‘Reverse Subtraction Cutting’ lecture by Julian Roberts

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Recorded and edited live at the British Fashion Council 'Creative Pattern Cutting Seminar',
at Somerset House in London UK, November 2014.

Deconstructed by Julian Roberts & Joanna Sexton.


"Today I'm going to be showing you some 'Master' and 'Novice' level Subtraction Cutting.

I've cut 6 prototype toile dresses specifically for this seminar, and I am going to reverse-engineer (or dissect) them apart one-by-one, so that each of the 6 sessions today will be unique and different.

I'll be taking the dresses back to their flat cloth form, to reveal and discover the 2D garment patterns for the very first time.

I will be videoing the deconstruction process, and attempting to live edit them for you to watch at the end of this session. After today, I will post the 6 videos with an explanation of my thought processes on my website, for all to see and share.

No paper pattern or drawn 'design' was produced prior to these toile prototypes, they were each cut and constructed directly into the cloth with no rehearsal or template,
and with no exact idea what the finished outcome would be.

For me, 'Design' comes at the end of the making process, not first, as garment making is conventionally taught and celebrated.

I feel my way through the design process, sometimes purposefully, sometimes ungracefully, sometimes tripping up, or ending up far from where I imagined I'd be.
It's not always smooth and painless.

I am lead by the textile, by a curiosity in material construction, and a fascination in tactile geometry.
I allow mistakes to be made and incorporated into the finished product.
You learn through your mistakes, so it's better not to avoid them, and sometimes very useful to devise them.
Not knowing the finished outcome in advance means it is a surprise to me, and occasionally a real shock.

I like to share these realizations and techniques with as many people as i can, often for free.
I have published my techniques free online since 2002, and lead hundreds of masterclass workshops in 17 countries, across 6 of the worlds continents (i'm yet to cut in Antarctica!).

I do not follow conventional aesthetics or cutting methodologies, but rather allow the process of cutting & making to take me somewhere new.

I am not interested in beauty, trends, or stereotypes.
I am instead more interested in ugliness, asymmetry, and curiosity for anything that visually jars against the sensitivities of ordinary culture, and boredom.

An ugly garment has no limitations of size, scale, or proportion.
Many ugly styles become beautiful by first outraging conservative taste.
Madeleine Vionnet, Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Iris van Herpen, Comme des Garçons - all have presented some very ugly discoveries and experiments, that initially shocked before moving opinion and being celebrated.

I measure garment patterns in relation to my self: By hand, and by eye, not inches and centimeters, but rather finger-widths, handspans, feet, steps, jumps & leaps of imagination.
My patterns, as you will see, are very large.
They don't follow human body proportions, but rather deliberately exceed them, exploring architectural scales and proportions.
By removing or reducing hollow space, the garment shrinks back to human scale.

I teach Subtraction Cutting and reveal my more advanced studio practice in order to empower others to touch cloth and participate in experiment construction and making.

Anyone can learn Subtraction Cutting in a few hours, and whoever explores and uses it will each approach it differently, because it is not tied down or limited by inflexible rules, hard numerical mathematics, or rigid geometry.

Before i tear apart one of these garments, and explain to you the inner working of Subtraction Cutting, I will talk about some of the things on the video screen behind me, and how i came to cut and think in this way."


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