Following exhibitions in London and Copenhagen, 1 Granary’s VOID initiative heads stateside
Heading out into the fashion industry as a new graduate is an exhilarating but terrifying affair. Studying for a degree in fashion is one thing, but pursuing a career once you’ve graduated is something different entirely. Competition is fierce, hours are long, and, for all the talent and determination you might have brimming inside you, successful careers in fashion can often feel like they rest on who you know rather than what you know.
Setting out to change that, though, is 1 Granary, with its recently launched initiative VOID. The program pairs emerging talent with established industry insiders – including Dazed’s own creative director Robbie Spencer, senior fashion editor Emma Wyman, and Ellie Grace Cumming, fashion director of Another Man – allowing students and recent graduates the chance to create professional editorials that showcase their work. Also key to VOID are the relationships that are built surrounding these collaborations, as participants with limited knowledge of the inner workings of the industry forge bonds with those that know it inside-out.
Following its launch last November, when an exhibition debuted a series of collaborative works at London’s 180 The Strand, and an event in Copenhagen earlier this month, next on the map for the initiative is New York. Landing in the city this week, VOID takes over Brooklyn’s Red Hook Labs, as work by promising students from Central Saint Martins, Parsons, London’s Royal College of Art and Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Art goes on display until Sunday. As well as the editorial shoots and an installation featuring garments designed by the participants, also on the line-up are a number of talks exploring the role of the media in promoting and protecting fledgling designers, and the issues surrounding creating original work at a time when copycats are omnipresent.
As VOID kicks off, we spoke to some of the designers whose work is on show about their inspiration, their work, and what participating in the initiative has given them.
BIANCA SAUNDERS, ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART
Though Bianca Saunders has only recently graduated, there’s a good chance are you’ve already heard her name. Having just completed an MA at London’s RCA, Saunders spent most of her BA course designing womenswear, before being encouraged by her tutor to experiment with menswear.
Her work delves into her environment and identity, as her graduate collection – the one currently on show at Red Hook Labs – explores the definition of contemporary black masculinity, while drawing influence from works by Thomas J. Price and Renaissance-era sculptures of Grecian men. “I made a short documentary as part of my course called Personal Politics, in which I interviewed male friends that are challenging the idea of hyper-masculinity and how that can often be internalised,” she explains, “my aim is to offer clothes that explore the spectrum of masculinity, while featuring what may be seen as typically feminine naunces.”
SHERYN AKIKI, CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS
“With my graduate collection, I was obsessed with the media’s portrayal of politics and propaganda,” says Sheryn Akiki of her award-winning project ‘The Blue Index’. The designer incorporated references ranging from Aernout Mik’s ‘Shifting Sitting’ and Hezbollah’s marketing strategies, to Lydia Lunch, Soviet flight suits, and Uniqlo’s 5-pack polo-necks into a series of layered skirts, trousers and tunics. “I wanted to put forward this visual of an army of women that look like a mess, yet they seem to be ready and going somewhere,” she explains, “they have the power to scare you and seduce you simultaneously.”
Akiki has now enrolled on CSM’s MA fashion course, so making her way out into the industry is a little way off. But having worked with VOID, she has strong opinions on the way it needs to change when she does. “Do I think the fashion system needs alternative ways of promoting and supporting its young talent? Fuck yes!” she says. “Does being included in an editorial matter any more? Does one good press mention really launch someone’s career? Do we ever really get to read an honest review any more? We still want and need that, and I’m not dissing it. But at the moment, there’s a craving to make the system fun and exciting again.”
AMANDA BROWN, PARSONS SCHOOL OF DESIGN
Having studied Classics at Harvard, Amanda Brown taught Latin to pay the bills while pursuing a career in the arts. Following time spent as an assistant on a Hollywood production, she taught herself how to use a knitting machine and had her “mind blown by the possibilities knitwear offered,” and decided to embark on the MFA course at Parsons.
Her work offers a commentary on modern life and the human condition, “but I always try to incorporate aspects of lightness, humour or satire,” she explains. The commentary surrounding her most recent collection started with the political and social moment of Hillary Clinton’s election loss and the plight of the Suffragettes. “I abstracted this idea of women’s burden to the bag – the way we as women carry our burdens. More specifically, I looked at the thin, plastic bags you get at the corner store. I liked the anonymity of it, and its simplicity, but also the issues of mass-production, labour, commerce and waste it raises.”
ROBBIE VAN MIERLO, ROYAL ACADEMY OF FINE ART
“The core theme of my graduation project was ‘the journey’, since something I’d been working towards for a large part of my life was coming to an end,” says Robbie van Mierlo of his graduate collection ‘Epos of the Ego’. “I saw it as something spiritual, transcendent even. The collection travels through my life, my work, my history and my gender,” he finishes.
On display at VOID is a look he named ‘Chapter 9: Inferno’ - a reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy that symbolises the arc of an artist. “Each look from the collection has its own chapter within the ‘Epos of the Ego’ with its own references and symbols,” he explains. “I had a vision of a beautiful, witchy woman in red – not dissimilar to Kate Bush in the ‘Wuthering Heights’ video.” Having now graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, van Mierlo is concentrating on his work as part of the MOAM Collective, a group of young designers from across Europe that’s currently based in Amsterdam, “but after that, it’s open territory,” he tells us. “I like to go with the flow and I want to get as many different experiences from fashion as possible, whether that’s working for a big design house or expressing myself through art or writing.”