Exploring my great grandmother’s journey has been the heart of my final major project.
My great grandmother Tilly was French/Syrian, she lived and grew up in Lebanon/Syria until the 1920/30s when the family fled after her brother was involved in a murder and there were fears they would be the victim of honour killing. She found refuge in Cairo, where she was to meet my great-grandfather, an English soldier. Cairo was to be their home and for my grandfather (born 1934) and brothers until they moved back to England in the late 1930s just before World War Two.
My great grandmother had a tough time. She was the victim of domestic physical and emotional violence and never really adapted to the UK. Until her death in 1981 she wore widow’s black (she stayed married to her abuser) and her English was never very good. She stood out in rural Oakham, Rutland, where the family settled. But she was a strong woman who despite her isolation and exile from home never let life get the better of her.
The main source of inspiration for my silhouettes is my great-grandfather’s Crombie British Warm, only 10% were worn within the British Army. The British Warm is made from very heavy Melton wool making it extremely thick and ‘masculine’. I wanted to somehow subvert that, exploring masculine silhouettes and translating that into womenswear, creating a strong female character, encapsulating strength and resilience to reflect my great grandmother. The prints and fabric colours are inspired from Cairo and Syria, to reflect that side of my great-grandparents story but also to allow you to feel transported to the Middle East.