In conversation with The Royal Academy of dance
In conversation with Royal Academy of dance. The full interview is published on their member forum.
Your products are consciously created, what makes this such an important factor for You?
I generally view things holistically. Dancing has always struck me as a very positive action. As a dancer we wear very little when training or studying … but I believe the very little product that we do wear should be reflective of the positively considered action of dance. I believe every element in design is important - if I am going to contribute to a space, I want to really enhance what is already there. This goes beyond an excellent finished product, to also include minimising the environmental and ecological impact of its creation as well as respecting the people that bring it to fruition.
Could you talk a bit about how you progress an idea for a garment or a project, and your process to actualise it?
I often get ideas while dancing actually! Even though I am no longer a pro performer, dance is still a huge part of my life, most often as an ‘idea’s generator’ (there’s science behind that too!) And If the physicality of dance supports the unconscious creation of ideas, I should also probably say that I often incorporate a more conscious observational element. My early collections in particular carried ideas that I wanted to be visually present in the dance studio. E.g. my first collection ‘Somefish” (currently stocked in the RAD shop) was inspired by a fisher person’s story that essentially supports independent thought and challenges the flow. This was an idea that was especially important to me when I was gearing myself up to leave my full-time ballet company job and begin DBA full time.
I’ve always been a maker so after the idea I am pretty hands on in the creation of each design. I usually paint the design on paper and then scan it where I can turn it into the kind of print that I want. The design is then printed onto a material and after getting tested and then made up by me, I send the pattern and materials to the respective makers. I work with freelance costume makers locally in the West End for the skirts, and with an Italian family-run dancewear workshop for the bodysuits (now managed by one of my ballet school/company friends!) It’s all really nice, I’ve been working with everyone for years.
Beyond designing the kind of clothing you sought after during your time as a professional ballerina, are there any other ways your professional dance career influenced the rest of your work?
Undoubtedly the work ethic and discipline, and a desire to connect and entertain … I also think that not having the space to be as expressive in a ballet company was probably the reason I started DBA as it became a healthy balance outlet for my ideas. My dance career also taught me how to balance risk with practical strategy and taught me that perseverance is key. In some ways I think it all made me braver and bolder, for having endured the process.
Outside of bodywear, you also combine dance with other disciplines. What do you enjoy pursuing these types of multi-disciplinary projects?
I enjoy joining things up in different ways and seeing what happens creatively. I find cross-pollinating ideas motivating and interesting. It’s not primarily a conscious choice, although I’ll justify it after and say I don’t really see things as separate but interconnected. Each contributes to inspire me, combining with my natural curiosity and general interest to learn stuff, develop and make things in different spaces. That’s how fresh thoughts and ideas come about.
Your products have recently been stocked in the RAD Shop, could you tell us a little about the process leading up to this?
I studied all my RAD grades and have stayed aware of RAD development over the years.
Interestingly it was at a research workshop (held at RAD, a good few years back) that I became particularly inspired by the power of dance to enhance lives and make space for a healing kind of space through artistic expression. I was also excited to get a sense that the RAD seemed to be moving to supporting a wider spectrum of dancers’ voices.…fast forward a bit, my brand Designed by Alice was growing, and I was interested in spaces to introduce it to new audiences; immediately I thought of the RAD as I felt they would support my vision of expressive artistic active wear for bodies and so I got in touch.