Artist Zoe Bradley discovered her love of paper while making experimental hand pleated showpieces for the Japanese fashion designer Michiko Koshino’s A/W’ 2005 catwalk show. The fashion-trained artist had apprenticed with the late Alexander McQueen in 1997, creating some of the key pieces for his S/S’ ready-to-wear 1999 catwalk show – including the headline-grabbing doily-punched wood fan corset and skirts, as well as prosthetic legs worn by Aimee Mullins. Yet it was using paper as a material that proved to be a pivotal moment in her career.
The Koshino show received a standing ovation and led to a large commission by Faye McLeod, the Visual Director of the iconic London store Liberty. Bradley was asked to create a ‘magical Christmas spectacle’ by designing five festive fashion showpieces for the windows. It was the first step into dreaming up the intriguing paper sculptures for which she is now best known.
The last ten years Bradley has worked across many disciplines, combining fashion, display and theatre, in her bespoke installations. In fact, she has become the go-to artist for some of the most recognisable global luxury brands – from Louis Vuitton and Selfridges to Smythson and Christian Louboutin – each looking for innovative ways to visually complement their products.
Bradley works like a tailor and applies her artistry using the paper form. ‘I work with paper just as a designer works with fabric: folding, pleating, curling and stitching the material,’ she explains of the process. ‘My challenge has always been to come up with something unexpected, turning a sheet of 2D paper into a magical 3D sculpture.’
Ultimately, what she offers is a custom fit professional service from design and concept through to manufacturing and installation. ‘I’ve always considered it a great opportunity to take contemporary paper art installations outside the usual gallery walls to a wider audience,’ she continues. ‘Work has taken me all over the world and it has been rewarding to see how my paper showpieces fit into different environments and cultures.’
Bradley relishes new challenges and with commissions growing in scale, has turned to digital technology to offer forward-thinking design solutions. She has used techniques such as laser cutting and die cutting to produce the sheer number of parts that some sculptures demand and to achieve the detail required in some of the extremely intricate artworks. Her designs have also been published in numerous books, as well as featuring in exhibitions in London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and New York. Bradley’s aim for the future is to expand the brand by adding products to her current tailor-made design service. She is in the process of seeking out companies to partner with, in order to diversify into producing paper art pieces for the home, whether that’s luxury stationery, wallpaper, lighting, one-off prints or glass domes.