Fashion: Comfort and light

Take five of Britain's most creative photographers, add five of our best fashion designers with exclusive previews of their work for spring/sum mer 1998. And what do you get? Pure New Wool
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The photographs on these pages have one thing in common: wool. They are taken by five of Britain's most innovative and creative photographers (six if you count Barnaby & Scott who work in partnership) and feature exclusive previews of the work of five British designers for spring/summer '98. All the clothes, being shown on the catwalks at London Fashion Week this weekend, are made of wool. The strange abstract pictures next to them are the photographers' personal interpretations of wool on the theme of comfort and light.

Earlier this year, the people at the International Wool Secretariat, the body that markets all things woolly, were faced with a conundrum: how to give the fluffy fibre a new image, stressing its modernity, versatility, and sex appeal? They teamed Paul Smith, Clements Ribeiro, Sonja Nuttall, Pearce Fionda and Antonio Berardi with a photographer each and an open brief.

Sandro Sodano, whose photographs you will have seen in countless Paul Smith advertising campaigns, came up with the bright idea of wrapping a light bulb in wool before tackling the wool and silver wire pinstripe jacket by Antonio Berardi, who will show the rest of his spring/summer '98 collection on Monday night at Brixton Academy. The collection promises to be inspired by a tale of a Sicilian immigrant's journey from small peasant village to trashy rock 'n' roll Las Vegas.

Gavin Bond, meanwhile, didn't stop at light bulbs for his wool-wrapping and spent a few hours tying up a model in the yarn, from head to foot. He got his picture, and she couldn't wait to be cut free again. No such restrictions applied to his fashion picture, where our intrepid model has been freed from her wool tetherings and sits pondering on the perfection and simplicity of Sonja Nuttall's simple, black pure wool dress.

"It's funny that people perceive wool as a winter thing. We certainly don't," says Ren Pearce, busy adding the last finishing touches to the Pearce Fionda collection shown yesterday. It is the first time they have had one of their jackets X-rayed, photographer Katerina Jebb's interpretation of the brief. "You wouldn't look at it and say `wool'," he adds. But wool is what it is made of, and it works well with the designers' structured tailoring. With the northern European climate and increased use of air-conditioning, wool is something Pearce Fionda use all year round.

Likewise, the husband and wife design duo, Clements Ribeiro, who have become known for their signature stripy knitwear, chose to use a fine Merino wool to make a hand-finished tunic with tiny crystal beading around the neck. Such a precious piece of clothing requires careful treatment and photographer Fleur Olby, who usually works on still-lifes of food and flowers, was the perfect match.

Young photographers Barnaby and Scott chose to photograph a chair apparently spinning in mid-air. Why, you might ask? But the chair is to represent comfort and it spins like a spinning loom. Their designer was Paul Smith and they chose to put his pinstripe suit on a woolly-haired beast of a man. All this and not a knitting needle, or for that matter, a sheep in sight. Gavin Bond cool wool black sleeveless shift dress (above), by Sonja Nuttall Upper body covered in yarn (right) Gavin Bond started out as a reportage photographer, usually found capturing models backstage between catwalk and semi-nudity. Recent commissions include main page fashion spreads in Australian Vogue and British Elle. His solarised fashion image in black and white is different to his usual style of girls prancing around on top of open air buses or lounging in seedy hotel rooms. The abstract image took hours of wrapping to create, leaving the model immobile Sandro Sodano Black wool one button jacket with silver wire pinstripe (left), by Antonio Berardi Orange wool head (above) Sodano, 30, is well known for both his use of graphics in still-life photography, and his candid campaigns for Paul Smith childrenswear. These pictures represent a departure for the photographer: "I am better known for using bright colours in my work, but in these pictures I was interested in a darker, more subversive look," he says. In this image, Sodano uses a lightbulb wrapped in wool, and photographs both it and its reflection in a Sixties ceramic lamp shade Barnaby & Scott Black wool pinstripe suit (above), by Paul Smith. Spinning chair (right) Barnaby Caldbeck, 23 and Scott Lyon, 23 graduated from St Martins' last year with BA's in graphic design, soon afterwards they won the Vogue Cecil Beaton award for photography. Their abstract chair picture was designed to interpret the words "comfort" and "light", as requested in the brief. "We wanted to create two distinct images that had some sort of correlation," says Scott, "so we tried to carry over the circular image from the abstract shot into the main Paul Smith picture." Scott admits he didn't know much about wool before embarking on the project. "All I had was images of those big spinning wheels in my head," he says Katerina Jebb Computer-aided Tomography scan of pink Pure New Wool jacket with red piping (left), by Pearce Fionda. Wool-covered face (above) Jebb's visual work needs no written explanation. She is interested in producing work that she hasn't done before. A key area of interest to Jebb is medicine and the technology that is developed to enhance scientific discoveries. The "brain scan" of the jacket is not entirely removed from pure photography. Katerina is not at all interested in girls jumping around on a bit of white paper and likes her work to be experimental. Fleur Olby Ripped strip tunic in grey merino extra-fine wool (left), by Clements Ribeiro Feather detail (below) Fleur Olby's portfolio of pictures includes a diverse range of subjects from food to flowers but the style remains the same: clean, uncompromising and contemporary. Olby, 28, was schooled in graphics. She has an eye for detail most of us would ignore, creating abstract images of delicate intricacy.

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