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Stepping Back from Helen Kirkum at London Fashion Week AW23

Key details


  • 24 February 2023


  • RCA

Read time

  • 2 minutes

Karoline Vitto

Karoline Vitto London Fashion Week AW23

Karoline Vitto (MA Fashion, 2019) ‘opted to create an autumn/winter wardrobe that adheres to her design philosophy’ Alex Kessler writes in British Vogue. Her designs celebrate curvier women, allowing the wearer to feel comfortable showing parts of the body that would normally be hidden – or that industry standards would urge to be disguised with shapewear.

‘It’s about accentuating the curves and celebrating the folds’, Karoline explains. At London Fashion Week, she worked with a cast of models no smaller than a size 10, all wearing her signature cut-out garments for winter. Like Michael Stewart, she is currently working with incubator Fashion East, who have a reputation for shaping cultural conversation through work with the industry’s most innovative new minds.

Saul Nash

Saul Nash wins Woolmark Prize in 2022. He holds up the award against a green background.

2022 Woolmark Prize Winner, Saul Nash (MA Fashion, 2018) is known for exploring social issues in his work, with films for previous collections exploring masculinity and desire. This London Fashion Week, he turned his attention to privilege on realising that while a lot of the people he grew up with wore ski garments, they had never learned to ski.

His AW23 Collection imagines what it would have been like if this world had been accessible to his peers. ‘For Nash, it’s about dislodging hierarchies and redistributing status’ writes Daniel Rodgers in Dazed. His show at the Old Selfridges Hotel was staged against a backdrop of black sand and mountain peaks with models wearing technical jackets undercut with a streetwear aesthetic. The collection was more tailored and fitted than his previous collections, nodding to its aspirational nature.

Sinéad O´Dwyer

Show 2018, Sinead O'Dwyer

Sinéad O’Dwyer (MA Fashion, 2018) has been rallying against exclusion in the fashion industry since her graduate show in 2018, when she grabbed headlines with silicone pieces moulded onto her models’ bodies. The moulds were a way of exploring the reality of the bodies versus industry ideals – questioning who has access to the kinds of clothing we see on runways.

For her AW23 Collection at London Fashion Week, she once again brought diverse bodies to the catwalk through an exploration of “dúil” translating from the Irish language to English as “desire”. Featuring a diverse cast, including a pregnant model, the collection explored clothing as a representation of longing and lust.

Helen Kirkum

Helen Kirkum at AW23 London Fashion Week

Sustainability and craftsmanship inform the practice of Helen Kirkum (MA Fashion, 2016), who creates unique upcycled trainers to international acclaim having worked with brands including La Coste, Adidas, Reebok and Timberland.

Rather than presenting a runway collection, Helen presented an exhibition looking at the challenges and possibilities presented by her work in sustainable design. ‘Step Back’ displayed four 20 metre rows of 824 discarded shoes that will be the raw material for her new sneakers, giving an insight into her practice of upcycling waste material to create bespoke pieces.

Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart at Kildare Village in 2016, standing by mannequin wearing one of his designs.

Michael Stewart (MA Fashion, 2017) was giving ancient Ireland at his show, which featured dresses inspired by the millenia old standing stones of his native country – described as ‘near flawless monoliths’ by Vogue. His designs were crafted in fabrics sourced with the help of Kildare Village – who also awarded Michael the Kildare Village Fashion Scholarship to fund his study at the RCA.

The inspiration behind his work points to Michael’s early ambition of becoming a sculptor. Instead he decided to bring the elemental power of ancient ruins to fashion. Like Karoline Vitto (below) Michael is currently working with high-profile fashion incubator Fashion East.

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