By Morgan Mallett
'Could you tell us more about your process?' is a question that I've been asked many a time over the years. So, in the spirit of shedding some light on the Design + Conquer creative process, I've compiled process photos and info from various stages of DC's new Unlimited collection.
In Unlimited's case, a lot of the collection's imagery came from listening to Future Unlimited's music. I listened to it everywhere: running in the mountains, working in the studio, driving on the highway...I was fascinated by the complexity of their sound. New ideas percolated over the months, as I immersed myself in their music, and I contacted the band. Future Unlimited members Sam D'Amelio and David Miller were fabulous, and not only collaborated on DC's preview video, but also sent me a bunch of unreleased tracks from their upcoming album. More [top secret] listening ensued. Thanks Sam and David!
Some designers create meticulously detailed sketches of their designs before they start making pieces, but I'll use whatever I have handy [a sketchbook, napkin, iPhone, receipt] to jot down a concept. This is simply a starting point or a reminder to make a physical version of a particular design. I often don't think in words, so a sketch is often a succinct way to remind me of a concept I want to explore.
Variations come once I get my hands on a material and create prototype after prototype. I find spending time planning designs out on paper limits possibilities and can make designs stale. I like to get started experimenting with a material early in the design process, as it shows me what is physically possible. One cannot predict design variations until you see how a material behaves. Early mock-ups for Unlimited were made with cardboard, tape, plastic mesh, and more. One of the most exciting parts of the design process for me is the unexpected design variations that happen during the experimentation process.
Next came sourcing. Emailing, calling, and visiting various laser-cutters and industrial plastic companies in the Vancouver area. Digital files were sent, and samples were made. And re-made. Thank you to Rick Carlson for taking me under your wing, and teaching me more about plastics and glues. And for teaching me about combustion!
After creating digital files of my designs, it was an experiment to see what thickness of plastic would work. Designs were ordered in varying thicknesses. Extra holes were added in earlier variations so that I could quickly switch up the twine patterns until I felt the design worked.
Different twines were experimented with...some frayed or were too thin and didn't get used in the final designs. Thicker, braided twine was what I chose to use in the final designs. Funnily enough, this twine was found at a local fishing store.
A roster of 30 or so designs were produced before I edited the collection down to the final 14 pieces. Pieces that didn't make the cut were deemed too 'forced' looking, or were too similar to the designs that already made the cut. All designs were tested along the way for durability.
While designing the collection, I consulted with incredibly talented photographer Linda Mackie, and chatted with the folks at Blanche Macdonald Centre to help source models, makeup artists and hair stylists. So many wonderful makeup artists and hair stylists sent us their work, and I chose to work with makeup artist Jessica Stratford and hair stylist Melina Pham. Art direction—one of my favourite parts of a campaign—was also solidified during this time.
Couture designer and former Project Runway Canada competitor Carlie Wong was our female model, and North Shore Mountain Biking writer and photographer Morgan Taylor was our male model. Check out Carlie's work here [hot tip: she's also an amazing fashion instructor at Vancouver's Blanche Macdonald Centre], and Morgan's poignant and often humor-filled work on NSMB.com here.
Over two caffeine-fueled days of shooting, we had completed both product and model shots.
Design + Conquer's Unlimited preview video was shot in an exotic location—the floor of our studio bathroom. The secret's out. I'll leave the rest up to your imagination! The music used is 'Shadows' by Future Unlimited—a soon-to-be-release track, and one of the band's strongest to date. It's still on repeat in our studio. View the video here.
Photo editing was minimal, as I believe in representing non-stereotypical models in a natural way. Transient things like a blemish or a stray hair are fair game, but distorting the body in any way is something I'm not interested in proliferating. Photo wizard Aaron Aubrey came to our shoot to help with our lighting setup, which shaped the campaign's look. Thanks to all of those whose hard work helped make this collection possible [and so much fun!]. Explore Design + Conquer's Unlimited collection here.
To my friends, family, and furry friends: I'm so grateful for your love and support. You put the conquer in Design + Conquer.