A kaleidoscopic happiness explosion of epic proportions would be one way to describe the work of 23-year-old fashion designer on the rise Bernadette Alice Francis.
Based in Melbourne, Australia—and also head-buyer/visual merchandiser at much-lauded Alice Euphemia—Francis is fascinated by the human condition, particularly “the fine line between the ephemeral, permanent, and the pursuit of happiness—how do we capture a fleeting moment of joy and how do we keep it?”
This focus underpinning her designs saw Bernadette collaborate with artists Michelle Gordon and Sarah Barrow to create the Pinata Dress, “a dress made of confetti-filled piñatas, which, like a piñata, only lasts until the moment of bursting. A film was made with Tim White (www.whitelie.com.au) to capture the transitory moment and highlight the tensions, the ecstasy of the confetti explosions,” she recounted.
Following in the footsteps of Toni Maticevski, “Life With Bird” and “Dress Up,” September saw Bernadette invited to present her 2012 Onomatopoeia graduate collection with a sonic twist at the prestigious Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. It seems her detouring from plans to finish a Philosophy degree were not in vain, however, its teachings remain strong in both her being and wares.
Francis, who is obsessed with philosopher Descartes, elaborates on the collection, saying “The ideas behind this series of wearable musical instruments was to explore notions of human and environment hybridity, syn-aesthetic design principles, and the relationships between kinetics—aural and the visual. Essentially looking at the creation of a holistic sensorial experience to provide a mode of communication between the mind, the body, and the world.”
Impassioned and unquestionably possessed with excitement by the work, the young Francis continues, “Sound is generated by select garments and silences in the collection are visually ‘noisy’—all the while referencing musical instrument construction, the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky, and the infinity of white noise. Long and lean silhouettes are juxtaposed against the obtuse and round, creating a symphony orchestra of instrument references enhanced by asymmetric pattern cutting inspired by the random and geometric nature of Memphis design. Exploring the notion of corporeality, Onomatopoeia incites the body to move and inspires viewer reflection upon our embodied state.”
Citing inspiration varying from visual music, the art movement, to Lucy & Bart and, in particular, Chicago performance artist Nick Cave’s, “brightly coloured and highly tactile ‘Soundsuits,’ which are loud, fun, and whimsical; both visually startling and sonically appealing—engaging in syn-aesthetic design principles.” Bernadette expresses awe at Cave’s “achievement in the engagement of the viewer at a level of completely sensual and tactile enjoyment, while simultaneously opening the door to an area of associate ideas and principles that take one far beyond the realm of the purely visual, towards a fully integrated world-view in which ideas and sensations co-exist in a state of harmony.”
Currently working on a casual-wear label, which is looking to launch early 2013, it will be the follow up to TWINS accessories label with fellow designer Ashlea Chong. There are also strong ruminations within the Australian fashion scene’s tastemakers and leaders that Bernadette Francis Alice is the one to watch in 2013. The designer was able to hint of some exciting runway related news to be revealed later this month, but, until that time, Bernadette Alice Francis’s lips remain sealed.
For more information, visit www.bernadettealicefrancis.com
Text by Anita Nedeljkovic
Photography by Danielle Sexton