A story of war and after life by Sydney Davies.
Exhibiting first time for Fashions Finest at London fashion week, Euphemia Sydney Davies's collection
featured gas mask-clad men, shoes bearing bullets and even the odd wedding dress with celestial overtones. Moved by this macabre yet transcendental collection, I had to interview this talented designer and find out more about where this design story begun.
Born and raised in a loving Christian family in Sierra Leone, Euphemia's first memories of fashion were of wearing mostly skirts and dresses in her formative years as trousers were not 'a popular favourite' for women in African communities back then. One of her earliest memories of being a fashion conscious teen was owning a chocolate brown sketch- short sleeve top with sheer panels on the chest and stomach area. Twelve years on, she still owns this shirt although would not wear it for sanity and dignity reasons despite it still fitting her!
Although things are changing for women now in the big cities, this wasn't always the case. Things were also far from stable in her home country when, at the age of twelve Euphemia and her mum had to escape through neighbouring countries Gambia and Kenya, then eventually to the UK as war refugees. Recalling this nine year civil war as being one of the most brutal ever recorded, her collection 'BirthAlife' retells her experiences of war though the eyes of her innocent childhood.
This immensely personal and biographical collection records hopes and fears she experienced throughout this time and her and her interpretations of Armageddon. With pieces representing her observations during and after the war such as an orange dress inspired by a rusting oil tank, prints taken from her personal journal and the bible, her clothes re-tell a moving account of loss, devastation, rebirth and new hope. Michael Mba photography
Total devastation and war: these hand embellished Paraboots bear the bullet wounds of combat and war. This black, vulture inspired dress representing death itself.Michael Mba photography
This orange rust dress, her most favourite piece, detailing the rust and decay she saw after the war on an old oil tank. The flashes of gold in this trouser ensemble representing experiences of celestial inspiration.Michael Mba photography
Exclaiming "I want these dreams to stop", this shirt features actual print taken from excerpts of Euphemia's personal diary retelling of enduring sadness and nightmares following a relationship break up during this time in her life.
Despite describing part of her dying in this war she states that she did eventually rise victorious and embracing of the afterlife when she escaped Africa. What I like especially is that, despite enduring one of the worst ordeals anyone could imagine, she doesn't dwell on the negativity of it.
"We all go through things we feel kills us. Whether financial demise or an unforgettable heartbreak. That moment of absolute low. But, when you recover, pick and dust yourself off, you are given new life, a new beginning a chance of freedom peace happiness. We can all live our afterlife." Michael Mba photography
To re-birth, hope and afterlife. This beautiful virginal angelic wedding themed dress speaks of hope and anticipated marriage dreams of a young girl.
Indeed, this spirituality, positivity and empathy permeate though all areas of her life. She believes that her clothes are an extension of her and clothes can indeed become a physical representation of you. I suspect, humbled by experiences of having and losing things in the war, she also cautions though that not everyone can afford the luxury of experimentation and we should never judge people by their appearances.
In her personal life she doesn't conform to following fashion trends, instead choosing to wear what she likes regardless of whether in fashion or not. Currently she is enjoying wearing a couple of sweatshirts by "illustrated people". She also has clothes in her wardrobe by Henry Holland, Aqua, and BCBG Max Azria. A wardrobe we would all love to root through for sure!
As a teen she was heavily influenced by the works of Alexander McQueen Picasso and the general Cubist art movement. Still influenced by McQueen's brand now designed by Sarah Burton, she also loves the work of Todd Lynn, Christopher Kane, Chanel, Alexander Wang and Dior but one constant which remained throughout her UK life was her love for well-made and edgy clothing produced by Top shop. Liking their clothes for "as long as she can remember", she admits to enjoying spending much time down London's Oxford Street branch!
Recently achieving a high BA Honours degree in Fashion Design for industry at Scotland's Herriot Watt University and developing expert skill in in knitwear, digital and screen print, tailoring, pattern and garment making, I had to ask this successful graduate what advice she would give to others in the same shoes as her. Her advice, especially for designers is to be hardworking, resilient, determined, and strong enough to take criticism and to be absolutely non-negotiable.
In her experience the fashion industry is one of the most difficult industries to penetrate on talent alone. Comparing it to getting 'in' with the popular crowd at school she thoughtfully states: "It's mainly who you know and who knows you that grants you acceptance to this exclusive tight- knit club." However, she feels that, if you have LOVE and truly love what you are doing, regardless of the profit or gain, you will have zeal and passion to work hard and achieve your goals.
So what can we expect next from this emerging talent I hear you ask? Well, after her successful exhibit at London Fashion week, Euphemia is working on her next collection, setting up studio space, working with PR and funding streams to really kick start the business side of things to get her next collection recognised and sold.
And zeal and passion are words I definitely have for Euphemia. I anticipate a lot of future success for this hard-working and expressive designer and can genuinely say what a real pleasure it is to comprehend the thought-provoking and artistic work of this very talented lady. Michael Mba photography
Sydney Davies BirthAlife: London Fashion week 16.2.13 Fashions Finest.