Inspired by the dichotomy of the handmade and machine made in fashion, designer Noa Raviv shares a peek behind the scenes of her design process and inspirations. Raviv’s work is currently on view in Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. For the exhibition store and The Met Store online, she has created a scarf that relies on the beauty of human and technological error.
Can you tell me a bit about your background in design?
I studied drawing and sculpting starting at a very young age, and majored in art in high school. In 2014, I graduated from the fashion design department of Shenkar College for Engineering, Design and Art in Israel. During my fashion studies I also attended classes with the jewelry design department, where there was a strong emphasis on material research and development and three-dimensional thinking.
What interests you about fashion?
I believe fashion represents the zeitgeist in the best possible way. Fashion serves as a mirror of society, culture, politics, and the economy. Fashion can be extremely deep and complex, but at the same time very approachable and is always a huge part of popular culture. I am highly interested in this duality and therefore find it an exciting mode of expression.
What interests you about technology?
Technology can be mysterious. We rarely know how the things around us work—from an iPhone to computers and cars. We often take them for granted, but actually, it is quite amazing to think that all these great and useful inventions were created by humans. That is really fascinating and empowering! I believe that technology is an important driving force in our world. It shapes our lives in every possible way, and it’s evolving so quickly. I’m always curious to see what tomorrow brings.
I read that your “Hard Copy” collection was inspired by ancient Greece and developed using 3D software. Can you tell me more about that?
Creating my Hard Copy collection was a long process full of many references, ideas, and thoughts. I began my research with Greek sculptures, thinking about their evolution throughout history and how they were copied and replicated so many times until something that was once so rich and powerful became an empty repetition of style and expression. With this idea in mind I thought about our present era in design, and how objects, clothes, and works of art are endlessly copied until the origin becomes meaningless.
During that time I was taking 3D software classes. I was obviously fascinated by the endless options of 3D printing, but more than that, I was intrigued by the software itself—the grid and the way three-dimensional objects are represented on a flat two-dimensional computer screen, virtually depicting volume in such a “real” way.
What attracted me the most were computer errors. When the computer fails to execute a command it can generate strikingly beautiful and mysterious virtual objects. I fell in love with the uniqueness of those glitches and started creating them deliberately. Every error looked different than the other, and the result was something completely unexpected. I realized that mistakes have a unique quality: first, because no one wants to copy a mistake, and second, because it is almost impossible to re-create the same mistake twice. In our world where everything is copied and reproduced, mistakes have the potential to be truly original and one of a kind.
In regards to the exhibition theme, Manus x Machina, how do you feel that your works fit here? Do you feel that your process relies or is informed more by man or machine?
For me it usually starts with handwork; I love to play and manipulate fabrics, fold, cut, and see what the material can do and what can be done to the material. Afterwards, I use the computer and other machine-driven processes (such as laser cutting and 3D printing) as tools that can expand my possibilities and options as a designer.
The computer and machine work often requires no less effort, time and skill than those needed to create a hand-stitched or hand-embroidered garment. So for me, really there is no hierarchy between the human and the machine. It is really about the skilled hand, the way it can operate a machine, and the beauty of combining the two.
The tension between chaos and order is a dominant reference in my works, and is also strongly related to this tension between the handmade and the computer made. While usually we expect machines to create perfectly crafted objects and the handmade objects to have irregularities, I try to mix the two and “humanize” the computer by making it fail, and on the other side, to create handmade garments that look “flawless” as if they were created without a human touch.
My aim is to confuse the viewers and confront them with those questions.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
It can really be anything. Art always inspires me, and just being outside and looking at people or things can trigger new thoughts. But usually the best ideas come from a deeper exploration during the work itself.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Clean but very detailed, abstract, always a bit whimsy or weirdness.
As a young designer, how does it feel for your works to be shown at The Costume Institute?
It’s extremely overwhelming! I am really thankful to Andrew Bolton, Anna Wintour, and the entire team at The Met for including my work in this exhibition. I literally have no words to express the gratitude I feel. It is a huge honor to have my work at The Met, next to the works of some of the greatest fashion icons of our time. It feels like a dream.
You are based in New York—do you often visit the Met? I would love to hear about a favorite visit/exhibit/object of yours here at the museum, and any links between the collection and your designs or design philosophy.
When I was 19, I traveled to New York City with my mom, and we visited The Met to see the Poiret exhibition. At that time I wanted to be an artist and was about to apply to an art school. I always had a strong interest in fashion but I thought it was not as serious and deep as art. Seeing fashion in a museum for the first time really opened my mind and made me rethink about it in a completely new way. That visit was an eye opener and I think it had a big part in my decision to become a fashion designer.
Last September, eight years after that visit, I moved to New York City with my husband. The day we landed was the last day of the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass. Regardless of the jet leg and the 12-hour flight, we dropped off our luggage and headed directly to The Met. It was a marvelous exhibition and a truly inspiring visit, the perfect way to start our new lives in New York.