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A sunglasses launch A Society x TBC

It is crucial to learn how to balance your personal life with your creative life. Sometimes even compartmentalise them in order to keep sanity and wellbeing in place.
Reference Studio

Gloria So is an emerging textile designer working between London and Paris whilst following a Master’s degree at The Royal College of Arts. She honed her creative direction abilities at Central Saint Martins (CSM), where she started developing textiles which engage the physical and visual senses.

Reading: A sunglasses launch A Society x TBC
Written by Reference Studio
11.08.2021

Gloria So is an emerging textile designer working between London and Paris whilst following a Master’s degree at The Royal College of Arts. She honed her creative direction abilities at Central Saint Martins (CSM), where she started developing textiles which engage the physical and visual senses. Inquisitive about all aspects of existence she juxtaposes school of thoughts ranging from the astrological to the philosophical to translate her ideas into fabric. Today we are in conversation with her about the impact of her education in the field, relation with the industry and current projects.

You’ve recently created your first product in collaboration with A Society x TBC. Tell us more about your experience hosting your first pop-up and product launch.

The pop-up was everything I had hoped for and more; we had slightly over 400 people who came and saw our sunglasses collaboration with A Society, and I am thankful for every single one of them. It was incredible to have live feedback which has been so positive on both my sunglasses collaboration and my personal textile exhibits. Naturally, some people came just for the party, which will be always be the case. It’s really funny to see the dichotomy between the people who are genuinely interested and curious about your craft and those who come just for the spotlight.

The exhibit was displayed on two floors so I was not always hearing what people were saying about my work. As people didn’t have a face associated with the exhibits, I could feely ask what they think of it without them knowing I was the behind it. And that was the actual moment of truth; their first reaction before you tell them you’re the creator. That moment of receiving genuine feedback from a stranger was a reality check for me and proved that perception is not reality; my reluctance to put my stuff out there was due to an imaginary insecurity that had no tangent with the truth.

 

01. TBC x A Society Sunglasses Collaboration

Naturally, some people came just for the party, which will be always be the case. It’s really funny to see the dichotomy between the people who are genuinely interested and curious about your craft and others who just come for the spotlight.

How did the collaboration happen for you?

Everything happened when I stopped trying to make things happen and just let things come to me naturally. When the first Covid-19 lockdown happened I was trying everything to maximise the digital social contact I was having, which was the only type available as all my friends left London. To be concise, Tinder was giving people the possibility to socialise with people across the world regardless of their location. I gave it a mindless try without expecting anything and that is just how I met my current collaborator. After that, he invited me to join his group of creatives and friends called TBC (The Bad Company).

As funny as it sounds, this is how I learnt the importance of being at the right place at the right time. Even if solely  digitally.

01. From left to right 1 Flow 2 Rust 3 Intertwined lives, all by Gloria So

Tell me about your personal projects that were exhibited at the pop-up as well.

They are all curated piece from my experience at CSM and RCA from 2019-2022.

The first piece is ‘Rust’ and it was created on the loom right before Corona happened. It is about materialising memories; for me it’s a reminder of when I was travelling with my parents to Phuket in Thailand and spent two months away from Hong Kong. It is about my perception on my hometown after my return, the way it changed and evoked a certain rustiness. I still have this vivid memory of this one umbrella I saw; it had rusty edges and left a long-lasting imprint on my memory. I thought it was beautiful. The way I see it, nature always has of way of creating a pattern and it is that imperfect natural structure which I try to recreate.

The way I see it, nature always has of way of creating a pattern and it is that imperfect natural structure which I try to recreate

The middle piece is called ‘Flow’ and it is about sensory awareness, which is why the structure was created off-loom. It was made by hand from scratch and represents my exploration in constructing off-loom while not having a studio space due to lockdown. It is made with the help of conductive threads which create a circuit in the structure and alludes to the the concept of wearable textiles. I am also trying to dismantle the preconception that wearable textiles have to have that stereotypical ‘tech German look’; they don’t have to look super futuristic, yet they can be more functional and utilitarian than regular ready-wear. The natural threads of cotton and copper wires play with the senses by bringing the wearer’s attention to the contrast between hardness and softness. It is about the play of sensations which arises from touching different things.

The cotton threads and copper wires juxtaposed play with the senses by bringing the wearer’s attention to the contrast between hardness and softness

The third piece is ‘Intertwined Lives’ which was made through ‘coiling’ and represents the practice of spinning through which yarn is being made. Firstly, at surface level it brings attention to the yarn making process which I haven’t explored a lot as a weaver, yet I believe to be so important in truly understanding the fabric; and secondly, the psychological, through the resemblances I find in my personal path and the creation process of this work. The fibres I worked with were not the smoothest and imposed quite a lot of resistance; yet I found the creation process to be the most meditative of all. It taught me a lot about my craft and the notion that the process is more important than the final results. The title comes from the affective quality I attribute to this work – the idea of yarn twisted together resonates to me in the same way as the act of people crossing paths with each other.

The idea of yarn twisted together resonates to me in the same way as the act of people crossing paths with each other

01. TBC x A Society Sunglasses Collaboration

Tell me more about TBC.

They’re a multidisciplinary collective from Paris, but truly a group of friends at the core. They all specialise in different sectors of the industry, from graphic design to photography. I like them because they’re fresh, new and willing to try different things. They all have such different characters and individualities but somehow they match so well together; I think it also helps that they are tight friends and they genuinely care about each other. I love being able to not only witness that dynamic, but be an actual part of it. It was challenging at first for me as I was still breaking out of my shell and I’m also someone not very outspoken. It also didn’t help that I didn’t speak French. But I feel it was that push that I needed to open up to people and opportunities.

How do you feel that your extensive education in the field influenced your outlook on the creative industries?

I am thinking back to my foundation year when I was overwhelmed by ambition, dreams. I was feeling invincible. I finally immersed myself into a medium of complete and utter acceptance of expressing myself through my style and thoughts. In the context in which my previous education was very regimented and academical subjects would dictate one’s level of intelligence, CSM was the shift that destroyed previous normative behaviour, helped a lot with my identity and sense of self. It also came at a very important point in my life when I was entering early adulthood and my self-esteem was being developed. Seeing so many creatives with no fear of judgement and no restrictive boundaries helped me enter that mindset and freed me from the fear of being judged. That was my ‘honeymoon’ period with the industry; however once I started getting more involved and get the real taste of it, the facade was chipped for me and I could see what’s finally underneath it. Under all the faux flattery and fashion jargon you realise that everyone is fighting for themselves and the competition is as real as it gets. However, that realisation was a double-edged sword because it made me see that I have my own path and I don’t have to compare myself to other creatives. Of course, there are nice people out there as well who will try to help out, but all they do is compensate for the majority who likes to gatekeep and proliferate the obscurity of information which is so prevalent in the industry.

Were there any distinctive moments at CSM which shaped who you are today as a creative?

Being dyslexic, I was always struggling in school, so having supportive teachers with good will who see the potential in you is everything. One teacher who changed the way I see myself was Annette, whose kind face I still remember today. I had this one project I struggled with due to the state of my mental health at that time as I had just broken up with my boyfriend. She told me after the showcase: “Your work should be on the top. Your work is now here but it should be up here (gesticulating levels)”. She may think that those words were transitory, leaving no residue behind them; but they did matter. A lot. I was thinking to myself “I don’t believe in my work, but you do”, so that helped more than she could ever imagine.

There was also Filippa who was on the other side of the spectrum as she had more of a though-love approach to teaching. She would always ask the hard questions that no one would. “Who are you designing for? Why? What is the intention behind it?” She would enquire about every single aspect of your work. I didn’t understand that level of perfectionism and discipline at the time, but now as I progress in my MA, I certainly do. Those questions were the key ingredients in

 

It is also important to note that as a designer/creative it is a great advantage if you are not only good at your isolated craft but become a multidisciplinary who plays with different nuances of the industry

What have you learnt from your experience with the industry so far?

It is crucial to learn how to balance your personal life with your creative life. Sometimes even compartmentalise them in order to keep sanity and wellbeing in place. Learning to generate validation from within is also important, creating a protective layer between yourself, your ideas, intrinsic essence and the world’s approval. This philosophy is something I apply to my textiles as well.

At the end of the day, I also realised that shiny facade people put on is just an armour to protect themselves and their individuality. It is meant to shield them rather than intimidate. A lot of them are actually very fragile, even fluffy inside.

It is also important to note that as a designer/creative it is a great advantage if you are not only good at your isolated craft but become a multidisciplinary who plays with different nuances of the industry.

Textile designer
Gloria So
Model
Xiaodan Zhou
Photographer
Alan Benisty

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