Interview with Amba Jackson (born 26 May 1995), an artist and fashion designer currently studying at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Amba was born in London before moving to Ibiza shortly after her first birthday. There she went to Morna International College until the age of 10 when she and her sister returned to London to have a more traditional education. After graduating from Collingham Sixth Form College, she worked at Monsoon, on both the diffusion line and embellishment design. She then went on to travel Europe and South America before beginning her degree at the Pratt Institute.
In the image in this article, Amba has kindly shared some of her latest designs.
AMBA, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT DREW YOU TO A CAREER IN FASHION?
I have always been a very visual person. I grew up in Ibiza, surrounded by creative people. At school, the presentation of my work was almost as important as the information itself. I would spend a lot of time perfecting my handwriting and using different coloured pens – so for me every lesson was an art lesson. My immense enthusiasm and emotional bond toward clothing has been consistent throughout my life, so becoming a fashion designer seemed to be the obvious route for me. I think it was actually my sister who suggested it to me when I was about 6 or 7, and I never doubted it!
WHAT MADE YOU APPLY TO THE PRATT INSTITUTE AND WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT STUDYING THERE?
I was drawn to the idea of studying in New York because of my curiosity; that is, discovering a new part of the world as well as the element of variety within the liberal arts system in America. At sixth form college in London, I spent most of my time experimenting with painting, sculpture and textiles. Although my connection to clothing will remain the strongest, I am always looking to improve my skills in different departments, and Pratt has allowed me to do that. I am currently enrolled in a ‘clay as canvas’ class, which is helping me to be more impulsive within the experimental textile design I am working on in fashion design.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FASHION STUDENT?
The fashion department at Pratt is extremely fast paced, especially when I compare it to the atmosphere in the ceramics studio. Let’s just say, there is a Starbucks in the fashion building… Coming from my background it took a while to get used to, especially with the grading system (you get tested and graded for each of your 7 classes, 4 times a year). But I’ve learnt that making Art is not about what grade you get, and being in school should be a time for more experimentation than anxiety
WHICH NYFW SHOWS DID YOU THINK WERE PARTICULARLY INTERESTING THIS SEASON?
I find fashion week a little cold (ha) partly due to the electronic models and music; but I was lucky enough to be invited to the Eckhaus Latta show by Susan Cianciolo, a mixed media artist I intern for a couple of times a week (who was also walking in the show). I was blown away by the coolest mix of ages, races, genders and attitudes wearing the clothes, which felt very sensitively made. Other than that I think Alessandro Michele for Gucci is absolutely fabulous!
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR OWN STYLE AND BRAND?
My own work is colourful and flamboyant, with a focus on textiles and surface decoration. I am inspired by costume, particularly vintage ballet russe and bauhaus. Yet dressing for the stage seems too artificial and restricting: I prefer a more natural and individual connection with clothing. I am inclined toward texture and textiles, and include patchwork, embroidery and painting within my work.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO BE DOING IN 5 YEARs’ TIME?
I hope to work, collaborate and travel the world.
HOW HAVE YOU FOUND THE PROCESS OF GETTING YOUR DESIGNS MADE AND BRINGING THEM TO LIFE?
I have thought a lot about having someone else make my designs: part of it feels like an emotional and physical relief, and part of it feels like a cop out! I haven’t yet got my design back from India, but I am excited by the idea of others wearing my clothes.
FINALLY, CAN YOU SHARE WITH US WHAT YOU ARE WEARING TODAY?
Today I am wearing a patchwork embellished top I bought in India, a black skirt to which I attached 3 tubes of fabric that I covered completely in yarn, then hung from the bottom of the skirt, a pair of blue kick flare cords that were passed down from my friend’s younger brother, and a black velvet Yves Saint Laurent jacket from my mother’s wardrobe.