Ravensbourne Students X VF Corporation Collaboration – A Show of Fashion Integrity

Who doesn’t want to be spoilt?  Drawing on inspiration from Traveller culture and a fascination with DIY objects and applications, the Spoilt team crafted an illustrated story of colourful and textured characters.  The collection included a pink paint print oversized duvet coat and and over dyed geometric printed puffa jacket.  The accessories included lace-up denim cuffs embellished with dangling multi-coloured acrylic nails.  Total embellishment abandon and a whole lot of fun.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-13-03-55screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-13-02-25screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-13-02-01dsc04317The Spoilt team:  Including Jodi Feddon (far right) illustrator and designer

Spoilt were one of a number of teams of Ravensbourne students working on a live brief for VF Corporation, owner of a number of lifestyle brands including Lee, Vans and Wrangler.  The teams, comprising of BA (Hons) Fashion, BA (Hons) Fashion Buying and Brand Management and BA (Hons) Fashion Accessory Design and Prototyping students working in collaboration, were charged with interpreting a design brief set around the concept of the Lee ‘BODY OPTIX’ range which “combines visual science and design to enhance certain body shapes”.  

In pulling together this article, I researched the BODY OPTIX range on the Lee website and was horrified to find this borderline racist, body shaming language used:

“Scientifically designed by vision scientists and Denim designers, BODY OPTIXTMcombines the power of VISUAL SCIENCE and design to create jeans that flatters, enhances and shapes the Asian body. The application of geodesic shaping and precise laser anatomy warping gives you perkier backside and strikingly long legs, granting you a more feminine figure that is ideally proportional and attractive.”

This branding language, product and imagery (which I will not include here, but is on their website) merits a far deeper discussion around western influence on fashion and feminism, but in the scope of this article, I really want to keep the focus on what the Ravensbourne students created and how they succeeded in reinterpreting the brief towards utilising graphics, embellishments and downright visual distractions (acrylic nail fringing) whilst developing the textural interest and surface effects of the denim to elevate the humble jean –  none of which were fitted or body contoured.  In fact many were oversized and unisex.  The Ravensbourne students showed incredible creativity and design integrity, which makes the Lee branding and campaign seem even more dated and uninspired.

Foe took a darker stance than Spoilt, looking to Japanese Samurai and armoury to incorporate rivets and other hardware to hinge together accessories and clothing.  In their brand literature they state that Foe aims to attract a different type of consumer to the VF corporation by taking the female physique and using different silhouettes and style to bring diversity to the company.

dsc04337dsc04341dsc04339dsc04342The Foe Team:  Zahra Khan, Katy Andoh, Polly Tamalia and Mary-Louise Fischer

Oneness lashed at their denim with latex and paint and created clothing and accessories with a craft/skate/patchwork theme.  

dsc04320 dsc04322 dsc04325 dsc04327Bag (and hand) by Toya Mehmet accessories design student

Deflect played with organdie and denim, creating illusionary false and hidden pockets with contrasting bleached denim. 

dsc04285 dsc04287dsc04302Team Deflect are: Ciara Kelly and Holly Lovey (Fashion Buying and Branding), Denisa Mehmeti and Kyra Chang (Fashion Design) and Anna Sabe (Fashion Accessory Design) 

Uniq 2 was represented firstly by a Korean duo who described soju (a kind of ‘Korean Sake’) as a cultural slang term meaning the desire to go wild and rebel as the starting point for the collection.  The design picked up on the current Korean trend for wearing oversized wind-proof protective layers and used the silhouette and seaming details of a traditional denim jacket in the windproof material, adding their own logo branding – quite a literal and believable interpretation not far removed from the way designs are translated quickly on the high street, albeit with less fun and flavour.

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Gyal Dem looked to Grime, the music sub-genre drawing on multiple influences including drum and bass and UK Garage, made famous by Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, for stylistic and brand references, adopting a unisex sportswear aesthetic to appeal to their target audience.  A specific target market and design point-of-view led to on-point branding and a strong website including the brand story, look book and a behind the scenes look at how the products were designed and made.  

dsc04268dsc04271dsc04276The Gyal Dem team are:  Celine Polidori and Alexia Amaning (Fashion Design), Raji Bagary, Laura Holloway and Katie Vincent (Fashion Buying and Brand Management)

Analogy created the first luxury brand to utilise biodegradable materials throughout the collection.  They used Algix, an algae and PLA composite 3D printing filament that biodegrades after 50 years, replacing the 100% PLA and ABS alternatives which biodegrade after several hundred years, not unlike the pleather and plastic-based fabrics made as leather alternatives, raising questions over the true sustainability and environmental impact of these alternative materials.  Analogy are posing interesting questions by using this composite filament and replaced a full collection of sample garments with a mixture of life-size printed garment cut-outs alongside denim samples.  Their resin and denim swatches and experimentation with subtracting warp threads leaving weft ‘floats’ as a denim detail added interest to the denim.  With impressive branding and use of Algix sourced (and physically collected) from the US, these students could pass for a professional outfit, pardon the pun.

dsc04260dsc04245dsc04246 dsc04257dsc04249The Analogy team: India Martin (Accessories Design), Eleanor Maylin (Fashion Design) and Elle Morlang and Nicole Keitch (Fashion Buying and Branding)

SoNNE presented an altogether different proposition to all the other teams, using subtle variations in sublimation print to create painterly designs on denim canvases, exploring the colours and textures conjured up by varying their printing technique.  The colours brought a sophisticated palette and softened the denim foundation, until they were subverted again into big, bold, unisex boiler suits.  I’ve got my eye on one and am ready place an order.  I’m not alone, so it looks like fashion design students Isabel Hibbert and Grace Flood have a busy Christmas ahead.

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The exhibition serves as a reminder of the diversity and cultural richness design, buying and branding students in London have.  They are tapping a broad range of cultures, languages, subcultures, art movements and belief systems.  Sadly I couldn’t cover the work of all of the teams in this article, but the integrity and creativity of the students featured spanned the other teams too, leaving no doubt in my mind that the ‘Rave’ students have enriched and enlightened the VF Corporation teams they worked with on this collaboration.

Header Image featuring swatches by Oneness

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