Isabel Connolly-Linden just completed her art foundation at Kingston University, specialising in Fashion. She will start Architecture at Clare College, Cambridge, in Autumn 2020. Isobel made this suit as part of her final project. It was all done in isolation at home in eight weeks.

This project started by thinking about the unrecorded parts of artistic practice and how things that we make can feel alien to us. At first, I made these illustrated lists of phrases involving the words ‘say’ and ‘speak’:

“Say” has the definitions ‘To try, to put to the proof, to test the fitness of’ and ‘to try by tasting’ and ‘to apply oneself, to set oneself to do something’.  

“Speak” has the definitions ‘illustration of forms’ and ‘to express one’s thoughts by words’ and ‘to propose marriage’. 

I had to find a way of translating the project, which was about words and speaking, into a piece of fashion. In designing, I tried not to create an ‘illustration of forms’, but instead tried to demonstrate and practice these problems. I made a pinstripe suit that has been designed on the inside and outside simultaneously. Unlike reversible clothing, there is a recognisable inside and outside, but both are meant to be looked at.

Isabel's sister models the suitISABEL CONNOLLY-LINDEN

There are elements, like seams, pockets on the bum, front fastening for the jacket and the embroidered hand pocket, that travel between the inside and outside. The trouser pockets and shoulder pads have traces shown on the reverse. The arm lining, working hand pocket and lapels are hidden and confined to one side. The short jacket, with its tassels and stitching, looks a little like that of a matador: I wanted the suit to have some power in its effort to bring together the interior and exterior.


These are somethings I wrote in my sketchbook once I had finished making this suit. They had been playing on my mind. 

When you speak, you pull the words from between your teeth and your lips and throw them down on the table. They are solid but bouncy, like in the Pixar advert. They are on a plate now and you can eat them, serve them to someone else, serve them to the dog, throw them in the bin. Either way, they are sitting there to be consumed or not consumed. In this space between, the options for our words are very limited.

Isabel's sister models the suitIsabel Connolly-Linden

Jean Cocteau said, ‘anything of any importance cannot help but be unrecognisable, since it bears no resemblance to anything already known.’ I came across this quote on a corny Instagram page for quotes from intellectuals, Hollywood stars and David Bowie. He said what I would like to say, not in a better way but with more authority. He said what I would like to have been said and at the same time pulled my own thoughts safely into the realm of the recognisable, which I thought was a pretty unfair thing to do.

Now, those are not the exact words that I wrote in my sketchbook that time. I have ironed out parts and added some funny bits. In the sketchbook, the thought was pulled to the surface, but once there it was exposed and vulnerable to rewritings and re-imaginings.


Here is another example or rewriting from my sketchbook, which I like, and which I don’t want to be neglected:

When the thing you make is as foreign to you as to the next person, you have to have courage to say that it has come from you.

When the thing you make is as foreign to you as to another, you need courage to say that this thing came from you.

When you make something that is as foreign to you as to another, you need courage to claim it as yours, to say that this came from you, to house it under your roof.

It is difficult to house foreign work.

You have to adopt your own work.


Mountain View

Read More: Second-Hand Clothing, First-Hand Fashion?

A project is a process of adopting parts of your practice that have emerged.

Isabel wears her suitISABEL CONNOLLY-LINDEN

In these two examples of rewriting, I think I have demonstrated a point that emerged to me at the very end of this project. In my thinking about communication, I never wanted not to communicate, or to be unintelligible. What I wanted was to find a way of expanding our options beyond consumption or non-consumption of what people are supposed to mean. I think of this as the magnetic field of words. I wanted to make space for playing, and tricks, and performance, and practicality and the opportunity to tie yourself into a knot and to lose things in yourself and find them again. I wanted to breathe life into the neglected space of the unrecognisable, so we do not have to take up positions in the realm of things that have been spoken. Instead, we are still saying and wanting to say and trying to listen, over and over.