Esprit x RCA

Three Royal College of Art graduates put their individual spin to the apparel brand

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Can fashion be truly sustainable? Fashion brand Esprit presented the classic 21st century conundrum to MA fashion students from the Royal College of Art’s graduating class of 2012, as part of their annual competition in support of young talent. Last night, the winning capsules were unveiled; Rachael Hall and Julia Mackenroth, both knitwear specialists, together with Ryan Mercer, a womenswear designer, projected each of their artistic visions onto the brand’s easy canvas. And as models posed in their designs (masked in the quirky illustrations of Andy Rementer), guests were provided with tools to draw and collage them, turning Esprit’s new Regent Street store into a pop-up art school for the evening. We spoke to the three creatives for their point of view on the brand and the brief...

I was inspired by the abstract works of Gerhard Richter from the 80s for its free quality, bold use of colour and squidgy technique

Ryan Mercer, 31

Dazed Digital: What was your approach to Esprit’s brief?
Ryan Mercer:
I was inspired by the abstract works of Gerhard Richter from the 80s for its free quality, bold use of colour and squidgy technique. I played a lot with print and made pieces I thought would have a life longer than a season and age gracefully.

DD: What was most challenging?           
Ryan Mercer:
As it ran alongside our final collections, having to switch from thinking in quite a self-indulgent way for the MA to doing a more commercial collection was a challenge.

DD: What does Esprit mean to you?
Ryan Mercer:
Effortless clothes you can mix into your lifestyle. They’re open to change and newness, having us come in to do this and not restricting us in any way.

DD: Describe your aesthetic.
Ryan Mercer:
It’s modern and clean. I’m a minimal designer with a maximalist quality to my designs, I think.  

DD: What are your favourite things to do to relax?
Ryan Mercer:
I’m a massive documentary obsessive these days, especially when it's on the economy – I want to know why we’re so messed up!

Rachael Hall, 24

DD: What was your approach?
Rachael Hall:
I’m interested in environmental issues as it is. Because I make garments I understand the work that goes into them, which makes me respect them a lot more. I decided that people don’t know enough about the production process, so I wanted to show consumers by using imagery from my materials. In my research there were a lot of turmeric and indigo plants pictures to relate back to the textures and colours I used to make the garments. It’s to make consumers engage with the products.

DD: What does Esprit mean to you?
Rachael Hall:
They want to make things that anyone would want to wear, so usually quite big shapes that are easy and flattering to wear.

DD: Describe your aesthetic.
Rachael Hall:
It’s haphazard, slightly humourous.

DD: What are your favourite things to do to relax?
Rachael Hall:
I like going to car boot sales and markets. When I’m at home, I can’t sit still so recently I’ve been embroidering things. I love drawing too; still creative but more relaxed than Masters level!

Julia Mackenroth, 28

DD: What was your starting point?
Julia Mackenroth:
Traditional hand-knitting techniques from Scandinavian countries and Scottish prints combined with modern elements. I thought of the jumper your grandmother might make for you, it’s something you don’t throw away, something you love. It’s a sensual relationship.

DD: What does Esprit mean to you?
Julia Mackenroth: Having people wear my designs and in that mass amount.

DD: Describe your aesthetic.
Julia Mackenroth:
It’s feminine and clean.

DD: What are your favourite things to do to relax?
Julia Mackenroth:
I like being outside and being around nature. Even if I’m in the city, I go to the zoo to feel at ease.

The Esprit RCA Limited Edition collections are available exclusively at select Esprit stores around the globe and on the brand’s online shop


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