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Notion 062 Dialogue: Corrie Nielsen

She might not be a household name, but then who really wants to be a household name? SEB LAW visits British fashion designer CORRIE NIELSEN at her studio to find out why:

Speak to any fashion insider about Corrie Nielsen and it’s like you’ve entered a secret club. They’ll gasp and swoon and give you a knowing look. But Nielsen’s name is rather a lot more than one to casually drop in fashion circles. She’s no fly-by-night trend forecaster, she’s a mistress of her craft, a superb craftswoman, a designer’s designer.

Take for example her last collection, SS13’s ‘Florilegium’, shown at September’s London Fashion Week. Models inched down the catwalk, the mood was tender, peaceful, calm, and the clothes were almost indescribably perfect. Intensely complex, cuts were inspired by Kew Gardens’ archive of scientific flora schematics and drawings, Corrie took the evergreen idea of florals for spring and turned it inside out. Using, adapting and deconstructing the structure of flowers, she rendered their intricate complexity in delicate silks and voluminous tulles, sculpting floral shapes around the body and evoking a scented flower garden without ever using a floral print. “I completely avoided print,” Corrie explains to me at her studio, “my work is more the construction of the garment, which makes it really, really difficult. We really stretched ourselves with this one because we were experimenting with some new cuts.”

Her approach has been likened to costume design, or lumped in with a broad spectrum of a new wave of London designers, but in reality, Corrie is the epitome of couture. London of course doesn’t have the couture heritage that Paris does, and in the decades since ready-to-wear became the norm, the very concept of couture has become something alien. Nielsen now finds herself in a difficult place in the fashion industry, “haute couture has shrunk considerably since the ‘90s; the whole art of dress has changed,” Corrie says, continuing “the ‘90s was fantastic for fashion and experimenting.” We bond over a mutual love of French designer’s designer Azzedina Alaïa; “he’s an impeccable tailor and he only puts his collection out when it’s ready, and I love that,” says Corrie as we discuss the fashion industry, and it’s clear that she wants to follow in his footsteps “it’s great if you can sell hundreds of thousands of pieces, but what does that actually mean? what is going to make me happier at the end of the day? There’s got to be meaning in things for people to be interested.”

Now she’s in London and, four seasons in, is starting to nestle into her niche. “I think my aesthetic and what I do with my work hasn’t been grabbed by the industry because it’s old-school thinking,” she explains, finishing with the contemplative “maybe I’m a bit old school.”

Couture though is and it isn’t what it used to be. With growing demand from Asia, it’s about to explode in a completely different way: “people aren’t going out and buying off-the-peg pieces; they’re wanting to invest their money in one-of-a-kind, bespoke pieces. The far East market is really starting to boom, and the government wants to invest more money to make their fashion industries the number one.” Corrie meanwhile is already finding fans in the UK: “I had 39 students from Leeds in the studio and I had no idea that they did a case study on my work” as well as refining her signature look and getting herself into her niche. “I don’t even know where I fit in the industry anymore, I don’t think the industry knows where I fit,” she explains, finishing off with a statement that goes some way to explaining her cult status in fashion: “I think if you have a very strong signature and you stick by your standards, eventually that’s going to take you far.”

___Field Notes

  1. On her upcoming AW13 collection: “it’s going to be very different – a very romantic collection. Well, a dark romance.”
  2. On London’s fashion scene: “it’s basically the crème de la crème of fashion”
  3. To create the appliquéd leaf design for her SS13 showstopping gown, Corrie scavenged leaves from Battersea Park (much to the amusement of onlookers)

Read the full interview with Corrie Nielsen on www.planetnotion.com

Photography: Zoe Barling
Hair: Charley McEwen @ Bloww using Redken
Make-up: Beatriz Lopez at InParlour
Model: Shanay Hall at IMG Models

WORDS: Seb Law

Notion 062 is available online, at WHSmiths and all good independent newsagents. Get your copy here.

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