Galya Rosenfeld

At first glance, San Francisco based designer Galya Rosenfeld’s innovation is apparent in the structural ingenuity of her garments. What may be less obvious until you have the opportunity to handle and wear her clothing is the surprising realization that the hand of the fabric, its weight and substance, has great integrity. Rosenfeld’s style has an industrial feel, with surfaces resembling the pixilation of television and computer monitors. These pixels, rather than needle and thread, are what hold her designs together. The precise and resolved sense of tailoring that Rosenfeld so capably engineers is part of a larger investigation which broadens definitions of both cloth construction and garment tailoring.

Rosenfeld’s system of one-off studio production is a conscious rejection of the values which drive mass production and consumption. This ethos draws her closer to the concerns of craft than the image of cutting edge design she projects. In reality, studio production offers full reign to her design ideas precisely because they are not hampered by the end question of transforming prototypes into viable mass production. Her processes require minimal intervention of technology, instead focusing attention on the inherent qualities of her chosen materials. That said her clothing designs look nothing like a craft manifesto. The metres of snap tape consumed by “Snap Series” are undeniably born of mass production. “Modular Clothing Series” is based on an interlocking jigsaw pattern which is enhanced by the precision of die cutting. The endless permutations which define both lines make alteration by the wearer possible and, at least conceptually, extend the life of the garment beyond the original form purchased.

The design of “Snap Series” allows the garments a flexibility similar to that of a bias cut or knitted fabric. While designers such as Zac Posen have investigated similar materials, Rosenfeld sets herself apart by cutting no corners – literally. Often, one continuous length of tape is used to construct the garment which relies solely on its own connection points to assemble the shape. Apart from being a little chilly at first, the poppers do not scratch your skin or threaten to come undone at an inopportune moment. That said, it does take a brave soul to first agree to don such garments. Without the form of the human body, many of these garments rest in an unnaturally elongated shape which makes them look impossibly slender and unnecessarily long. This resting shape is entirely deceptive. In fact, it is quite a reassuring experience to pull the material over your body and realize that it is made for a human rather than a super model or cyborg. The elongation is simply the result of the diamond grid moving, like an expandable towel rack, in one rather than two directions.

Many of Rosenfeld’s garments offer few clues to their spatial orientation and often have no distinct interior or exterior. Other ambiguities are also revealed. Despite their solid construction there is actually nothing permanent about the way they are made. Commercial zips and snaps, and the ingenious interlocking modular series can all be disassembled or reshaped. This may be a good thing as all of the shapes can arguably be understood as gender neutral. While the work is documented on female models, there is little to exclude the male body other than the width of the torso. Ambiguity is also apparent in the stark palette which is often limited to the bold geometric contrasts of primary colours offered by the manufacturers of the materials. This simplicity serves Rosenfeld’s cause well, distancing her work from the fickle seasonal colour changes of the fashion industry and adding to the conceptual as well as material flexibility of her work.

“Boundaried boundlessness” is the term Sarat Maharaj has coined in reference to contemporary textile practice. Rosenfeld’s place, between bespoke design and the metres of mundane materials she uses, can be understood in these terms. Her work redefines the textile without looking beyond the textile. Her materials are the very stuff that has been staring us in the face. Her garments are not. They reorder the boundaries of garment construction, fashion consumption and the image of hand made material investigations.

Future Materials: Nonwovens Report (2005: 15)