“fabric isn’t like wood, concrete or cardboard”


I nearly wept with joy when Julian Roberts spoke those words. In one simple sentence my many frustrations this semester were validated; he’s right, this IS hard and I am coming to fabric precisely from wood, concrete and cardboard.

Martha McQuade suggested at my interim review on the 16th that I take a look at Julian Roberts’ work in the world of fashion, particularly his innovative “subtraction cutting” pattern techniques. Subtraction cutting works with the fabric as a field to create the garment rather than building up the garment from pieces of fabric. This creates amazing volume as the field of fabric is allowed to billow and flow around the seams and body.

You can be inspired, as I was, by watching the three-part video at Blow PR.



Here’s a cutting pattern and resulting dress demonstrating the subtraction cutting method.

Here is a selection of inspiring passages from the video lecture linked above.

  • “approach to design that is relaxed and impulsive”
  • “subtraction cutting is design with patterns rather than creating patterns for design”
  • “pattern cutting, to me, is a physical activity. And I see garments as fluid, in transit, constantly moving, asymmetrical and far more expressive than a static floor plan or technical drawing. I mix and cross over different perspectives when i cut patterns and try to lose track of the finished outcomes in the twists and turns of the patterns geometry.”
  • “fabric is not like wood, concrete or cardboard, and designing in cloth requires a fluid way of thinking that isn’t stiffened or restrained by inflexible rules and traditions…you deal with chance, luck and hope”

So, how am I using this technique? I’m using the analyses I did of Flow and Serif as the pattern to subtract material from a fabric field to see what I can make. It could just be the technique to bridge the gap between the digital dance analyses and the physicality of fabric.

Image sources: http://www.fuk.co.uk/files/julian_roberts.jpg, http://www.rca.ac.uk/UploadedImages/JulianRoberts_image4.jpg, http://www.centerforpatterndesign.com/pages/Julian-Roberts.html


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