Fresh from The Hague, the students of the Royal Academy of Art are using their designs to take on selfies, 3D printing and social media
Taking place inside the disused half of the city’s fortress-like power plant, the recent graduate fashion show in The Hague demonstrated the Royal Academy of Art’s ability to generate truly electrifying fashion talent. The standout collections on show were the surest proof yet of the influence of the new head of the department of Fashion & Textiles at KABK: Jurgi Persoons. The Belgian designer has overseen the department for the past year and a half and has raised the stakes at the academy with a new world-facing agenda. This year, students even produced their first annual magazine, 4, as art directed by legendary artist Peter de Potter. In a year group that saw both menswear and womenswear collections feeling the pressure of a digital, globalised world, here’s Dazed’s rundown of the best of The Hague’s graduating class to get to know now.
Titled 'Identity 3.0', Fabian Bredt’s standout menswear collection was intriguingly literal: every silhouette of his collection was spread across three models, contrasting only in colour gradient or size as they lined up in uniform rows. For Bredt, the concept was a symptom of the multiplicity of a post-digital age. “We are the most plural youth generation in history,” says the designer, who opened the show. “I was asking myself how we can show a more flexible understanding of how this identity thing works.” It was an idea that translated into striking technical craftsmanship while maintaining a certain clinical purity: jacquard knit in the CMYK colours created pixellated sweaters, and bomber jackets were rendered in small, large and XXX-large for an extreme take on streetwear’s baggy codes. Bredt’s vacuum formed leather jackets in coral, blue and black were inspired by 3D printing – a template for sustainability for the designer, who believes fashion should also comprise art and politics: “By politics I mean the way that it is made.”
Bram Vervoort may have been inspired by the numerical language used by graphic designers, but his menswear collection was far from streetwear by numbers. For him, the number motif that wove its way through his collection was a way to express the impersonality of the digital environment. “Facebook and texting are so impersonal,” he said. “And yet the things we share there are really very personal.” Featuring an army of black-clad hackers straight out of a dystopian sci-fi, Vervoort’s boys wore leather, cotton and scuba separates featuring the designer’s technically impressive laser cuts in the form of numbers and letters. But was it possible to decode a message among his “pincodes and passwords”? Nestled amid the dark layers, you could also make out the designer’s own initials and first name, recalling early Hood By Air: “If the concept is about how we sell ourselves through the Internet, I wanted to sell myself through the collection too.”
“People today seem less and less interested in joining a group, because they want to stay unique,” says womenswear designer-turned-cultural anthropologist Merel Bos. “I want to create a group where everyone can be unique but yet share the same collective ideal.” It was an idealism that reflected in a global outlook, with 3D effect embroidery, digital printing of insects, and a rainbow-hued tufted coat all adding up to make for an eclectic mix of textures and taste. Pulling it all together, Bos’s feminine structures are the result of her moulage technique. That is, the designer eschewed pattern cutting in creating her collection, instead creating forms on the model – a wish to create surprising angles, she says, that stems from the photography of Viviane Sassen.
For Nikki Duijst, selfies amount to more than hundreds of millions of Instagram hashtags and a single Kim Kardashian coffee table book – they’re a resource for textile design. Inspired by her own fear for putting herself in the spotlight, Duijst’s ultra-feminine collection transformed collages based on her own selfies into abstract flashes of print, nestled between pleated chiffon and structured corsets. All-in-one gloved bodysuits were striped like barcodes – a reference, says Duijst, that asks the wearer: “In what way are we still unique, when we are a group of people trying to be unique in the same way?”
For his menswear outing (which coincidentally, took place over Pride weekend) Olivier Jehee was thinking about the fight against homophobia – and the power that comes with showing what you stand for. “There’s a very glamorous, old-fashioned, classy side of power,” he explains. “But on the other hand, power has to do with protest.” This translated into a collection that contrasted the decadence of old-fashioned princes and dandies with the ferocity of skinheads and punks. A hot-pink silk blouse was torn up and finished with a pussy bow; a red aviator jacket was worn over a silk slip dress and models wore pearl-encrusted velvet slippers with tie-dyed socks. Waving protest flags down the runway, Jehee’s army were Blitz club kids meets Les Miserables in the best way.