Posted Friday 25 May 2012
Two pairs of huge blue eyes, two crops of cascading curls, two impish grins and a matching passion for design - students at London's Kingston University would be forgiven for doing a double take in the fashion department as identical twins Faith and Grace Hawthorne make the final adjustments to their co-ordinated womenswear collection.
The 23 year olds' lives have mirrored each other from the start. From their early days helping their mother, Marion, sew sequins on her wedding dress designs to their joint flair for playing the bagpipes, it was no surprise when the Northern Irish sisters, who hail from Newtownhamilton in County Armagh, couldn't even be separated when it came to their final fashion collection. "We never considered studying apart when we were choosing our fashion degrees," Faith explained. "And for our final project, we immediately looked to each other and knew we would be able to bring together each of our own six looks," Grace added, naturally finishing her sister's sentence.
While their parents have played a big role in inspiring the girls - their mother through her own dress-making business and their father through his timber-framed construction business - it was their older brother Alasdair, an airline captain, who provided the starting point for the designing duo. They wanted to pay tribute to him after he averted an accident last year, landing his aircraft safely after an emergency. Although no-one was hurt, the scare shook the family. Faith turned her worry into her work and began to research the structure and design of aircraft, while Grace looked to flying suits for silhouette and material ideas. The results are garments combining sculptured shapes formed from structured fabrics, accented with safety-orientated colours for a high-flying themed womenswear collection.
"We have used high visibility neon yellow as our accent colour alongside our monochrome colour palette," Faith explained. Frosted white PVC, reminiscent of safety glass, makes for obscured see-through windows on jackets and sleeves. While grey reflective strips and canvas reinforce the safety theme on a waterproof overcoat, plane spotters will spy aviation features across the collection from seatbelts, safety harnesses and even parachute-inspired rucksacks.
A printed silk organza dress has a flight plan pattern, while a cage of boned patent leather is attached at its neckline by a silver buckle. Two jackets have inflated panels on the main body and sleeves. "You see the life jacket demonstration on board when you go on holiday, but we wanted to take aspects of it - the panels and the inflatable shape of a functional design - and incorporate that into our looks," Grace explained.
The twins have used laser cutting to embellish their designs with miniature aircraft shapes - first on a white leather T-shirt, but also on the legs of their PVC and neoprene trousers. "Cutting out aeroplane shapes gives us another chance to reintroduce our accent colour as we place it behind the missing material," Faith said. "The colour flashes through and reinforces our safety theme."
Many siblings would find it difficult to work together on a project as important as this, but Faith and Grace maintain that their bond means the creative process is even more effective. "We've always had the same taste in clothes and often use each other to test outfits and looks. We're pretty honest with each other and this has helped with the whole creative process," Grace, who is six minutes older than Faith, explained. "Working in fashion, we hope that we'll always be able to have that kind of set up - bouncing ideas around and being a mirror to the other. We'd love to start our own label in London one day."
Senior lecturer at Kingston University's Fashion Department, Andrew Ibi, has the difficult job of trying to tell the twins apart on a daily basis. "Faith and Grace may be incredibly close but their finished collection has to demonstrate two individual understandings and representations," he said. "They've taken the 3-D structures from their aircraft theme and shaped these around the body, producing futuristic shapes and clean lines projecting from a feminine form. Combined with intricate patterns, the collection makes for a very considered and technical approach to fashion."