Last night marked the London College of Fashion’s annual MA16 womenswear showcase, a follow up to last month’s menswear show and the penultimate event in the MA16 season. The LCF catwalk took place in the 18th century Royal College of Surgeons building and featured collections by ten graduates selected by a panel of industry professionals. LCF alumni and world-renowned fashion director, Anders Sølvsten Thomsen was also on hand to style the collections, having worked closely with the students last year. Though the graduates presented a very wearable offering, the majority still challenged the boundaries of traditional womenswear design with inspiration as disparate Japan’s Meiji Ishin restoration to the emotional impact of deafness and the interrogation of hierarchal society. Here, we pull out five names to watch from the next-generation of talent.
Inspired by the current talks of the death of couture, Alexandru Tunsu’s collection, ‘Massacre of the Innocence’, focuses on the afterlife of clothing. Tunsu explored the unrealistic demands of fashion’s production cycles with the aim to develop a more sustainable solution. “I began to obsessively research couture techniques and handmade textiles, alongside studies which looked at fake luxury and the life cycle of a garment,” he said. “For my collection, I wanted to create the ‘ghosts of garments’ to illustrate the afterlife of clothing.” Tunsu created a process that upcycled pre-made fabric such as chiffon, silk, polyester, cotton and wool to produce a collection that looked like couture but from unexpected materials. “I created garments from pre-made fabric, I’d then destroy it and fray it and take it right back to the thread, then recreate it again with heat-press and hand stitching. It was a very ceremonial process, kind of like creating a garment, killing it, and recreating it again.”
Uniforms provided the starting point for Pelin Isildak’s collection. Focusing on the period between 1600 and 1900, Isildak looked at how clothes, like uniforms, can define class and hierarchy. “My research looks at uniforms of the past and questions why we needed them, still need them and why we analyse society through them,” she said backstage. “I felt intrigued by how our daily uniforms can define us and the possibility of choosing to be someone else.” With a focus on tailoring, Isildak aimed to breakdown hierarchies by deconstructing uniform codes and combining them with modern cuts. Her work saw elements of historical noble dress such as corsets, capes, furs and leathers fused with short hemlines and knee-high boots.
Last year, Lauren Lake’s BA collection put her on the map as a designer to watch. Her oversized pink shearlings fawned the praises of Rankin, Vogue and The Times and she was shortlisted for the Graduate Fashion Week’s coveted womenswear award. Lake now returns to the runway with ‘Some Girls Aren’t Meant to Be Tamed’. Inspired by girl power and femininity, models came out blanketed in giant pink furs, accentuated with embroidered crowns and kitsch clashing prints. “I don’t have one muse for this collection, instead I want my garments to embody a strong group of girls who are raw, fun and powerful,” said Lake. “A kind of woman who likes to make a statement, taking risks with her style and apparel.”
Ysabel Lee based her work on the Meiji Ishin restoration, which took place in Japan in the 1860s and led to enormous changes in the country’s political and social structure. “This was the first time that Western civilisations impacted oriental countries, it was an era of rapid growth and cultural change for Japan, which is what inspired the spirit of my collection,” she said. Structure is key to Lee’s pattern cutting process and the angular forms of her garments lend themselves to the kimono. “My collection is a contemporary take on the kimono, that’s why I used squares, rectangles and cubes as the main design element. I also opted for a dark colours and a clean palette so as to not distract the eye from the structural details.”
Entitled ‘Sick’, Yawen Qian’s graduate collection is a tribute to the work of her parents, both doctors. Having initially conceived the idea of using the general setting of the hospital as a focal point, the designer later narrowed down her research and instead looked more broadly at disability. Qian was inspired by the way that certain garments served an actual function, translating this into a collection which she describes as “minimal, wearable and normal”. Oversized silhouettes define the mood, most of which are engineered in the kind of shiny, wipe-clean fabrics characteristic of hospitals and their clinical nature.