Posted Monday 11 June 2012
The walls are hung with ornamental plates, every available space has a knick-knack, every cushion is plumped on its chintz chair and the thick flowery curtains are complete with pelmet and crystal-studded tie-back. It's the home of the cat lady, and it's the inspiration behind a feline-themed collection from Kingston University fashion student Alice Maughan that went slinking down the catwalk during Graduate Fashion Week.
With an estimated 10 million cats in the United Kingdom, Alice really got her claws into the individual's dedication to their furry companions as she developed her latest line-up of womenswear. A self-confessed cat lady in the making, she says she has always liked the comic side of fashion. "I wanted to take a light-hearted look at people's obsession with their pets," the 23 year old said. "I researched photographs and found older ladies really went to a lot of effort to be photographed with their cats, putting on glamorous outfits, jewels, and even gloves."
But it was the backgrounds of the photographs that also appealed to Alice when she was devising her collection - the old-fashioned furniture and decoration, she realised, were part of the eccentric ladies' whole cat-centred world. "I've taken aspects of interior design and combined these with my hand-drawn cat prints to bring the secret world of the cat lady into the spotlight," Alice explained.
"There's a quilted box-like jacket that's reminiscent of plumped up furniture and cushions - the sort of thing you would be too worried to actually sit on in case you spilt your tea on it. I've also taken some vintage curtains and turned them into a dress complete with curtain pole. The cat lady cannot be separated from the home she preens and grooms."
Alice enjoyed drawing the cat prints that adorn five of the looks - one kitty even sports a monocle. The gathered shape of the curtains is a prominent feature on a white and blue printed top, while the effect of a skirt on a settee finishes off a teal quilted dress with cat print. "I was really struck by the faded glamour of some of the women in the photographs," Alice said. "They're holding on to their stylish past and this is something that appeals to people even now as can be seen in the desire for vintage clothing. My collection is twee, but not seen in a serious way - I hope it comes across as being more youthful."
Alice hails from an artistic background, with both her parents trained in illustration. "I grew up in a house surrounded by art and I was encouraged to draw everything," she explained. "Our house is a real Aladdin's cave - there's Russian dolls, Winnie the Poohs, even old milk bottles with the adverts on - it's amazing what people collect. My dad also used to make puppets, which is just another of the quirky collections we have at home that have been in the back of my mind while I've been researching this project."
There are two particular characters in Alice's childhood who have also been an inspiration in her feline fashion collection. Ginger and white Lester and black and white Jess were her cats when she was growing up. While she is without a moggy at the moment, Alice hopes to find a furry friend once she has settled and got a job. "I love cats and would really like to have one in my life again. But my studies have been so intense, it wouldn't have been fair while I was at university. One day I'll have the time again, and a garden," she said.
Senior lecturer at Kingston University's Fashion Department Andrew Ibi said Alice's collection really reflected what graduate fashion was all about. "It breaks and extends the rules, has fun and challenges the imagination while the execution is fantastic," he said. "The starting point and concept of cats has been translated carefully but without inhibition. Alice has worked very hard on the detail, the colours, the finish, illustrated textiles and exceptional cutting."