Brighton-based sustainable designer Oliva Blakeman, 23 reveals her highly-anticipated womenswear graduate collection. The eco-friendly body of work presents two beautifully tailored dresses, one silk string as well as fully recycled DVD garment.
Blakeman grew up in London studying art GCSE and A-Level, she would spend most of her school holidays visiting family in New Zealand where she would compose fully thrifted photoshoots with her sister. She then went on to study Fashion with Business Studies at the University of Brighton for 4 years. During her placement year, she interned at Burberry in London Paris Georgia in Auckland and Marc Jacobs in New York. Now graduating with a finalized, conceptual, sleek and eco-friendly collection Blakeman is looking forward to moving to Brixton as well as her promising future in the fashion industry.
Describe the creative process behind your graduate collection Planet B?
The creative process began by gathering first and second-hand research to underpin a strong theme, muse and design influences for the collection. I then used the research to influence 2D and 3D design development using collage, sketching, photoshop, fabric manipulation, garment styling and stand work. To make the collection sustainable, I wanted to reuse what already exists by up-cycling preowned garments and materials. Although this was challenging at times, it allowed me to think in innovative ways, making me question ‘How can I take this old garment or material and transform it into something completely new and unique?’.
For example, the idea for recycled velvet string dress came from draping string on the stand, sketching design ideas from this and then thinking how I could use my existing materials to translate this design idea into a fully resolved garment. So I took a pre-owned green velvet jacket, completely deconstructed it (It was quilted so I had to remove a layer of wadding) cut a 2 cm wide by 1 m long strip, sewed along the strip (right sides together) and turned it out to create rouelou loop lengths of velvet (replicating the string I had draped on the stand).
I have my tutors at University of Brighton to thank for inspiring and fuelling my research and challenging my 2D and 3D design development as well as the technicians for helping me with pattern cutting and construction.
Where do your main influences for Planet B come from?
I would say the 'DVD Dress’ because of the unique use of material, 'Velvet String Dress’ because of the way it was constructed and it’s transformation from coat to dress and 'Space Cowboy Trench’ for how it combines both the spacesuit and western features within its design and how its made from recycled leather (made from the ground up then pressed leather accessories and shoes). It was also the most challenging to make as the material was thicker, as it's typically used for upholstery. Therefore, it was very rewarding to finish. he designs. Which is juxtaposed by the more sensual undergarments inspired by 70s lingerie and costumes worn by Barbarella.
-Space Films: ‘Barbarella’ and ‘Forbidden Planet’
-Americana cowboys/rodeo Girls
-60s/70s Space Age
-60s/70s Vogue catalogues
-80s/90s Donna Colleziono/ID/Dazed catalogues
-Key Designers: Paco Rabanne, Thierry Mugler, Nudie Cohn
Describe the clientele of Planet B?
Planet B is made for fun, seductive and confident young women, with a love for sustainable fashion and supporting the slow and ethical fashion movement.
The collection is remarkable for being eco-friendly, why do you think it's important to create sustainable garments?
Thank you! I think the fashion industry has really lost its way in the last 30 years, and it’s really unforgivable the effect it has had on our planet and people. Fast fashion is one of the key contributors to climate change and so as a fashion designer I want to help change that. Consumers see clothes as cheap items, to be worn once or twice and then thrown away and big fashion corporations are profiting from that. Whereas clothes should be bought less, chosen thoughtfully and cherished for life. When I started my graduate collection I knew that the root and core values would be sustainable and ethical and so I spent a lot of time researching sustainable materials, collecting pre-owned garments and going to events/talks on sustainability. I think every designer should be placing sustainability at the top of their priorities as there is a demand for it now and people are waking up and acknowledging the problems within the industry.
When making your designs, what are your three biggest rules?
1-It must be sustainable and ethical.
2-It must be unique and interesting.
3-It must be wearable, durable and well-made.
Other than the unique use of DVD's, how else do you distinguish individuality within your label?
I think because I prioritise sustainability when I approach design, it forces me to be more creative and to think outside the box with the way I choose and use materials. So naturally, the pieces are unique in their construction and overall outcome. Furthermore, I love the initial research period and I feel as though my interests and sources are unique in the way I combine them which makes the design style individual to my myself and creates a unique design identity.
In your opinion which of your designs are your favourite & why?
I would say the 'DVD Dress’ because of the unique use of material, 'Velvet String Dress’ because of the way it was constructed and it’s transformation from coat to dress and 'Space Cowboy Trench’ for how it combines both the spacesuit and western features within its design and how its made from recycled leather (made from ground up then pressed leather accessories and shoes). It was also the most challenging to make as the material was thicker, as it's typically used for upholstery. Therefore, it was very rewarding to finish.
The aesthetic of Planet B is very futuristic, why is this?
I find designing and making to be an escape from reality and I think my design aesthetic, and what I create, reflects this separation from day to day life. I wanted Planet B to portray what my dream world would be for the future, a completely sustainable and ethical utopia, so far from the world we live in today. I can only see this dream world being something tangible in the future and so, in turn, the aesthetic became very futuristic.
What's the next step for Planet B?
Since graduating, I have carried on upcycling garments sourced from charity shops or in my own wardrobe. I have also been making a series of up-cycled jewellery, including necklaces, rings and earrings made from pearls, chains and jewels sourced in charity shops and eBay, with 10% of profits going to BLM charities.
I am now in the process of setting up a website and online store to sell the up-cycled jewellery and garments as ideally, I would love to have my own sustainable label. I am considering doing a Masters in Fashion design next year while using this year to work on establishing my business and design identity. During my placement year, I was fortunate enough to intern at Marc Jacobs, Paris Georgia and Burberry, I loved the fast-paced nature and working abroad and so would love to have more experience working in the industry over the next few years.
Photography by Ripley Litchfield
Light work by Emilie Risi
MUA by Kimberley Vallance
Styling/Creative Direction by Liv Blakeman
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