Jo Cope is a conceptual fashion designer based in Leicester, United Kingdom. She graduated in 2017 from a Master’s in Fashion Artefacts at The London College of Fashion. She is a founding member of DAP, a London-based design and performance lab. She has been commissioned to design an Aerodynamic Dress for the British Grand Prix by Silverstone Race track and has been funded by the Arts Council to create a solo installation for the Leicester Museum. She exhibits in the National Centre for Crafts, creating concept shoes for the Shoe Museum’s permanent collection.
She is currently working with curator Liza Snook from the Virtual Shoe Museum NL and is about to embark on a collaboration which will culminate in a fashion performance at Sadler’s Wells Theatre London in November 2017.
In literal terms: clothing is a social conditioning and a superficial body covering that allows us to play with our identity. For me it is a wonderful canvas, a projector of the inner self, an evolving interpreter of the world, the outer human layer.
What fascinates/inspires you and why?
Human beings, the cycle of life, repetitive shared behaviors, love, relationships, everything we experience whilst on the earth, abstraction of the literal, symbolic interpretation, conceptual art.
Because art is a great means of expressing, learning and communicating ideas that are the closest to me. I am fascinated by taking something known such as a shoe and leading it into new version of itself by analyzing the deeper aspect of what it really is through its conceptualization.
Abstracting, conceptualizing and creating metaphors is what interests me.
Finding your own distinctive voice can be difficult, where and how do you find your personal creativity (before you start designing/during the design process)?
I am driven by strong convictions about materializing visions that manifest in my mind’s eye. The craft methodology and material evolution is something I have continued to evolve in response to the forms that I wish to create.
What challenges did you face during the design process?
The making is the most challenging, when I start with a mental image it is rarely going to be straight forward in the making process, however this is the part I find interesting, continually experimenting with different making methods and materials to get closer and closer to realizing my dream in 3D. A most recent example was pushing to the limits a traditional shoe making craft process; hand stretching a meter long shoe over hand sculpted wooden forms. It took 2 people to last and many months of prototyping to figure out a way of making the shoes completely hollow yet fully stable in form.
What do you want to communicate with your work in general?
I want to use a known object of fashion that we have a physical connection with to express deeper emotional life experiences. I also want to challenge our visual preconceptions of fashion asking questions like ‘What is a bag?’ and readdressing how they could be reconstructed from a conceptual perspective.
Can you tell us something about the project you will present at the FASHIONCLASH Festival?
The project is called The Language of Feet in the Walk of Life. The inspiration is life, things personally experienced or observed; the relationship with the self, relationships with others, concepts which include: self-loss, self-abandonment, co-dependency, self-discovery, experiences with the internal self through imagination.
The research included the act of walking, and how we can become our own action and body language where I focused on reading the feet in social situations. The feet are an interesting part of the body because we are often very unaware of their subtle but powerful projection. In the situation of desire the feet point directly towards the object of interest, in the opposite situation the body may continue to point politely forwards but at least one of the feet will be pointing towards the exit. I am materialising the negative or unseen spaces in situations that relate to human cognition, foot and shoe.
What do you try to communicate with your project?
The idea is that shoes can be deep autonomous objects that can visually communicate something other than the literal function or aesthetics. Each conceptual shoe represents and projects experiences that relate to the concept of ‘Self’. The relationship we have throughout life with our internal and external being and how relationships with others can impact, collide and overlap with our own state of being.
Why have you decided to participate at FASHIONCLASH Festival?
Because Fashionclash is representing the boundaries being pushed in the progression of fashion as intelligent art object, it gives the opportunity and freedom to create an installation based presentation which is in line with the gallery environment which is where my work is created for.
FASHIONCLASH is already working on future themes. What are the topics you find interesting?
Things relating to human experience or something very abstract and open.
What are your thoughts regarding ‘religion and fashion’?
I have created work that relates to religion in my own work previously in a more conceptually abstract sense, religion is a part of society and in that sense it creates an interesting dialog that can be explored through clothing.
Does fashion make sense to you?
Does fashion make sense to you?
Fashion in the context of art makes sense as an evolving form which offers ongoing exploration in understanding the self and in helping me to create connections with others through shared experience.
What are your thoughts on making ‘fashion’ more environmentally-friendly?
Environmental conscience is obviously important in every aspect of life and fashion is part of this. For myself working with alternative fashion materials such as wood, I have to consider materials use in general and the impact I have. From cars to clothing more must be done to lower the impact on the environment, working on one off bespoke fashion art pieces I can often pick up discarded materials and recycle, I’ve been really impressed with the change in attitude in the common household where people have come back to the mentality of leaving things out in the street for others to re-use.
What are your thoughts on the senses in relation to the human body?
The senses are one of the things that make us more sensitive as human beings, connecting us to experiences in an intimate way. The sense of the self and the relationship and development of the inner being and how that might be projected outwardly is explored in some of my work.
Do you think that fashion can contribute to a better world / better well-being, and what do you do to make a difference?
Fashion is a universal object that we can all relate to and in that it can be used as a social, political and personal commentary and voice. When working as a lecturer and workshop leader I use fashion to build confidence in others and help them to understand that we can rid ourselves of preconceptions and operate in a way that is free and truthful to our own ways of seeing.
What senses are engaged in your creation process?
Touch primarily, in the sculpting phase I am using feel to sense the flow and contours of the object and also physical contact too see how the body connects and becomes one with the object. The senses help to create a mind and body connection which becomes the more spiritual experience of art. I am engaged with the mental instinct and the development of mental creativity through the development of the imagination. I am also engaged with the inner self and use the subconscious to process the internal being into metaphorical external objects that have their own humanistic character.
How does technology change your creation process?
Technology has acted as a tool to capture very hand created forms when prototyping and transport them into alternative materials without losing the artist hand, lasers scanners allowed me the freedom to change materials from less stable prototyping ones to more solid milled CNC or 3D printed.
What’s a standard day for you?
Somewhere between the studio using my hands, prototyping, making, answering emails, and when lecturing in fashion energizing approx 60 students to create and think.
Vegan, vegetarian, healthy diet or any food will do?
Pescatarian and generally healthy.
What’s your favourite song at the moment?
So much music, too little time. Listening to music mainly on vinyl of all description, original 90’s rave is good to work to.
Best Tv-show/movie at the moment?
I’m interested in observing people in relation to love and relationships so things relating to ‘dating’. I watched an episode of Catfish today, tragic and sad in one sense and bizarre and funny in others, but essentially very real life and a product of our time. I have to contrast any trash with something artistic in film or documentary based.
Are you a people's person or a loner?
Goes with the territory, I love being on my own and having all of my head space in working and creating, but when I’m with people I like to have fun and I can be a bit of a joker.
I looked into it until I read the words ‘as much responsibility as a child’.
Your favorite quote?
'An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.' Charles Bukowski
What’s your favorite city?
I lost my heart in LA when I was 16 and I’ve been meaning to go back and claim it back ever since.
What do you enjoy the most in life?
What do you enjoy the most in life?
Love and Art.
Instagram account you think deserves more attention?
In a social media rebellion I resisted having an instagram account for a long time. But now I have I am enjoying connecting with interesting people, so to help me catch up I would have to say @jocopeconceptualfashion. Also a great paper engineer I came across is @horstkiechle, he’s a supporter of my work and I would like to give him some love back.
Read more about Jo Cope's work: http://www.jocope.com/