Fashion Show 2019: Designs for the Future, All At Once
The Fashion Programmes at the RCA are radical. The students don’t just embrace or respond to change, but are the avant-garde leading it. The 2019 graduate Fashion Show – All At Once – showcases their visions, from defining identities to shaping the way we will inhabit the earth in the future. Across Menswear, Womenswear, Knitwear, Footwear, Accessories and Millinery these energetic designers engage with new technologies and apply traditional ones in innovative ways to design fashion that is affecting radical currents in society.
As Head of Fashion Zowie Broach points out in her introduction to the Show, fashion is particularly well placed to respond to increasingly tempestuous times, it is a “tomorrow” practice that asks questions, and thrives on evolution and revolution. She writes, ‘change and difference is what has led our practice and industry for years. We are the ones most compatible with being radical and handling change so well. We thrive on this, both creatively and economically.’
For the last three years the RCA Fashion Show has taken place in diverse venues, including the semi-derelict Averard Hotel, Lancaster Gate (2016), Rachel Whiteread’s old studio in Shoreditch (2017), and 180 The Strand (2018) – responding to each venue’s unique atmosphere. This year, once again, RCA Fashion has departed from the catwalk in favour of more performative, immersive and experiential territory.
The graduating designers have inhabited Cork Street Galleries in Mayfair, a raw space itself undergoing transformation – exposed breezeblock walls and pipework across the ceiling, bare concrete floors and pillars provide a fitting backdrop for the provocative and fresh collections.
Now best known for its proliferation of art contemporary galleries, historically Cork Street was associated with high-quality tailoring and the emergence of dandyism during Regency era London. All At Once taps into these associations, featuring designers that demonstrate highly skilled tailoring, such as Ben Osborn's technically precise pieces and Gráinne Walley's exquisite hand-crafted garments, through presentations more akin to what you might encounter within a contemporary art gallery.
A sprawling installation features 50 models in an impressive tableau vivant throughout the galleries, alongside displays of film and image that demonstrate individual designer’s thinking. A showroom, open to the public on Saturday 8 June, offers further opportunities to engage with these investigations into fashion as designed identities.
This shift away from the traditional realms of fashion, reflects how Fashion at the RCA encourages students to define their own path exploring pertinent issues from identity politics to the escalating climate crisis, new biomaterials and digital approaches to making fashion more sustainable.
All At Once, asks urgent questions that address the fashion industry’s impact on people and the planet. Interested in finding a more sustainable approach, many of the students have explored innovative approaches in a new era of digital design, engaging with technologies to reduce waste within the design and manufacture of garments.Annie Foo (MA Footwear, Accessories & Millinery) has used 3D software and printing to create bespoke shoes that are the perfect fit and highly durable, whereas Anna Sophie Goschin (MA Fashion Womenswear) has used digital technologies to create designs that combine the sculptural with the wearable.
Timothée Glieze (MA Fashion Womenswear), has reduced the waste created through traditional draping techniques, by instead creating patterns in virtual space, with an aesthetic inspired by a mix of his own heritage growing up in rural France, and New York minimalism. Andrew Bell (MA Fashion Womenswear) has used the latest technology within sonic welding, to create garments without sewing, that are both highly desirable and minimise wastage.Departing entirely from creating new garments, Laura Kraup Frandsen (MA Fashion Womenswear) has decided not to present a physical collection, but instead a protest and passionate cry against climate crisis. As a member of Extinction Rebellion, she confronted ideas of overconsumption and concluded that to be part of change she needed to take action against it, rather than add to it, or use sustainability it as a marketing point.
Finding innovative applications for biotechnology is also an area of increased interest to Fashion students at the RCA. Piero D’Angelo (MA Fashion Womenswear) has been working with a living organism Physarum Polycephalum, a type of slime mould – to create wearable applications and explore how the human body could evolve in the future. He has worked with a variety of approaches including finishings with 3D printing, agar gel and oatmeal to create living printed textiles.
Expression of identity is a strong current running through the work of Lucy Barlow (MA Footwear, Accessories & Millinery) who has created tall, proud hats that double as life-jackets and pillows inspired by the Jamaican dancehalls of the late 1970s. She interweaves her experience working under the couture milliner Jean Barthet with a powerful archival history to create bombastic adaptable hats to uplift the spirits.
Similarly multipurpose garments, come from Tendai Motiwa (MA Fashion Menswear) who has brought together influences from the grime and drill subcultures to create stab-proof, protective, streetwear in response to the rise of violent crime. The idea of protection and comfort underpins the work of Yu-Mei Huang (MA Fashion, Knitwear). Thinking about the psychology of the wearer, she has created colourful knitwear based on cushioning the wearer and stretching to fit diverse bodies.
Challenging fashion’s stereotypical ‘skinny’ silhouette, Karoline Vitto Gomes (MA Fashion Womenswear) instead celebrates the fleshy parts of the female body that women are normally encouraged to hide. Her starting point was a Brazilian waist-cincher, which she used to reframe the body in different ways by accentuating or moving the flesh. From there she has developed garments that feature armour-like metal plates and apertures that reveal and manipulate flesh in intriguing ways.All of the students have created collections that combine beauty and function, underpinned by research that considers where and how their garments will exist in the world. Inspired by successful women, Yvonne Lim (MA Fashion Womenswear) has created a collection of nine essentials for the modern working woman. She has forged a modern idea of femininity, that builds on the previous ideas of power dressing with a contemporary nonchalance. Her collection is adaptable for different scenarios, from the boardroom to international travel, and is all about embodying and celebrating a particular king of feminine confidence, or soft power.The ways that garments can affect movement and postures are explored by Tíscar Espadas’s (MA Fashion Menswear) collection “Chapter 1”. Her sculptural garments have multiple functions and forms of composition, inspired by characters she has encountered, from strangers on the underground to the performative gestures encouraged by a matador's clothing.
Also paying close attention to the position of the body, Skye Gwillim (MA Fashion Footwear, Accessories & Millinery) has created a collection of bags based on extensive study and observation of everyday poses and gestures. The unique forms she has created are sympathetic to the posture of the seated, waiting body – considering how fashion accessories can become an extension of the body.
As all the collections from this graduating cohort demonstrate, fashion has the power to make a difference, whether on a personal, local or global scale. The graduates' work is a rallying cry – they propose new systems, new attitudes and new social decisions, using the tools available to them, or inventing new ones. All At Once presents over 50 individual visions, that are elegant and refined, but also take a stance on the future these designers wish to inhabit.
All At Once showroom is open to the public Saturday 8 June, 11am – 5pm, Cork Street Galleries, Mayfair, London W1S 3NG
All the graduate work can also be seen online in the Show 2019 catalogue.