Eleven years ago Lynn Christiansen made the decision to throw in her job as a marketing executive and follow her true calling. Now she is a regular collaborator with Los Angeles fashion designer Jeremy Scott, and has almost won the Supreme World of WearableArt Award, twice.
This year her entry ‘Gothic Habit’ (pictured) was awarded first prize in the American Express Open Section and runner up to the Supreme Award.
A line she read in a self-help book was the catalyst for change says Christiansen, who at the time was unhappy in her work but couldn’t figure out what to do next.
“The one line said ‘when was the last time you lost track of time?’ I was in grad school and had some air-drying clay. I sculpted this little leopard and when I looked up it was dark outside. Hours had passed. I thought back to this moment and said, ‘that’s it. I’m quitting the job, taking leave and going to art school to study sculpture,” she says.
During her study she discovered she had an affinity with metal, which led her to making jewellery, including runway pieces for the fashion department which caught the eye of Scott.
One of their most memorable collaborations to date was a meat dress, presented at New York Fashion Week two days after Lady Gaga wore a real meat dress at 2010 The Grammy’s. The timing was coincidental. “We debated, do we show it or should we not show it, and in the end we decided to show it,” she says. “It was kind of fun because it even won an MTV online poll of whose dress they liked better. Ours was much classier. It’s based on prosciutto not raw meat, and vegetarian because it was made out of silicon rubber.”
Christiansen, who hails from San Francisco, is now a respected artist/designer and seven-time World of WearableArt (WOW) veteran, taking out a number of awards for her work including the 2013 International Award.
This year’s award-winning entry ‘Gothic Habit’ was made from laser-etched felt and wood, and constructed with more than 2300 individually cut pieces that were painstakingly assembled to create an astonishing sculpture of a gothic cathedral.
Christiansen’s inspiration for the garment was drawn from the idea that entering a religious building provides a spiritual experience in itself, “the rising arches, heavy stone and raw beauty are stunning”.
She discovered the process of laser-etching and cutting after realising working with metal was exhausting, not only for her but also for the models who have to wear the garments. Her 2010 WOW entry ‘Horridus’, inspired by the Australian thorny devil lizard, was a suit of armour made up of hundreds of metal scales. “After I finished Horridus I lost the feeling in my thumb and index finger for about a month and thought I probably needed to try something new,” she says.
‘Gothic Habit’ by Lynn Christiansen is part of the World of WearableArt exhibition on show at Auckland War Memorial Museum from November 21, 2014 to March 22, 2015.