This week, our GFF Talent is Erica McLure, a textiles graduate from the Edinburgh College of Art! Erica’s inspiration for her final project came from a performance by the band Tame Impala, fused with her interest in marine life. The resulting textiles were transformed into psychedelia-tinged street wear and festival wear created using CAD embroidery machines. Read on to learn about Erica’s work, her focus on sustainable materials, and her plans for the future.

What was the starting point of inspiration for your final project?

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My inspiration began with Tame Impala’s 2018 Citadel headline show. The atmosphere created through light, colour, sound, moving digital backgrounds joined with the sun setting immersed the viewers and elevated the performance.

Within my work I am inspired by the natural world and in response to recent environmental issues such as plastic pollution and climate change; I wrote my dissertation on plastic pollution in the ocean and how this can be helped in the future through better design solutions.

I visited Sea Life Centre in London to visit creatures that I wouldn’t otherwise have the access to see, illuminated by neon lights and colours within their exhibits. The fact scientists think there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050 is a shocking statistic, especially as this is within our lifetimes. I wanted to think about these issues and create a collection celebrating the beauty beneath the sea, a world which to a lot of us is very alien and undiscovered.

What form does your final project take?

I have created prints for fashion outcomes which are primarily inspired by streetwear and festival fashion trends, taking the form of garments such as long-sleeve mesh tops, bucket hats, cycling shorts, swimwear two-pieces and Hawaiian style shirts.

I have also created a design book/magazine showcasing my work in garments and the variations of print these items could be made into.  

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How has it evolved from your initial ideas and what have you learnt along the way?

I had thought about this project for months before it began, so I came to it with a rather solid idea of the outcome I desired. Garment planning, production and the number of pieces you can get out of the fabric took me rather by surprise and at times I underestimated this process. I also developed a very painful Repetitive Strain Injury in my right hand from January which left me unable to draw as much as I had planned to, or undertake much embroidery, which is why I began to explore CAD embroidery.

I discovered UV reactive glow in the dark threads to use on the CAD embroidery machine which added layers and intrigue to my designs. The light reactive is almost reminiscent of creatures that glow in the twilight zone! I have learnt to take each day a time, remember to keep enjoyment at heart always and the importance of balancing work, life and health.

Also don’t rely on companies or Royal Mail to deliver when you need them to, things will always go wrong no matter how much you plan ahead especially in regard to technology, sometimes things take longer than you expect them to. Take a deep breath and each day as it comes with its challenges and learn from it for next time.  

What is the message behind your project that you want people to take away?

As I undertook research for my dissertation, I learned that washing synthetic clothes releases micro-plastic particles into the waterways, which ends up in the ocean and water systems. I wanted to use synthetic fabric from recycled sources to minimise raw materials being used.

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I got in touch with the company ECONYL, who make fabric from regenerated nylon but couldn’t get my hands on this sadly as I’m not a business. It’s definitely something I want to use moving forward and producing on a larger scale. I think sustainability is so important as fashion and textiles is the 2nd largest polluter of the planet and we need to create a better future through smart design solutions.

I want people to appreciate the beauty in nature, think about how their choices impact the planet we live in and take care of the environment. Especially currently where we are in a climate crisis, now is the time to take action and change our habits. Sometimes people think their small change isn’t going to make a difference, but collectively these changes add up to make a huge difference!

What is your plan once you finish your BA?

My plan is to attend New Designers in London in June, then enjoy my summer without the pressure of uni deadlines. I have a few commissions lined up and some new ideas ready to explore. Long term plan is to have my own business one day; I am very driven and idealistic and believe my passion for animals, the environment and style can help the future.