The fashion industry would be nowhere without pattern cutters - the skilled technicians who translate designers’ ideas into actual garments. A new exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery celebrates the under-valued art of creative pattern cutting and gives members of the public an insight into the world of couture fashion
THE world’s leading fashion designers are big names in the industry.
But how many of us know of the creative pattern cutters who work with designers to translate their ideas into reality and put couture on the catwalk?
A new exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery - a collaboration with the University of Huddersfield - seeks to celebrate this largely-unrecognised and high-technical skill.
Insufficient Allure: The Art of Creative Pattern Cutting has been curated by Kevin Almond and Kathryn Brennand, both from the university’s fashion department, and features 16 calico ‘toiles’ (design ideas worked up in cheap fabric) from garments created by students for their final year collections.
Alongside the toiles is a collection of designer dresses from the 1940s to 1980s on loan from Leeds Museums and Art Galleries. The ‘little black dresses’ - with examples from Jean Muir, Bruce Oldfield, Ossie Clark and other big names - form a stark contrast to the raw, off-white calico of the toiles.
The exhibition grew out of research published by Kevin in The International Journal of Fashion Design Technology and Education, which examined the role of pattern cutters in relation to designers.
“I felt that the work of the pattern cutter in the fashion industry was undervalued in relation to the starry role of the designer,” explained Kevin.
“Creative pattern cutting is a labour-intensive way of cutting fashion garments that is used in the couture end of the fashion industry. It’s rarely exploited in the High Street. The only High Street company to do it well is All Saints,” he added.
“The difference between creative cutting and standard cutting is that standard cut is done from flat patterns and block patterns, while creative cutting is more like sculpture, with the manipulation of the fabric on the dress stand to get interesting drapery and sculpted shapes from which you would then make a pattern.”
Huddersfield’s fashion students all learn how to make toiles, a skill that Kevin and his colleagues feel is essential.
“No designer is worth their salt unless they can source the fabric, cut the pattern, cut the fabric and make up the first sample,” says Kevin.