The human body's inherent fragility is often put in direct contrast with the resilience of its design. Some insist that the the level of forethought in its construction and redundancies must surely be the work of a higher intelligence. Whether one believes in such things or not, it is difficult to argue with the refinement of form and function seen and derived from the human body. Take a complete de-gloving injury for instance, the skin entirely separated from the muscle, blood supply and bone of a man's hand. Horrible as it may seem, an injury of the sort can still be dealt with, given the facilities and attention of a specialist capable in reconstructive hand surgery. Just the sort of situation brought about the idea for the anatomical fingerless gloves in Collateral's recent collection.
The body gives cues to the way the hand's skin is anchored to the underlying flesh, to the load-bearing properties of its structure. Such things are invaluable in a garment's construction, as a poorly-chosen anchor stitch point will put disproportionate tension on the stitch and the leather itself, compromising its overall structural integrity. For the anatomical deerskin gloves, Albert utilised a pattern of his own hand in single-piece construction, with the natural folds of the palm providing anchoring points to the glove's inner side. The chosen type of leather combines well with the 3d pattern, allowing it to both maintain aspects of its given shape, as well as mold to the wearer's hand over time for a perfect fit. The gloves feature a self-fastening strap with silver hook hardware, which can be worn in any number of ways.
The materials used in the project are chosen for their inherent history and fabrication techniques. Since collateral's first iteration, Albert's curiosity towards the fabrics he was working with evolved into a deeper need to understand and explore their origins. Even some of the more practical and commonplace materials utilized in construction undergo a variety of treatments, giving them an unusual quality.
These are a clean slate to be imbued with ideas and experiences, perhaps best illustrated with the oilcan-treated silver ring, the oil for which was taken from the wreckage of Albert's 1969 Karamann Ghia after an accident that nearly cost him his life. In the present, material research and development seen in Collateral, including both the exploration of existing fabrics as well as the creation of entirely new ones (utilising milk-based fibers, memory retaining fibers and advancement of blends amongst other things) has fast reached equal footing with the actual garment design.
A closer look at Collateral Concepts by Albert Huang.
An auto wreck victim is rushed in by ambulance, an unrecognizable tangle of scalp, flesh and gore exposing his severely-damaged skull beneath. Depressed fractures and breaks along suture lines highlight the structure even more than usual. Although the human body and the intricacies of its anatomy remain an oft-cited source of inspiration for many, few draw inspiration from the immediacy provided by a modern day emergency room. For Albert Huang it is second nature to pull from these experiences, and to evolve and translate them into something tangible. His deep involvement in the medical field and heavy background in research provide Albert with a wealth of insight and ideas to explore with the artisanal line, now in it’s second cycle.
The development process seen in Collateral is rooted in the Scientific Method. Ideas are tested, retested and adjusted before the final result is achieved; many pieces will never leave the drawing board. Trial and error are part and parcel to the final products of this work; patience is key. A prime example of this process would be the anatomic hooded jacket from the project's second iteration. The piece underwent 3 major evolutions, 15 fine tunings of the hood and 4 fittings before the final result was achieved, with each step requiring reconstructing the garment, the hood and then adjusting/readjusting.
The inspiration behind this particular design came in part from a fascination with the kinetics of blows and energy transfer around the skull. Both the overall strength of the skull and the weak points in the bone helped shape the structure of the jacket's hood. To create the upper body aspects of the jacket, the pattern was built on the designer's body, first through thin plastic moulding of his head, neck and shoulders and then sectioned into the pattern pieces, ensuring the desired form. The interior and exterior portions of this garment were created by studying cranial anatomy and developing an abstract central nervous system representation. The seams on the hood approximate the natural sutures of the skull, and the way the pieces come together generates a wrapping, protective effect on the back of the head. Both the outer and the inner part of the garment's design and construction are given equal importance, so that in addition to an aesthetically-pleasing exterior the garment will also have interior details intended just for the wearer. One such detail is a custom-made batik created to generate a 'neural network' pattern used in aspects of the lining. The end result is thus new, yet perfectly natural in the way it fits the wearer.
Many of the designs which do ultimately develop into complete works come effortlessly, with their beginnings stemming from muscle contractions, blood circulation, nerve pathways and the suture lines of the skull. These beautiful, natural lines which can be interpreted into seams and construction represent the idea behind Collateral: to explore what is already there, waiting to be brought out of the body and ever-closer to the wearer; a virtual and literal second-skin - something which evokes a sense of familiarity despite being previously unseen..