, everything was made from wool. The two jackets were hand woven with really chunky yarns. I sat there and tied each individual yarn together for about 4 days straight, then hand-sewed it together.
"The more time you spend making something, the more you value it, and I feel like this time/love-heavy component of my work really shines through to the consumer."
Do you think it is a hard industry to be in if slow and sustainable fashion is what you’re interested in?
Millie:This slow, tactile process plays a large role in my work. The more time you spend making something, the more you value it, and I feel like this time/love-heavy component of my work really shines through to the consumer. I was hoping that they would see the locality and durability of my work as a kind of emotional and practical investment, making them less likely to discard it and buy more things (hence having an environmental outcome as well as process).
Do you imagine yourself staying in Aotearoa?
Millie: Yes I think so. Small-scale stuff appeals to me way more, and the uniqueness of my work comes from drawing on New Zealand’s unique resources. Not to mention that, practically, there is much more competition overseas, including with designers who make completely locally-sourced garments. As already mentioned, I feel like there is a gap in the market of New Zealand-based, locally-resourcing designers, so it makes the most sense I stay here. There is so much room for exploration.
So how did this collaboration begin?
Tristan: I’ve been wanting to make a visual trilogy using different New Zealand fashion designers for some time now. I wanted to find designers that both created things directly from New Zealand, and that spoke to one of New Zealand’s three strongest elements: ocean, snow and forest. Recently I’ve been really interested in New Materialism within New Zealand’s context – the way that different material environments shape human behavior and how some environments can liberate the monotony of daily life. For me ocean, snow and forests speak loudest in this respect, breaching the behavior sparked by cities and farms (or at least they do for me). These ideas made me want to do this trilogy, to digitally capture those more wild environments.
A mutual friend put me in touch with Millie, and when I saw her jackets, I knew they would be perfect for the ocean video.
"Moody, wet days are what I find great about Wellington. I spend most of my winters wrapped in woolen gear, looking out at that ocean."
So what was the connection between Millie’s work and the coast line?
Tristan: The texture, tubular shape and whiteness of Millie’s jackets instinctively made me think of waves, and foam tips. So this drew me to making a video cold and coastal.
My bedroom window actually looks out to the coast shot in the video. It is an extremely cold coast, always battered by Wellington Southerlies. Moody, wet days are what I find great about Wellington. I spend most of my winters wrapped in woolen gear, looking out at that ocean. I guess with those ordinary, embedded experiences in mind, seeing Millie’s wintery work provoked a sense of that coast for me. So I couldn’t help but be influenced by Wellington’s wind and cold.
Millie: The whole time while I was designing & making I had images of New Zealand’s Landscape on my studio wall, including images of rough coastlines. I guess the roughness of New Zealand landscape fed a lot into my work, which is why they worked so well against the coast.
Were there any parts of your work that clashed? Did they work out for better or worse?
Tristan: For starters, the first cut had a different, really dark soundtrack. It isn’t the typical audio you’d associate with Millie’s clothes. It was a techno track I had made with two friends – harsh and industrial. Whereas Millie’s stuff is earthy and tonal. I was unsure whether this contrast would accentuate the strength of her clothes, or throw its vibe off-course, so it was a little experimental.
Millie: I was also unsure. I liked it because usually the visual imagery around my work is light, and I wanted to see my work through darker lenses.
Tristan: The soundtrack just added an extra layer of texture, that confused normal associations with the ocean, the rocks and the garment’s tubular texture, definitely adding quite a lot. But in the end it was just too intense, so I had the current ethereal track made by a friend.
The other clash was my Science Fiction narrative, that again threw off normal connotations surrounding Millie’s work (environmentalism, localism). Like with the music, the running narrative added a darker, bleaker layer, but this contrast actually ended up working really well. Millie’s work looks pretty Sci-Fi, but only by association. So my video brought that (unspoken, maybe unintended) futurist element of her work out.
I ended up cutting this video short, so some of story that was cut out. But this shorter version actually allows the viewers to fill the gaps in the story, accentuating the ambiguity between Sci-Fi and environmentalism.
"From a fashion perspective, video is able to capture textures with light that photos can’t"
What do you think about the relationship between video and fashion?
Millie: From a fashion perspective, video is able to capture textures with light that photos can’t, and that’s a really important part to garments and online visibility. Seeing the shape and stiffness of my pieces was also something that video is able to capture in ways that other medias can’t.
Tristan: I agree. And from a film perspective, I think that the most interesting thing about this relationship is the unexpected variables. So with a still image you can plan it to the point that you can get each shot perfect. But with video there are more variables you need work with: light moves as the camera moves, water splashes without a regular pattern, human’s move and have facial expressions and with that variability comes creativity – working with shots and expressions you least expected.
Melina Askew: @melinaaskew
Tristan J. Brooks: @esoterror
Tyla Stevenson: @zambougie
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