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 Fengyi Tan graduate designer
Dress and shoes by Fengyi TanPhotography Vicki King, fashion Adam Winder

Meet the designers about to define London fashion

These graduates are making collections out of fake nails and corroding clothes with chlorine – get to know them here

Those looking to discover the next in upcoming fashion talent head to graduate shows as their first port of call. Here, young designers create in their purest form; unwavered by external industry expectations and not yet hindered by the financial demands of running their own line. London is unparalleled in it’s generation of boundary-pushing new fashion graduates, with institutions like Central Saint Martins and the RCA producing designers who never fail to push new agendas.

For this shoot, Dazed sought out the work of eight London design grads whose innovative techniques and changing attitudes on fashion suggest an exciting future. Whether it’s a collection made out of false acrylic nails or one created from a specially-choreographed dance, we asked this new wave of London talent to tell us about their experiences with fashion and their ground-breaking graduate collections


“Central Saint Martins is the only school where you can truly do anything you want and are encouraged to always do more and be more extreme. Everyone is so supportive of each other, kind of an extended version of the Addams family. My graduate collection started with my own nails, which are always loaded with various gems and prints, I basically wanted to turn my nails into garments. So I started doing samples using acrylic nails stitched together or onto fabric until I found a method that worked. For the colours and prints of the collection I looked at a lot of Guy Bourdin imagery; that really helped bring my collection to life.”



“My graduate collection was inspired by an adventure into an imagined homotopia, one which awkwardly attempts to reconcile the conservative values of my Northern Irish father with my private life in an exuberant, carnal way. It was originally inspired by a photo album of my mother's family from the 70s, and the Martin-Parr-esque bleakness that lies behind the rose tinted naiveté. On the other end of the spectrum, my collection is a gloriously camp and defiant protest against an upsurge of homophobic attacks in London. In an attempt to deal with this issue, I have adopted the optimistic language of 70s Fire Island, which provides a utopian view of gay hedonism in the USA before the AIDS crisis. The latter half of the 70s was a tiny pocket of time in which the male form was flaunted and relished as a sexual object.



“My graduate collection was inspired by the opulence, decadence and tragedy of the cut flower and the spontaneity of an arrangement: 17th century Dutch Vanitas paintings, Japanese Ikebana and a 60s Czechoslovakian film Daisies. For my MA final collections, the black PVC pieces were painted on my living room floor by folding the pieces on themselves (like those ink blotted Rorschach tests) for a textural and spontaneous look. I like to bend boundaries with the textiles on a more simple garments. In the past I've poured plumbers liquid and chlorine on final garments for corroding effects.”



“I collaborated with dancers in order to express the concept of my graduate collection. I created a story about a girl pursuing freedom. So I set up a small space with elastic strings connected to the pillars. I told the dancers the story and they interpreted the emotion. There were no rules for the dance. I developed my own way of cutting the patterns of garments, and after the dances I decided which part of the material to use and the degree of tension that is appropriate. [Viewers] can look at it as a kind of performance piece of clothes which celebrate the body. I think we need to find new forms of display to present our concepts, other than just catwalk shows.”


“I wanted to go to the best school in the world. My time at CSM was an incredible experience. There were some extreme lows, where I would want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. But I am so grateful for now having that time and freedom, though it was sometimes confusing. My own personal response towards my graduate collection is mixed. I am very sceptical of it. I would change the speed of fashion – it's such a ravenous machine and there is a huge amount of waste. I am hugely influenced by the body, it is the most beautiful and enigmatic form. I think I could work forever on that one subject alone. Everything I learnt from creating my graduate collection is invaluable to me, it was a year in which I learnt most about design and myself – the clothing is almost a by-product.”



“Purity and innocence of girls are themes that come up quite a lot in my projects. I watched lots of films and documentaries about young girls over the summer and became interested in the lives of Catholic school girls. Many of the films I watched showed them and their lives in the convent in a positive way but to me that lifestyle seemed like a burden. I wanted to create a collection that portrayed the emotional and physical restriction that the girls may have felt, but hidden under innocent looking structures that look like dresses. In my second year I created a large shield-like piece using popcorn as the main material. I spent hours separating popcorn by size and stringing them. Just finding the perfect brand of popcorn took a week. I now know all about microwave popcorn.”


“My collection is my reaction to the fashion industry today. It bluntly confronts the ethics and motives of owning and wearing — what you are buying into when you buy. The garments attempt to materialise this attitude of rebellion. There is a tension between the clothes that resist the wearer who has stolen the clothes. The soles of the shoes have hidden messages. They say: you want it, you need it, you buy it, you forget it. The footprint left behind betrays the wearer. In the space produced by this friction, the status of the object and its meaning is always unstable and in question. I worked with mechanics in this collection because it alienates the wearer from their surroundings – isolates them, in a sense. It comes back to this battle between the object and the person.”



“For my MA collection, I left behind the traditional fashion form of pattern cutting and sewing and worked like a sculptor for fashion.  Each garment is moulded onto live models and video documented to show my process. I would make fashion a lot more experimental and allow for new processes to develop. I will remain to work in this free manner and keep allowing myself to be experimental. The body is a huge influence to my work.  By working from a live process, the body was the main focus, the model would interact with the material and place it in areas of her body that she felt was right. The body was my pattern block.”


Photography Vicki King; fashion Adam Winder; hair Yumi Nakada-Dingle using Aveda; make-up Nobuko Maekawa using MAC; set design Bryony Edwards; photographic assistant Michael Barry; models Robbie at Nevs and Reuben at Tomorrow is Another Day