Article originally appeared in issue 28 of PITCH.

Words by Anthony Thomas

“It is about a lack of tactility and disconnection from reality in how we experience culture. I was looking at perfection versus imperfection. The way we glorify things that are flawless but at the same time crave things that are gritty and earthy. It’s kind of like we have gone back to basics but at the same time we want to look at things that are simulated or straight out of an Apple advert.”

After spending the better part of 2013 exploring how luxury brands interact with and entice youth culture to purchase their products through social media, Lucy Hardcastle sought to give her dissertation a tangible presence. Firmly grounded in addressing how technology exerts its influence over our real world behaviours, her graduating collection at London’s Chelsea College of Art and Design, Glow, is the result.

Hardcastle observed that, enabled by Instagram and Tumblr culture, the “virtual window shopping” of products and visual content had become the norm. Given the finite capacity of the human attention span, an increase in online engagement is going to result in an offline disconnection somewhere along the line. Smartphones have become more than just a communication tool, their auxiliary functions  now extending to offering a perceived sense of comfort in uncomfortable social situations.

Oddly enough much of her critical processing on the issue occurred during mediation, a hobby she took up as a New Years resolution. “While I was meditating, I could still see the glow of the computer screen in my head. I was finding that really soothing, almost like it was natural like in my brain I was still connected to my devices even though I was in this other place.”

That we are developing an almost primal need for technology is an interesting, perhaps disheartening to some, insight into how our minds respond to rapidly adopted technology like smartphones. “Around this time the film Her came out and that idea of how much we simulate relationships to make ourselves feel ok and comfortable. I feel like the relationship that happens in that film is almost a figment of his imagination, what he needed at the time.”

As she translated these ideas into actual designs, Hardcastle found herself presenting the prints on a much larger scale than she had previously, drawing on elements from interior and installation design and whetting her appetite for a multi-disciplinary practice. Textile design is essential to the individual experience of fashion, so these more immersive and collective characteristics may appear out of place but for Hardcastle it is simply a matter of making her visual language more effective.

“It’s about trying to communicate a visual concept and I think the bigger scale makes it this overpowering thing that you can’t ignore, like an elephant in the room type of situation. You have to experience and embrace it, the kind of works that you can’t ignore or walk past. It’s that kind of similar experience I want to create with the fluidity of fabric.”

At the end of the day though Hardcastle sees herself as a designer and has no qualms with her prints and fabrics becoming products somebody can integrate into their home. Identifying as a member the design community also brings sustainability to the forefront of her practice and her processes align accordingly.

“I knew when I started doing textiles that I wanted to do print but then there was the choice of doing digital print or screen printing. I consciously chose digital printing because there is far less water waste and chemical use than traditional screen printing, which involves lots of dyeing. I also use fabric techniques that give a lot of textures that mean you don’t need to wash them ever or you will lose that texture.”

Sustainability remains an infant framework in design disciplines despite widespread debate on the issue. This is attributed to the difficulty of implementing industry practices that promote environmental rather than financial efficiency, particularly at a corporate level due to the high risk of profit margin shrinkage. Hardcastle is adamant that short-term pain will reap long-term gain though.

“There are so many possibilities and solutions. Using organic cotton is becoming a really popular thing in fashion and I think people are realising that they want things that are really nice, simple and wearable. I think people are getting over this whole fast fashion thing. You don’t need to use things like synthetic dyes for every single colour. You can get most from natural dyes. It’s about investment money, people don’t seem to be bothered by it right now but obviously in a decade or so it will be more problematic.”

Hardcastle believes getting that investment money out of the coffers and into innovating manufacturing and studio process will ultimately be the result of the consumers themselves demanding it and doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge the impact trends like op-shopping and upcycling have had on reshaping perceptions of value in fashion.

While important, she is under no illusions that she alone is going to solve these issues. It is, after all, early days for the new graduate but that doesn’t mean she’ll be taking it easy, no matter how appealing a holiday in the wilderness of Iceland may be. Glow has been picked up by furniture brand, Habitat, for an exhibition in their London flagship store. Nike purchased some of her prints to be used in an upcoming range. Not to mention, recently accepting an offer from the Royal College of Art to extend her study in their Information Experience Design course.

Radiant with individuality, aesthetically confident and fiercely unafraid to explore unchartered channels for her creative output; Lucy Hardcastle is the epitome of the new age designer.