Art / Àrá­mìdé Gill­ett

Born and raised in South London, Àrámìdé is a second-year textiles student who makes striking, one-of-a-kind pieces from her home in Lambeth. Her colourful knitwear has been featured in independent magazines such as Coeval and in a new music video by Nilüfer Yanya. Over the Christmas period Arammide spoke to us about her influences, work process and mannequin / best-friend Consuela.

How did you learn to make your pieces?

I learnt to make clothes with my Granny, Buffy. She and I would knit and sew endlessly. We’d go to Peter Jones and pick out patterns from the Vogue Pattern books, buy fabric from Fabrics Galore on Wandsworth Road and go home and pattern cut and make dresses. She and I would make knitted outfits for my toys when I was really young, and as I got older, she’d help me sew bunting as Christmas presents for all my family (one of the many hand-made Christmas presents I made).

In the summer of 2017, I did an intensive experimental knitwear short course at CSM. Every day, 5 days a week for 3 weeks, they’d teach us techniques on knitting machines and we’d have fun playing around and learning how these bizarre machines work. It was totally mesmerising.

Earlier that year I had attended a pattern cutting short course, also at CSM, so I could really practice my skills and understand the technical knowledge a little more. The combination of those two short courses, along with a childhood of training, practice and SO much fun with my grandmother meant I was equipped with the knowledge and skills to venture into the world of making clothes.

What are your influences?

My influences vary so much!! I am very heavily influenced by nature. I think Mother Nature has gifted us with the most elegant colour pallets, textural combinations and materials. Music is another massive influence for me – I am constantly listening to dance-y stuff while I knit (the rhythms really help with the movement of the carriage across my knitting machine, plus it keeps me moving and motivated).

I have been inspired by for many years, but recently become kind of infatuated, by El Anatsui. He’s a Ghanaian artist living and working in Nigeria, and his process for making his beautiful textile pieces is that without a predetermined outcome (much like how I work). Some of my fashion influences are Erykah Badu (cliche, but she’s fire, so…), Grace Jones, Grace Wales Bonner and Matty Bovan. I’ve interned two years in a row with Matty and he’s got such an infectious energy with creating the most exciting clothing, he’s amazing!

Do you have any hopes for the future regarding your work?

I’d love to make another collection! But I’m currently a second-year textiles student at Chelsea and am trying to prioritise getting uni done properly so as to not overwhelm myself. I am trying not to feel the pressure to produce more as soon as possible. I think there is a massive issue in the fashion industry, and wider creative industries, with this constant desire to see what’s coming next.

I am really enjoying the process of experimentation and making, without trying to set too many goals with production. I was so excited and extremely grateful with the response to my first collection. Although, I don’t think I am quite ready to sell pieces or do commissioned pieces yet. Each of my garments are complete experiments; each one is unplanned and so each is a sample.

I could reproduce each one if I wanted, but that’s not where my heart is right now. Maybe in 6 months when I’m completely broke I’ll be re-creating everything to sell. Until then, I’m loving doing collaborations and small projects with other people and fine-tuning my skills.

What’s your work process?

As I said before, each piece is an absolute experiment. I don’t really plan what I’m going to make. It’s a very organic process. I usually start with the yarn – I’ll decide a colour palette and find a texture I like. Then I just start knitting. I will switch the techniques up quite a bit while I’m knitting. It’s a dance between the knitting machine, my mannequin Consuela, fabric scissors, my sewing machine and my overlocker. I’ll move between them all and, like a patchwork, a garment will be pieced together.

I’m constantly listening to all kinds of music while I work, and a lot of the time I’ll end up procrastinating by dancing all over the place. I think I like to make clothes that I could wear while dancing or running around at a festival and that would make me feel my most fabulous, so they often end up being a little bit sexy, vibrant and enticing. It can take me anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to make a piece, it really depends. I can be a very focused worker when I want to be, but I am also excellent at distracting myself. Most of the time, I’m so excited to see the final outcome that I’ll keep going until it’s done.