Electronic sheep

 

The design duo Brenda Aherne and Helen Delany are the creators behind the knitwear label Electronic sheep. Knowing each other since childhood they have separately developed their own expertise in knitwear and graphics, until they joined together establishing the label 1999. They are known for their stand alone,  illustrative designs – each piece telling their own story. 

We meet at opening night of their newly released short film  ’A knitted film,’ which is showing sequences from their ‘Pink Noir collection’ – Electronic Sheep’s AW12. Here is a interview with Helen & Brenda – them describing their adventure, starting at jumping off builders pick-up truck’s to creating a independent fashion label. 

Tell me about yourself?, how did you meet?

Helen:
I grew up in Dublin in suburbia just outside of the city. I was a tomboy who loved dolls and dressing up as a native Indian. I was a loner at first…
Brenda and I met on our street shortly after this time when we were about 7 or 8 years old. My earliest memory of Brenda is that she jumped off a builders pick-up truck parked in my garden. She broke her arm – it seemed pretty cool at the time!

What is your educational background?

Helen:
When we finished school we went to the same college – The National College of Art & Design in Dublin. Brenda got into Fashion and I studied Graphics. We were really happy there - much better than school. For the first time in our lives we worked hard. Being creative full time was a luxury and we became art swats! We both did an exchange to England in our 2nd year – Brenda to De Montford University and me to Central St Martins. It was hard times. We had very little money with us so lived on cheese and wine if we could get our hands on it. I lived in a high rise block of flats with no heating and it was pretty dodgy. We both learned more about survival than art during that time.

After we got our degrees we both did some other Post-graduate studies. Brenda at Limerick School of Art in Knitwear. I did a short stint doing Fine Art print at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Working in a team of two components, how do you work together?  Any specific personal strengths?

Brenda:
We have a list somewhere that divides up our roles but it is rarely stuck to. We both cross over all the time  - production, sales etc. Naturally my strength is in knitwear and Helen’s in graphics but really over the years our disciplines have become intertwined.

Can you explain the creative process when you start a collection?

Brenda & Helen:
We always start with a story of some sort….over the years they are either personal or something we are interested in.
We always loved stories especially those about the past, Helen’s Dad was a great story teller and used to scare the life out us when we were kids with tales of banshees on the bonnet of his car and such spooky tales. One of our collections ”Pussy’s Leap” was inspired by his collection of narratives.

We always have a story in our heads before we start designing. We are always collecting and researching so we spend lots of time sifting through all our bits and bobs. That is one of the best parts of the process! What we do is really intricate and often painstakingly precise. We do loads of experiments with yarn, gauges, machinery, colours and finishing. Then drawing, drawing and more drawing…

Working with only wool – how did that come about? what are
 the advantages of working with one fabric?

Brenda:
I specialised in knitwear for my degree, I also did a Postgraduate in Knitwear Technology so I suppose I’m very much a ‘knitter’! I initially wanted to use some of Helen’s prints for fabric items but we decided to concentrate on - mixing our two skills  - graphics and knit. Helen’s illustrative and graphic background was the perfect accompaniment, and our signature style really developed organically.

Knitwear has certain limitations, which influence our drawings and push us to experiment more. We also like the fact that we make both the fabric and the garment so we can structure the fabric to suit each design.

What is important to consider as a today’s independent fashion label?

Brenda & Helen:
We feel it is important to be always experimenting and developing as a label. We need to be one step ahead. Fashion is so fast and so disposable these days that it is important to make quality individual pieces that people will covet. We treat each design as a stand alone piece that works as part of the collection and on it own, almost like a piece if art.

Tell me a bit about your current ‘Pink Noir’ collection’?

Helen:
Our current collection ‘Pink Noir’ was influenced by film noir, amongst other things. We both love old black and white films - so we mixed up this influence with sixties style graphics. The ‘pink’ idea relates to that era and we like the play on words.

The collection is a series of scarves and sweaters that feature intricate jacquards (knitted images). Each image is a scene - for an example a girl on the phone, a girl in her apartment, street scenes and abstract patterns. They all link together in a sequence and make up a story. We created this short story to act like a film – hence each scarf becomes a film still. It was always our plan to turn the collection into a ‘knitted’ film. So we collaborated with artist Cliona Harmey and musician the Keystone Kops to make a short art film called ‘A knitted Film’.

Any future projects, collaborations you would like to share with us?

We would like to do some more music and art collaborations. We also have plans to work with a designer based in Japan but all still in the makings…

What is your future aspiration as designers?, artists and as a company?

As designers we would like to continue experimenting with knitwear and expand the collection.

As artists we would like to be as creative as possible and work on other aspects of our label
such as our hand drawn comic – ‘The Electronic Sheep Comic’.

As a company we will show at London Fashion Week in February. We would like to gain more international agents and stockists.We currently have agents in London, Dublin and Berlin. For next season we have an agent in Norway and we would love Electronic Sheep knitwear to be available more in cold weather countries!



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