Marie & Marisa Gnanaraj

How can the applied art of fashion improve the quality of life? When it inspires creativity, durability and alternative identities. The mother daughter duo Marie and Marisa Gnanaraj share a familial as well as a creative bond when developing garments, as Marie engages with creating her own textural compositions through weaving yarn and fiber, while Marisa designs them into cutting-edge designs of richness and augmented value. Their collaborative exhibition ‘Woven Structures’ was held at Barefoot Gallery in July 2019, expounding ‘a collection of sartorial works’ representative of their individual identities as designers as well as their collective identity as creators transforming textiles and textures into structures of geometric beauty.

Marie dominates the process of developing the fabric with a penchant for unique colour combinations and layering of material, advancing the art of textile design. Marisa comes in as the conceptual fashion designer who utilizes the fabric as the first point of her inspiration to create garments that are avant-garde, traveling beyond boundaries of gender, time and place. Marisa was featured as ARTRA’s Emerging Artists, Best of 2018 for Fashion in Edition 39 Nov/Dec 2018/9, as her own brand MFact was shortlisted for the Beazly Designs of the Year Exhibit organized by the London Design Museum.

The exhibition ‘Woven Structures’ was an interdisciplinary experience that went beyond the boundaries of conventional fashion as it was coupled with elements of critique and artistry that distinguished the works of Marie and Marisa. In conversation with the two designers ARTRA uncovered the manner in which the collection was put together as well as how each designer’s craft is frequently influenced by the other’s, progressing as a collaborative ecosystem.

Q | Tell us about textile artistry and the manner in which you contribute towards that discipline.

Marie | Textile artistry goes along with weaving. Weaving has been there for so long. Joining Barefoot, a company that loves colour definitely had a special influence on me. That was a bit of science, to understand the right colours that go together. I think I have achieved that, and it is not always that people can achieve colours when they cross threads. With Barbara Sansoni’s influence and her sense of colour, I managed to grasp that science of mixing colours. Thereafter, it is a case of doing proportions and coming up with beautiful compositions. At Barefoot we had our own way of looking at things, we could not merely use certain colours without thinking about the final result. That way of thinking helped me when I started exploring textile artistry on my own with different textiles and  structures. Then a lot of experimenting with textures began. It took some time for me to grow as I am not someone who enjoys being mundane, seeing the same thing everyday. After some time, I came out of the flatness of fabric and I wanted it to become more three dimensional. My textures are to do with anything; I use different types of fiber and a lot of the fabrics are created in my own studio which gave me the chance to experiment. I have the freedom to create anything. Even if something goes wrong it is still my creation because it is my own.

Q | In your textiles, especially the ones shown at the exhibition ‘Woven Structures’, there is a nuanced architectural perspective with the blocks and even buildings. It is almost like a cityscape. How did that perspective evolve into your designs ?

Marie | Weaving is structured. A fabric is always a structure and the colours also become a structure. Two colours meet and become another colour. That is there anyway. For this exhibition specifically we chose to have that kind of perspective to enhance my craft. I would mould and stretch the fabric to change colour and texture with the aim of extracting from the simple and making it more interesting.

Marisa | Everything my mother sees, she tries to turn it into a two dimensional structure. So we take the inspiration and put that into fabric. The textures, colours and how we use them all revolved around that. The weaving framework remains the same, it is the standard. My mother has the speciality of using different materials and applying different methods for creation so it is made her own and turned into a unique abstract and even surreal artwork.

Q | How would you describe your designerwear brand MFact ?

Marisa | In the nineties my mother had seen construction happening around our environment and she started recreating those on the loom. She has been weaving for a long time in terms of design, but experimentation happened more significantly during that period of time. I ventured into this because my mother is a textile designer. Whatever I design for MFact has been done using fabrics by Marie. The fabric already has a particular structure and using it I wanted to see if I could build a shape. I had the idea that the collection would be workwear, but it did not have to belong to a certain period of time or a place. There is always a play of geometrics.

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7th October, 2019 Applied Art