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Josephine Cowell

MA work

Conceptually this project explores visual tropes related to a traditional representation of femininity (evocative of a passive, decorative and objectified female); Interspersing these markers of ‘the Gaze’ with elements of subversion. 

In John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ he describes the depiction of woman’s bodies, in 18th century paintings, as well as photographs for modern advertising in the same way: ‘She is offering up her femininity as the surveyed’. Women are ‘arranged’ in a way that is open and submissive to maximize their appeal to a male ‘spectator’. 

Jacki Willson presents the idea of ‘style as substance’ as she argues that meaningful political provocation can be achieved through colour, texture and gendered extravagance. Placing the ‘knowing’ subject in the frame of the ‘passive’ object, with an array of feminine shape, colour and texture at her disposal allows her to hijack her ‘surface appeal’ to express ownership of a feminine identity. 

This notion of visual pleasure has been a key idea feeding into both development of the textiles and the styling of the final garments in the collection look-book. The idea that these markers of luxury and femininity can be deployed pleasurably and playfully by a knowing subject.

The collection plays on subtle and disarming contrasts, for example:  simple and knowable motifs linking women, luxury objects and interiors in the photography of Guy Bourdin are recreated through unexpected, hard materials, luxuriously textured panels denotive of elegance and sophistication are coarsely bound together to create visual tension.


  • MA Degree


    School of Design


    MA Textiles, 2017



  • Knitted textile designer for luxury fashion and accessories

    Josephine Cowell is a designer and maker of knitted pieces with a distinctive feminine hand writing. Her work combines complex and intricate technique with a ‘knowable’ sense of immediacy.

    Conceptually the work explores the notion of constructed persona, dissecting the components of a feminine aesthetic and knitting elements of subversion in to the textiles.

    In 2015 Josephine was awarded a full scholarship to The Royal College of Art. Her final collection was sponsored by the French lace producer Sophie Hallette.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Textiles for Fashion, London College of Fashion, 2015