A significant and highly influential figure in the worlds of fashion and collaborative practice, Shelley Fox is one of a rare breed of modern fashion designers renowned for her innovative use of materials, manipulation of fabric and the development of unorthodox pattern cutting. Her work explores unusual and arresting themes, on both technical and conceptual levels. Scorched felted wool and burnt cotton bandaging, the use of laser beams and sound waves that strike the cloth with ‘invisible heat’, negative imagery printed onto fabric, the use of Braille markings on boiled wool and her designs incorporating Morse Code are all examples of her innovative working practice.
Developed as part of Fox’s Stanley Picker Fellowship in Design at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University, Philadelphia Florist was inspired by a set of 1937-39 diaries found on a New York flea market. The diaries provide a rich visual and written record of a Philadelphia florist’s business of high society weddings, funerals, debutant ceremonies, high profile sports, political and social events. The celebration, remembrance and the marking of occasions through the symbolism of flowers formed the starting point of the new collection.
The individual outfits in Philadelphia Florist, each named after rose hybrids such as ‘Showgirl’, ‘Commonwealth’ or ‘Brilliant’, were inspired by the dissections of botanical drawings. Displayed along a spine of coat-hooks as if left by their wearers, they reflected in their quality and finish the Philadelphia high-society that the Florist himself would have once served. The original diaries were themselves dissected, their pages and cuttings attached carefully to the gallery walls with dress-making pins.
Conceptually linking the exhibition with contemporary forms of digital-diary such as personal blogs and webcasts, Fox’s first website is launched to coincide with the exhibition. The site consists of an online archive covering more than 10 years of fashion collections, films, exhibitions and ongoing research projects. The site showcases her new collection Philadelphia Florist together with the full range of her previous design practice, as well as many of her seminal collaborative projects including those with Nick Knight’s Showstudio, Random Dance, Tomato, Michael Clark and Scanner. Designed by the award winning web team at digit the site promotes a rich understanding of how fashion designers research and develop their ideas and how clothing can be dynamically presented outside of the catwalk arena.