Easton Pearson’s experiential fashion: An introduction
Irma skirt Spring Summer 2001 (remade 2009) (detail) | Washed calico, hand decorated to garment shape with metal and plastic sequins and surface stitching, edges hand frayed | Collection: Easton Pearson
I have topazes, yellow as are the eyes of tigers, and topazes that are pink as the eyes of a woodpigeon, and green topazes that are as the eyes of cats . . . I have moonstones that change when the moon changes, and are wan when they see the sun. I have sapphires big like eggs, and as blue as blue flowers. The sea wanders within them, and the moon comes never to trouble the blue of their waves. I have chrysolites and beryls and chrysoprases and rubies. I have sardonyx and hyacinth stones, and stone of chalcedony, and I will give them all to you, all, and other things will I add to them. The King of the Indies has but even now sent me four fans fashioned from the feathers of parrots, and the King of Numidia a garment of ostrich feathers . . . In a coffer of nacre I have three wondrous turquoises. He who wears them on his forehead can imagine things which are not . . . These are great treasures above all price . . . But this is not all . . . In a coffer incrusted with amber I have sandals incrusted with glass. I have mantles that have been brought from the land of the Seres, and bracelets decked about with carbuncles and with jade that come from the city of Euphrates . . . What desirest thou more than this, Salomé?1
Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson are purveyors of more than beautifully designed and crafted clothes for women: an Easton Pearson garment promises something beyond the everyday experience of dressing. From a simple cotton voile sundress, embroidered with a delicate tracery of tendrils and flowers, to an elaborate evening jacket, hand-sewn with thousands of gold-dipped glass beads; from a silk shirtdress printed with imagined scenes of tropical island life and trimmed with diamanté crystals, to a raw-edged calico petticoat, overlaid with a skirt of raffia that gently rustles with each step — what is promised is a metaphorical transport into a life more exotic, adventurous, vivid and exciting.
Easton Pearson clothes appeal to the senses. They draw the gaze with their vibrant colours, shimmering textures, glistening beads, metallic threads and glimpses of inset mirrors. They catch the ear with textured fabrics that whisper and swish as their wearer moves. They ask to be touched and felt, offering myriad tactile experiences, such as the subtle resistance of slubbed silk, the gentle brush of fine linen, and the sheer weight of a tiered cotton skirt. Although, technically, Easton Pearson is a pret-a-porter label, it stands apart due to what the designers call their ‘demi-couture’ techniques.2 Their clothes are produced in limited quantities and with an attention to detail and effort in production that is beyond the scope of mass-produced fashion.
What further distinguishes the label is the creative and complex layering of associations within both individual garments and seasonal collections. These relate not only to the history of dress, but also to broader personal and cultural histories, incorporating sources from literature, film, books, art and music. In creating their fashions, the designers have remarked, ‘we are living out our fantasies . . . characters in books, people in old movies, people we see on the street . . . We have hundreds of muses, from real to mythical’.3
‘Easton Pearson’, the exhibition, proposes to take its visitors on a journey through the designers’ creative landscape. In the same way that a writer in the New York Times recently noted the trend for ‘experiential travel’ — connoting ‘the quest for meaning, as opposed to pure R&R, that gives trips a greater sense of value’ — Easton Pearson’s clothes are experiential in the way they offer to take their wearer on many different journeys and to tell a range of stories.4 There is the story of the making, usually a complex combination of skills and techniques, as well as the clear evidence of the time taken to create each piece; and there are the stories that inspired the designs — stories based on the designers’ own lives, or the lives of others before them. Next