Kit Cranfield’s creative flair and eye for style has seen her develop a fulfilling career as a designer/stylist, based between the New England and Sydney. There are some exciting projects on the horizon for Kit, including a new menswear label …
What’s your background in the New England area?
I grew up and completed my schooling in Armidale. Throughout secondary school, I modelled in The Australian Wool Fashion Awards (TAWFA). At 13, I entered my first garment to TAWFA in the secondary school section; at 16 and 18 I was fortunate enough to place first in the Children’s Wear section, and just last year, in the Fleece to Fashion Awards, I placed second in the Activewear section. Now, I’m a designer/stylist based between Sydney and the New England.
Where/when did your interest in textiles and design begin?
My earliest memories of my interest in fashion and textile design would have to be my grandma’s button box, and my great-grandmother’s boxes of fabrics that I played with as a kid. By early high school, I was very much inspired by Akira Isogowa and Issey Miyake and their use of natural fibres and drape. At university, I found myself inspired by the beauty in the banal and unexpected.
I’m drawn to the notion of Australian culture, and what it means to us today. Modern Australia has a wealth of cultures, but many remain relatively segregated and marginalised. We are a cosmopolitan and globalised society that has so much to offer. It is this societal crucible which fascinates me most: the melting and synthesis of cultures through aesthetics is a remarkable process. My practice is an exploration of culture, place, and gender, and how it relates to the way we dress.
Your education encompasses an Adv. Diploma in Visual Communication in 2012 and a Bachelor of Fashion and Textile Design in 2017. How did formal education at a tertiary level help develop your current career path?
The combination of an Adv. Dip. Visual Communication and a B. Fashion &and Textile Design through the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) provided me with a strong skill set in graphic, fashion and textile design. It also developed my understanding of fashion theories and how fashion relates to people, gender, place and time. I undertook electives in textile print design, photography, and global studios based in Indonesia and India. These helped me to understand my areas of interest and further developed my skills.
My education at UTS also encouraged and opened my eyes to the importance and impact of ethics and sustainability within the fashion industry. It is so easy to have something made for a low cost, but when quality, and the livelihood of others and our planet is also sacrificed, is it worth it?
But it wasn’t until my graduation ceremony that I truly realised the impact my tertiary studies had in helping to develop my current career path, and it wasn’t the endless support of my tutors and the skills I was taught along the way, but the words of the commencement speaker, Anne-Marie Escobar. She spoke of humility, the importance of collaboration, and the need to cherish those around you who propel you on your path forward. And of course, the need to keep learning – always.
Many people may think that working with textiles means you sew, or create fabrics. How much do other art forms – e.g. illustration, drawing, photography – play a role in what you do?
For me, drawing, illustration and photography are a huge part not only of my textile process, but also of my final product. Many of my textiles designs are print and embroidery based, as I find this to be an extension of my drawing skills, and something that flows instinctively for me.
What have been some projects you’ve worked on in recent times that you’re especially proud of?
In October last year, I finished and exhibited my collection “PLEAT. n. a creased fold”, at the RAW: Natural Born Artists Horizon Showcase in Sydney. This was a project that began as my university womenswear collection in 2017, which explored the idea of conceal/reveal. My process in this collection was all about playing in the pull, and explored the juxtaposition of the eastern idea of concealing the body under swathes of fabric, and the western idea of revealing the body both literally and in form.
Within this project, the development of textiles and desire to elevate low cost fabric to a couture level, steered the aesthetic direction of this collection. The collection was inspired by pleated fabrics, the way in which they draped on, and wrapped the human body. My artistic ideas were then paired with specific textiles, which challenged me to turn creative thought in to a tangible collection; I wanted to show the creative process from start to finish.
Your skills have developed to the point where you’re now able to offer styling/stylist services. What does this involve?
I offer styling services to both men and women, providing how-to solutions and specialist styling advice to build their own personal style, dress with confidence, and create an image they love. I encompass a wide range of purposes and budgets – whether it be a just for a quick style make over on a tight budget, help finding the perfect outfit for an upcoming event, those looking for a complete wardrobe overhaul, or for clients wishing to maintain a personal brand with a high-quality wardrobe year-round. I relish the transformative nature of personal styling, and wish to empower my clients to look and feel confident, while enhancing their look and embracing their personal style.
You’re currently working on a new menswear label. What can you tell us about this?
My menswear range is a project that I’m taking my time on and making sure everything is just right before I release my baby into the world. So, it won’t be out for a little while yet. But the basis for my range is “clothing for the modern Dandy or Flâneur”. It is an investigation into gender identity, and the identity of the modern Australian through an exploration of culture, place and country. A range for the uninspired man, for the fearless, inspired by rockers and all round fancy dressers such as Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Prince.
Menswear is an interesting market, as it has stayed relatively static for many years. As our culture shifts, particularly with the rise and visibility of queer culture, more people are becoming comfortable with expressing themselves and their sexuality through the way they dress and without the constraints of male/female specific clothing. I believe it’s time for traditional gender perceptions to be challenged, and for clear distinctions as to what is appropriate to wear as a male or female to be reconsidered. My label is an all-inclusive collection, allowing everyone, no matter their differences, the chance to express themselves fully.
It is important to me, for anything I put out into the world, to be making positive change and paving a way for a more sustainable and transparent fashion future. By asking questions, manufacturing ethically, reducing wastage and working closely with artisans and factories to ensure a code of ethics is being followed, I will be producing a label which seeks to slow the fashion cycle. I want it to be a label that focuses on craftsmanship and helps to increase the integrity of our fashion choices.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
I am continually looking to expand my skill set and gain industry experience by taking every opportunity that comes my way. I am about to make the move to the UK early next year to pursue a career in Creative and Art Direction. So, if all goes to plan, I’d like to see myself as a Creative or Art Director within the fashion industry. In five years’ time, I would also like to see my menswear label starting to take off and to be moving on to my next project – a women’s collective that aims to teach young women and girls, of all backgrounds, skills in design – a place where they can feel safe and empowered.
Where can we find out more about you/contact you?
All of my details can be found on my website: kcran.com, or visit me on Instagram @k.cran
Interview: Jo Robinson.