Designer Jonathan Rayson is a mix. A mix reflecting different countries, industries and crafts. He spent his formative years living, studying and working over three continents (Europe/North America/South-East Asia), where he followed music as his first passion until becoming ‘disillusioned and depressed with it [music]. Since I enjoyed working with my hands and knew of the financial rewards which would follow it, I took on a working apprenticeship in mechanical engineering with a large company in the oil and gas sector.’ Quite the jump, you might think, but Rayson says he looks at this as one of the founding developments for where he is today.
After five years in mechanical engineering and upon meeting a future business partner Rayson had launched his own US based denim brand within a year and with no vocational background in fashion. ‘At the very beginning I was practically self-taught, but I had a fervent passion to learn.’ Shortly after he enrolled into a local fashion tech school, which set him up in good stead for where the designer is today.
This year, Rayson graduated from the prestigious Central St Martin’s. As he sets sights on launching his own brand and design studio, we caught up with Jonathan to talk more about the unlikely but surprisingly pleasing merge or engineering, fashion and design.
What’s keeping you busy right now?
I’m currently working on my first ready to wear collection, along with a small range of specialty made to order “demi-couture” pieces. I anticipate that these will be available and in stores early next year, assuming all goes smoothly.
Essentially this will be my core business, which will be complemented by developing, creating and eventually selling complex fashion driven art-installation sculptures and product design. The product design aspect is something which I’m very eager to begin exploring, especially accessories and shoes, as since graduating from CSM, I’ve been approached by several renowned architectural firms about collaborating in this arena. Stylistically my work will be cross disciplinary in that respect and will be consistently evolving through different collaborations with entities which have access to the best technology and software know how, to transcend my current capabilities.
Tell me about your graduate collection, Warped?
My most recent collection was an exploration of various concepts and principles, mainly Hyperbolic paraboloid structures. First I explored the “golden ratio” (in getting the perfect proportion) and then modulating it using “chaos theory” (minor changes to perfection to add a feeling of the unknown to the shapes), before finally resolving it through an architectural technique called slice-form, which is very prevalent in parametric architecture and art.
I began the project by using a hand held 3D scanner to scan a female mannequin and then manipulated the result using CAD software to match the exact measurements of my real life model. The 3D scanner and CAD software allowed exact precision which meant the pieces contoured meticulously around the body and stayed within the parameters of the golden ratio formula. I modulated the structure further to give the finished pieces an element of the “unknown” and laser cut many individual panels for both of the two final main looks, constructing them through a slice form and a custom bolt system until they took on their final finished form. For final adornment I created beautiful multi-coloured custom art work, based on fractal art relating to my original concept. The designs were digitally printed on to pure silk, to add a dichotomy contrast and soft human element, to the otherwise hard imposing rigidness of the pieces.
Your projects involve a lot of engineering, architectural knowledge as well as 3D printing. How did the interest for these come about? Was it something you always wanted to work with or was it the course you did at CSM that opened your eyes to these technologies?
Coming from a professional vocation in engineering, it seemed natural that the skills acquired over the years would carry forward into my design persona, as knowledge in structures and supports were critical. The application towards fashion though, originally stemmed from boredom and feeling isolated after prolonged trips offshore, I began creating collages and basic sketches of the piping and rig CAD design into human forms from magazines. Visually and aesthetically from a fashion perspective it made absolutely no sense, but it was the first time in a long time that I remember being excited by the possibilities. This is partly what invigorated my love of fashion from a design standpoint and it was the moment when I transcended from being merely a consumer. It was at this point that I knew that I wanted to return to my creative roots and apply it to a new industry and vocation, one which would keep me on land and out of war zones!
I’m very flexible and open minded in the way I work, but I generally see myself as a “sculptor" first and foremost from a design standpoint. Although hand drawing and CAD design are excellent mediums and tools to realize a vision, I always try as best as possible to maintain the organic human element and work with my hands and eye first, before reverting to the digital realm. Stylistically, my way of working is recognising unique details and unusual silhouettes in elements which were never intended to be utilised in human form, and deconstructing it and rebuilding it in a way which works on the human body.
The interest came about from an almost needless and excessive way of over-designing, imparted by a need to push things to a point which were so new and what I thought was innovative, but essentially ended up being over-designed and unrelatable to anything resembling fashion (or functionally wearable for that matter). Although I still like to indulge occasionally, as was the case with my graduate collection “Warped”, in which the nature of the garment is more static “art installation” driven, than having to worry about the functionality and how the wearer is going to move in the garment.
With that said, I wouldn’t say that my time at CSM was solely responsible for wanting to work with these mediums, in one way it pushed me to go further out of the box (too far at times!), but it also at the same time helped to ground me and bring things back down to earth. There were some valuable lessons picked up along way, such as not to over design or design for the sake of designing, to focus on fabrication and sensuality, but most importantly wearability and how a garment reacts at any given time with the body.
Who is the audience for your creations?
I’d say my current audience are adventurous women who are not necessarily looking for “the name”, as much as “the concept” and technical craftsmanship of the garment; as we well as looking for that small element of escapism and fantasy, without transcending too far over the edge. I’ve created several pieces, which would simply be too much for the average wearer but, on the flip side, there are women who have excitedly exclaimed that they’d love to wear it, as they find it empowering.
This leads me to believe that within reason there is a market for more abstract garments. It’s always difficult to implement radical or new ideas, as 9 times out of 10 the market is simply not ready for a product or an idea, or a design can be too far ahead of the curve and before it's time. I think implementing core ideas slowly and cautiously is key, in a manner which is simultaneously not going to alienate the general market and avoid the “costume” stigma. In that sense I plan on drip feeding the more progressive concepts in stages and through small details within each garment to avoid this, whilst ideally creating my own woman in the process.
What kind of technologies do you use for your designs? Which one of those do you think has the biggest potential to become part of commercial garments, and why?
I always explore and utilise tried and tested technologies, which have now become border line cliche, such as 3D Printing, Laser Cutting and Vacuum Forming, which are all powerful mediums in their own right and serve a purpose, but naturally they come with limitations (impractical, expensive, uncomfortable to wear etc). Therefore I’m now gravitating towards slightly more uncharted territory such as organic technical methods which were never intended for fashion such as architectural slice form and complex deconstructed infinity origami. I feel that just these two mediums alone have vast potential to be implemented into commercial garments, to circumvent the limitations of flat pattern design. This should be made possible by using a Stratasys, which is a state of the art, unique multi-material, multi-colour Connex3 3D printer. It utilises an amazing nano enhanced elastometric 3D printing material, which is both durable and flexible, thus circumventing many of the traditional limitations of using 3D printing for commercial ready to wear.
I’m also currently delving deeper into CAD workstations such as Rhino and Grasshopper through a collaboration, utilising parametric scripts based on the natural movement of magnetized fluid and how it reacts with magnetic pull and flow, which in turn will allow us to create intricate patterns on any given surface geometry. Sounds utterly abstract and convoluted, but I can assure you the visual effects and possibilities will be aesthetically stunning!
What´s next for you?
The next year is going to be extremely busy! As I mentioned, I’m currently designing my first ready-to-wear women’s line ready in time for A/W18 LFW, in conjunction with a fashion sculpture art installation, based on the same principles of my “Warped” collection. Without giving too much away yet, this is in addition to a very exciting collaboration project, with an incredibly talented architect and product designer from an internationally renowned firm combining art, science, parametric architecture and fashion into a wearable, interactive visual installation. We’re going to be documenting the process extensively and hope to have an accompanying book and short film to showcase the end result. We’re very excited about the process and the many possibilities which we should be able to develop and adapt into ready to wear pieces at the end based on the project. If all goes to plan this will essentially mean more and more women wearing the garments and will give us a chance to try and push progressive fashion a little bit more forward and closer to the main stream, which is what it’s all about.
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