The story of the Iconic Bomber

Earlier this year, I released my first sewing pattern in collaboration with Jill & Gill to promote slow and ethical fashion in Irish Design. This is how it happened.

Shot on location in Co. Wicklow by Eilish McCormick

Three heads are better than one right?! Well that’s what happened when Jill&Gill approached me late last year about an exciting collaborative idea that would combine their unique illustration & design style with my making and design skills. How could I not?

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The brief was to design and create a garment inspired by the great Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, where Jill & Gill would design and print the fabric and I would design and make the garment. And so, the Iconic Bomber seed was sown. Here’s how the design process went down.

Jill & Gill knew they wanted a relaxed style jacket, possibly bomber shape, possibly a coat. We wanted the project to be gender neutral too which meant allowing for lots of shapes and sizes all within the one garment. Tricky eh? All part of the fun I say! The girls had decided that denim would be the fabric of choice so they went on the hunt sourcing Japanese Organic Denim in two different weights.

With sustainability being an important factor to both our businesses, I worked in quarter scale to get a sense of the silhouette first. This saves a great amount of fabric wastage. If you have a strong sense of the design before proceeding to full scale, it cuts out a lot of the messing around. The first iteration started as coat but we quickly decided this wasn’t where we wanted to go. Shortening it to jacket length meant it was more universal as a garment.

Next hurdle was how to make this garment fit multiple sizes while retaining a sense of the design and style. With bomber styling in mind, I stuck with a standard bomber collar and welt pockets. Best keep some key features in there before we go and break some rules.

All throughout the process, the influence of Yayoi Kusama wasn’t to be forgotten. Her iconic artwork using spots was the first thing that came to my mind when thinking of her as an artist and I knew I wanted to draw inspiration from this. Taking a simple circle, I began placing it across the body. Circle pockets? Perhaps if we were going down the coat route. A simple circle at the back, would give interesting paneling details while allowing for extra volume in the design. This was going somewhere!

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Playing with panel detailing would give lots of opportunity for print placement and colour blocking so I broke the sleeve panel for more interest. Keeping those sleeve wide at the end is a nod to Japanese garments while allowing for a turn up cuff to show off yet more print work. I knew the Jill&Gill print would be epic I had to show it off.

The extra volume in the jacket had to be contained to give it a sense of shape. Naturally, elastic was this initial thought for this as used in regular bombers but it wasn’t going to work. I needed something that was adjustable and easy to manage. I knew I’d be working with denim so the less bulk the better. Perhaps elastic at the back and a belt at the front? Nope, not right. Draw string? Not good enough. Instead, I came up with what has turned out to be the key feature of the whole garment. A simple belt with snap fasteners is slid through a channel across the back panels, ruching all that volume evenly throughout the garment. The effect is dramatic at its shortest length but even fully let out, there is still a sense of volume. We were all very excited about this…too excited? Never!

The jacket was designed so all that was left to do was make them. The fabric used in these garments was hand printed by Jill&Gill. It is an explosion of colour and personality and I needed to be very deliberate about my panel placement. I wanted to show this print off to the world. Hours were spent shifting, twisting, laying out, changing my mind and starting over. The panels were carefully selected and cut in contrasting sections. Just the right volume of pink, that streak of blue, all was carefully considered.

Working with denim had it’s challenges especially when it has a few layer of ink on top. The added bulk meant it was tough to join parts but with patience (and sometimes a hammer!) things fell into place perfectly.

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The official launch for this, the now named Iconic Bomber, was to be at the Arc Fashion Show held in the RDS in March 2019. This popular charity fashion show had a collection of Ireland’s top designers gracing it’s catwalk and it was a privelage to have a Worthy Design Studio garment in amongst them. Jill&Gill gave a preview of their Infinity collection, with the Iconic Bomber featuring as their Hero Piece.

The bomber has gone on to be shown as part of Brown Thomas’ Create 2019 and Kilkenny Shop’s Scéal 2019 and received plenty of press coverage since. Their collection was also nominated in the Irish Made Awards hosted by Irish Country Magazine. Being a part of this creative collaboration and process has been really inspiring. And there’s a big aul future a head of us so watch this space for future collaborations.

Many thanks to Jill&Gill for including me in their process.

I wanted to create a home sewing pattern to show anyone looking at the Jill&Gill version, that they too can make their own jacket using what ever fabrics they want. It’s creative freedom. It’s slow fashion and it’s learning new skills. If you would like to try making your very own version of the Iconic Bomber or know someone who might give it a whirl, download the pattern here. All proceeds are being donated to the Arc Cancer Support for the incredible work that they do. Thank you for supporting this very worthy cause.

Here’s a few detail shots of the final product in all is colourful glory.