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NCAD Graduate Quits Day-Job To Launch Exciting Fashion Exhibition

We all dream of ‘making it big’ or making it to the top of our respective fields, be that in the acting industry, the music industry, or in Andrew Bell’s case – the fashion industry.

Andrew Bell celebrating launch of his Dublin exhibition. Credit: Andrew Bell/Facebook

Andrew Bell celebrating launch of his Dublin exhibition. Credit: Andrew Bell/Facebook

We often come across stories of people just like Andrew Bell who dream of making it to the top and that dream, following years and years of hard graft, finally comes true. However, we seldom hear the story of what happened next.

In the case of ambitious NCAD [National College of Art and Design] graduate Andrew Bell, the reality of working in London’s fashion industry wasn’t quite what he expected. Andrew jetted off to complete two separate internships in London with clothing companies J.W. Anderson and Antipodium before returning home to Ireland to complete the final year of his fashion design degree.

He later left his commercial design job in Dunnes Stores to pursue his latest venture: a collaborative exhibition called ‘Pulling Strings’.

The Dublin exhibition is based on a microcollection of three garments: the shirt, the jacket and the trousers. The exhibition aims to elevate them to “objects of art” that everyone can connect and engage with.

The exhibition, which took place earlier this month, was partly inspired by his “dissatisfaction” with his time in London.

“I was exploring my own feelings with my dissatisfaction with the fashion industry. I had just come back from London, where I had interned for three months solid with no pay, working crazy hours six days a week and I just felt so overwhelmed coming into my final year of my degree in NCAD,” Bell explained.

“This exhibition was an extension of that. The fashion industry is a machine of the 21st Century and it’s all-consuming, so, I was highlighting and commenting on that throughout this exhibition.

“The exhibition aimed to elevate fashion to a position of art and the garments are elevated physically but also metaphorically to objects of art,” the Dundalk native explained.

The three featured garments were elevated from several white bags and they were suspended by a wooden frame. There was also a series of photos on show on the opening night as well as a musical piece and a video projected onto a floating screen.

Andrew’s infectious passion for making the “commercial and high end” world of fashion more accessible to ordinary, everyday people, was one of the main sources of inspiration for the exhibition.

“It’s a broad target market as everyone thinks about fashion. From the moment we wake up, we think: ‘what will we wear today?,’ he said.

“I wanted people to come and engage with fashion and think about it and enjoy physical, three dimensional garments. It’s not a H&M launch where they’re putting a few items on display and hoping you will buy them as well,” the young designer asserted.

Bell is determined to show the “non-commercial” side of the fashion industry through this exhibition.

“I wanted the exhibition to be really open and engaging for everyone. It’s not high art and boring; I don’t want fashion to be this very distant thing to people. I wanted people to really enjoy it,” he commented.

“I feel that fashion is something that we are constantly looking at from behind a screen due to the rise of technology and I feel it’s gone kind of flat. I wanted to create something non-commercial; there’s nothing for sale in this exhibition,” he continued.

Bell raised over €900 for the exhibition through his online fundit.ie campaign, with the help of a number of other graduates who all share an interest in the arts, and whose expertise were all needed to make Andrew’s “creative vision a reality.”

“It’s about my creative vision but It’s called ‘Pulling Strings’ as we were pulling the talents of different people together. I’ve been working with two film graduates and a media graduate from NCAD as well as an industrial designer. It’s my vision but it’s a very ambitious project so I had to get a lot of help,” he added.

“I funded this project on the budget of the dole for the first four months. There were crazy mornings getting up at six in the morning in Dundalk to get a bus to Dublin and and cycling around to wood-cutters, the video people, the music people and then going home to sew until the late hours,” Bell recalled.

It’s clear that this young fashion designer has all the drive and ambition needed to make it in the fashion industry; be it in London or any other part of the world. You can’t help but feel inspired by his drive to succeed in his goal of making fashion something that is accessible, interesting and relevant to everyone as an art as opposed to a commercial, profit-making business.

Despite how far he goes in his career, however, it seems he’ll never forget where he came from.

“I’m a fashion graduate and so many graduates go to London straight away, so, it’s nice to give something back to Ireland,” Bell concluded.

The ‘Pulling Strings’ exhibition took place from February 18th – 22nd  in the Steambox Gallery off Thomas Street in Dublin.

By Meadhbh Sinclair

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