Flora Miranda and the Venus Dress. From huge failure to huge success.

21 October 2021

 

The latin prefix “ex” means “out of, away, forth”. Flora Miranda’s fashion is definitely “ex”, out of the ordinary, away from the beaten track, looking forth, to experiment and challenge aesthetic conceptions and material conventions with techniques that are detached from design tradition and history.

A fashion finalist from 2016 – though we had been already mesmerised by her “Sidereal” collection the year before that – Flora has shown at Paris Haute Couture, dressed countless celebrities, artists and iconic personalities and has never ceased to challenge our perspective, heading towards a real expression of the self and a multi-dimensionally developed personality.

Original Venus Dress sketch

Recently we had the chance to talk to Flora about a story from back in the days she was a student at Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and we’d like to share it because it perfectly describes her approach as a designer.

More importantly it is proof of how creativity can find mindblowing solutions even when a dead end has been reached. Provided it is nurtured by a talented mind like Flora’s.

“The Venus dress has had an exciting life – being worn by visionaries like Sevdaliza, Sita Abellan, Susanne Bartsch and more. I designed it as part of my Bachelor collection in 2012, when I was studying at the Royal Academy Antwerp.

It also marks one of the big failures in my fashion design life, which I was able to turn into success. I like to remember this experience whenever things do not work out.

I envisioned this huge dress being made from silicone, poured in one piece. No seams, just one smooth surface. A true technical challenge. And I prepared the construction for weeks, consulted with the sculpture department at the academy and learned a lot about working with silicone. I wanted the surface to be gold and made tests to reach this slick golden surface. Everyone in school was looking forward to seeing this extraordinary dress realised. Teachers told me ’it will be fantastic‘.

It was crazy. At the sculpture atelier I built up the dress in real size from clay, which meant stacking up a ton of clay and shaping it to the final form. Hard physical work, which took me a whole semester to finish.

Exploring new ways is often connected to stupidity and craziness, also because I should have already had several dresses developed in my first semester to be able to follow the strict deadlines of the school. But I believed in this idea and thought that if I mastered this huge and difficult dress, it would have been easy to create smaller garments with the same technique. I purchased 25 kilograms of silicone and gold pigment in order to create the final shape, to make the dream come true.

When I finally cast it, I was amazed by the result. Here it was, my smooth golden dress, blobbing body parts, a real Venus. The next step was taking off the “skin” from the clay and drape it over the wire construction that I had prepared. Only then did we realise – me and the sculpture teachers – that 25 kilograms of silicone are extremely heavy. It was impossible to even lift the skin, and my wire construction just collapsed under the weight.

My 5 month work was useless. For the first semester jury moment I had nothing to show. Everyones’ shoulders dropped, a feeling of despair spread in the room. I experienced one day of darkness. I needed to redesign and make a whole new collection in the remaining semester. Now I needed to act quickly and take decisions. That was when I saw the solution.

I do not remember how I came up with it, but I finally made the dress from silver fake leather, adding loads of seams that would add a visual component to the dress while creating the unusual shapes. Inside of the seams I sew metal wire, so that the dress would support its own shape. Sewing the dress wasn’t easy at all but it was really worth it. The result was a dress that would move with the body, wearable and easy to transport. I designed the other looks accordingly.

I graduated for my Bachelor, best of my class. The impossible was done. The curiosity for finding new paths is always paired with the risk of the unknown. Over the years I have experienced many similar situations. Stories to tell. I am now very used to these experiences.”

Vogue Italia 2021 feature

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