Fashion & Freedom

Manchester Art Gallery

Fashion &
Freedom

Holly Fulton

Holly Fulton is a womenswear and accessories designer living and working in East London. Born in Scotland, she studied in Edinburgh before going on to do a Masters at the Royal College of Art. She established her label in 2009 and won numerous industry prizes for her work, which is characterised by graphic embellishment and couples digitally manipulated print with various textile fabrications.

Dress: Satinised organza with digital embroidery, laser-cut appliqués and hand applied details
Coat: Cashmere with silk embroidery
Jumper: Merino wool; courtesy John Smedley
Gloves: Courtesy Dents
Shoes: Christian Laboutin for Holly Fulton

“I was fascinated by the munitionettes, or canary girls…I thought about the emancipation women were working towards, but also how vanity must have suffered because handling TNT turned their skin yellow and their hair green.”

Holly Fulton 2016. Photography: Jez Tozer

Holly Fulton’s design was inspired by her research on the experience of the female munitions workers during and after the First World War. After learning that there was a munitions factory near the Hackney Marshes, where she currently lives, Fulton reflected upon the hazardous environment of the factories, and the social transitions occurring as women were employed in weapons manufacture. Fulton consulted photographs of the factories and incorporates elements from her research in the final design.

“The patterns formed by the mounds of shells in the factories were mesmeric. I wanted my design to incorporate elements from the workers’ dress and also have a graphic root in these patterns.”

Illustration courtesy the designer

The colour palette refers to the skin discolouration suffered by the workers and also the growing fashionability of black clothing after the First World War. The wool zip-neck jumper alludes to knitted undergarments, with a nod towards the increased functionality of women’s everyday dress post-war. The merino wool used for the coat and trousers references the British textile and garment manufacturing trades. The ensemble is accessorised with earrings made of industrial elements and gloves based on the gauntlets worn by the factory workers.

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