Tonight’s London College of Fashion MA class of 2017 were a group of ten womenswear designers selected from by a panel of judges including Natasha Jacobs, Head of Group Partnerships at Yoox Net-a-Porter; Melanie Rickey; Lucy Norris; Emma Hope Allwood and Susanne Madsen of Dazed Digital, alongside LCF Head of College, Professor Frances Corner and Dean of the School of Fashion Design Technology, Professor Jose Teunissen.
The show was underpinned by the bold and legacy-laden statement on the press release, encapsulating the London College of Fashion‘s position as a world leader in fashion design that has been nurturing creative talent for over a century. “Students come from over 100 countries and develop fashion skills in many modes, according to the personal pursuit and leanings of each student, be they heritage, craftsmanship, high-tech practice, analytical skills, creative thinking or business acumen, amongst others”.
This show is the final, distilled expression of the students’ fifteen months of intense contemplation and creation in which a handful of pieces are chosen to speak for them as aesthetic storytellers. The students were Vilu Du, Young Mi Kim, Wendel Heung, Hew Wang, Gergei Erdei, Katrina Wilson, Lorenzo Buzzi, Siyan Meng, Yuqing Lai and Chen. Broadly speaking, an incredibly rich range of textiles were on show, and texture and colour were used powerfully by dialling them right up to brights and shine or down to nudes and neutrals. The textiles had me snapping (photographically, rampantly) and it was a tightly edited visual feast that was over too soon.
I spoke to one of the MA students, Chen, after the show, and she talked through her journey from her undergraduate fashion degree in Shanghai, which she enrolled in after ditching an engineering degree just a few months in, only to realise now, in hindsight, that she has a hunger for technology and tools that transcend craft. Tools that allow robust, commercial design. Tools that allow complete professional creation and textile invention. She found this in digital knitting. She explained why quitting another degree part way through (an MA at Parsons, which she described as very conceptual and philosophical, encouraging social or political perspectives over aesthetics) to join the MA course at LCF was the right path for her. Chen explained that her experience at LCF allowed her to take a grounded perspective on her design work, and root her point of view in aesthetics and the creation of honest, perfectly conceived and constructed textile 3D forms.
I enjoy hearing Chen’s perspective on design practice, and relate to her rejection of the conceptualisation of design over the celebration of aesthetics. Why can’t clothing simply look and feel beautiful? Does it have to have a philosophical leaning to have value, or to be ‘good design’. “In modern art in the 1950’s, Picasso and others concentrated on form and aesthetics” says Chen. “Why does current modern art so often overlook aesthetics for the sake of telling a story?”. She goes on to explain that her work will be shown without the explanation of the design concepts and inspiration, so they must stand up for themselves, alone. In utter admiration for her energy and verve post-show I bid Chen farewell and look forward to continuing this conversation with her after London Fashion Week. For now, enjoy Chen’s collection.
In the next five years, LCF are moving to a new, unified home at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, heralding a new future for this historic institution. As an LCF alumna, I am looking ahead and imagining a new era of cross-disciplinary fashion practice and leaps forward for fashion tech, in particular. LCF sits alongside UCL robotic faculty and Loughborough University Sports Science faculty, and will be located near the new Sadler’s Wells and V&A East, which are also setting up in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the next few years. These are exciting fashion times.
The work of the MA 17 graduates is on display at the show Found in Translation from 16th -26th February at the House of Vans, London.
Header image of Vilu Du: Techstyler