CLASS OF 2020 - MEET THE NEW FASHION VISIONARIES

A Frenzied Climate

The global pandemic has forced many of us to adapt to new lifestyles, news ways of socialising, and new ways of working. For those fortunate enough to have digitally native jobs, the shift hasn’t been too severe, but for those with physical and materials-based occupations, COVID has represented a whole new challenge. Fashion and textile design is one of those areas. Garment making is a physically intensive task, requiring hours of work in the studio… you need to feel the fabrics and stitch them together. It is with this challenging backdrop that we wanted to shed light on the class of 2020. With a graduate collection ahead of them, these young designers have managed to rise above the chaos and created jaw-dropping, heart-stopping graduate collections. Rather than focusing on the challenges, we want to celebrate the successes. We are always looking out for up and coming designers, and have selected seven of our favourite 2020 graduates. It is time to hear their stores:

Rory Townsend - Menswear Design

Rory Townsend Graduate Collection Rory Townsend Graduate Collection

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in a small town in Dorset in the south-west of the United Kingdom and moved to London to pursue a Menswear design degree at the London College of Fashion. I’ve been creative from a young age through sketching ideas and building narratives, so it only felt natural to pursue fashion design further. 

What was your collection about?

The collection explores the melding of utopia and subculture in the British countryside. Inspired by nostalgic experiences of growing up in rural Dorset with notions of loneliness and the expressive aspect of fantasy.  Referencing rural creative communities within British history, the collection aims to capture the whimsical feeling of countryside escapism. The collection focuses on an experimental approach to British country-wear with references to the practicality of traditional workwear and sportswear, reimagined creatively with a sense of the ethereal to present the carefree romanticism of the outdoors.  Nylon outerwear, engineered to mimic the movement of blustering winds atop windy hills, creates a contrast with the tight elastane knitwear (made in collaboration with Lian Liu), playing with traditional notions of masculinity within workwear styles of clothing. 

How did you manage to overcome the difficulties of producing your graduate show during this pandemic?

Once the pandemic had started, I moved all my prototypes and materials back to my hometown in Dorset, reconstructing my small bedroom into a working studio. Being out of busy London, it was positive to be able to fully focus on building a strong collection even if it meant sewing the majority of it from my bedroom which has very limited space. Access to special equipment was unavailable so I had to learn to adapt and rethink. However being back in my hometown brought with it a stronger connection to the concept of my collection with aspects of a rural and isolated sense of living.

What's next for you?

Nothing is certain in these difficult times but I’m still keeping creative and focused. I’m hoping to apply for an MA in Fashion Design within the next year or so. 

Clara Nordenhök - Footwear Design

Clara Nordenhok Graduate Show Clara Nordenhok Graduate Show

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am originally from Stockholm, Sweden and moved to London 4 years ago to start my studies at London College of Fashion. Back home I had taken foundation courses in womenswear and decided to apply for Central Saint Martins. When I didn’t get in I was contacted by LCF who said that the footwear and accessory course leaders were interested in me and wanted me to come to London for an interview. I was very excited to show my portfolio but a bit hesitant since I had never really considered studying footwear – I didn’t even now there was a course just focusing on shoe design. When I told my friends about it they thought that I was crazy and said that all I ever talk about is shoes. When we would go shopping I would always end up in the shoe section. It’s funny that way, how life sometimes gives you directions and if you have an open mind you might end up doing very exciting things. Today I think it’s the best decision I ever made and now I can’t really see myself doing anything other than footwear design.

What was your collection about?

The name of my graduate collection is Anima. It explores our predetermined notion of the other gender and what s/he should look like and at the same time our struggle to accept all of who we are. My biggest inspiration for this project has been Lilith – a female figure who has wandered the earth for 4.000 years, figuring in the mythic imagination of writers, artists and poets. She has come to represent a woman who society cannot control. She is wild and unkept. Along with what is considered feminine and how women are perceived in today’s society, feminism is at the very heart of this collection. Focus lies on clean shapes, details and quality craftmanship and I am hoping that I’ve managed to create a collection that looks powerful and feels liberating.

How did you manage to overcome the difficulties of producing your graduate show during this pandemic?

It helped me a lot that I had come such a long way with my prototypes before university closed and we went into lockdown. From home I could then focus on my portfolio, sketchbooks and finalise details for my shoes like the embroidery. Those last couple of months were definitely testing times  – having to change and adjust and continue to work when the entire world was kind of on hold. And though it was mentally exhausting it was also rewarding. I learned so much about myself and my abilities to adapt, maintain routines and being disciplined.

What's next for you?

A couple of weeks ago university opened up for graduates to come back and finish their prototypes. That’s where I’ve spent most of my time recently. But I am moving back to Sweden for a while where I will work on some side projects and try to find a place to open my own workshop. As the fashion industry has been affected so badly by Covid-19 I believe this year is all about survival, staying positive and focused.

Haoxiang Yang - Fashion Sportswear

DWSW Collection DWSW Collection

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Cool, hey, I’m Haoxiang Yang, as for myself, it’s like, I’m kind of weird, because actually I didn't start in a fashion career pathway. I’m a freelance singer, so that’s what I’m doing now, one of the live house programming leaders. Me and my co-founder, Zhuoran Ma, both went to London College of Fashion. I was in fashion sportswear, she is doing her final year now in womenswear. Actually, I was an editor for a fashion sneaker magazine in China before establishing my brand. In 2018, I found that no one sincerely thinks about how to combine draping techniques from the western world and style from the eastern world of fashion perfectly. I learned a lot from my domestic culture and history, and I’m so impressed by my own culture. That’s why I wanna let more youngsters know our own history. So I brought my design to Zhuoran and asked her if she wanted to join me in 2019. We then began to run this brand in early days in 2020. Duiwaishiwusuo, DWSWS, was established as an experimental brand to explore the design direction, market, etc. The brand itself was designed based on the idea that the monsters and fairytales in a traditional Chinese literature called ‘the Classic of mountains and rivers.’ We chose delicate elements to raise design style into a higher level, and hopefully, DWSWS could be a historical and high-fashion brand. 

What was your collection about?

‘Nature follows Taoist’ means that we should definitely get along with nature, so that the world can exist as a beneficial cycle. In the meanwhile, we are offered a question; Exactly when was the specific time for the origin of life? When do we start having an era or a century? Does that mean that we are now living the very first days of the world, whilst the monsters, which are in the latest days, are, in fact, human beings? I believe we are the monsters, but we do not know about it. So that is why I begin to think about this world by legends. 

How did you manage to overcome the difficulties of producing your graduate show during this pandemic?

It was a hilarious thing how we could actually manage this. After April, I went back to China, and she stayed in UK. In the 30 days for quarantine, I just used my laptop and express delivery to select my materials, patterns, print, etc. I stayed in that hotel room alone, so I thought that why not use these days to do something? Of course I stayed up late everyday. All the stuff like press, buyers shops, visual design were made by myself, and at the first day I came out of that room, I arranged a photo shooting to create my look book. And because of the jet lag, we only could book a time that Zhuoran and I were both awake to have a meeting through the phone to talk about what should we do for our brand.  It’s really tough and long days. But we fixed it in the end, I knew we could. 

What's next for you?

Of course, if it’s possible, I would love that some press, fashion shows or showrooms contact me to tell the world, we made DWSWS. But in the end, I know and we all know that a brilliant brand should be a culture and a symbol. It is meant to be a tool to show interesting Chinese culture to the world, so I hope I can do so. Maybe more performances, I mean, for music. It’s also a lifetime thing for me. When Zhuoran went back to China, maybe that’s the day we could move a little bit further with our brand. 

Melissa Posner - Fashion Design

Melissa Posner Graduate Collection Melissa Posner Graduate Collection

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a recent graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. I studied fashion design with a concentration in knitwear. My love for design stemmed from my studies in fine arts during high school. I loved to experiment with different art media and found fashion as a new wat to create artwork. I see fashion as an extension of art that is able to be tangible, conceptual, functional, and ever changing.

What was your collection about?

The theme of my thesis explores the personal relationship between me and my twin. Being a twin is a one of a kind connection that has cultivated comfort, wonder, and liveliness within my life. In this look, I utilized a voluminous silhouette made up of multi-layered knitted sleeves and panels to illustrate the whimsical and repetitious nature of this relationship. It is accessorized with a knitted sleeve-bag, turtleneck and head scarf to emphasize comfort. With this look, I hope that viewers can understand the story between me and my twin.

How did you manage to overcome the difficulties of producing your graduate show during this pandemic?

Developing my look at home posed greater challenges as I had access to less equipment, machinery, and space needed to create my thesis looks. I quickly realized that I had to make changes within my designs that would allow me to finish my thesis on time and accommodate the lack of knitting equipment. Despite the challenges that the pandemic brought, it taught me how to be more flexible and efficient in similar situations where I have to quickly adjust to finish a project or task quickly.  

What's next for you?

I hope to work as an assistant designer in wovens or knits for a luxury brand. Currently, I am also working on my portfolio to develop more pieces and learn new techniques. I plan to continually work to my portfolio throughout my design career.  

Molly Turner - Fashion Design

Molly Turner Graduate Collection 

Molly Turner Graduate Collection

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am from Tulse Hill in South London and studied BA Fashion Design at the University of Westminster. I was inspired to pursue fashion design as a way of making a living off expressing personal identity as part of a collective whole within a design company.

What was your collection about?

My collection was a development on from my thesis research into Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto, exploring female relationships with technology and attempting to subvert patriarchal science fiction archetypes. 

How did you manage to overcome the difficulties of producing your graduate show during this pandemic?

I was lucky to have finished making my graduate collection for my university's internal deadline of 31st January, but I had to shoot my collection film using my younger brother as a model during lockdown. 

What's next for you?

After 4 months of working as a product developer in London I have recently relocated to Switzerland to intern at a luxury fashion brand which I have signed an NDA not to disclose any information about! 

Yasmina Atta - Womenswear

Yasmina's Collection Yasmina's Collection

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m 23 years old Nigerian, I moved to the UK when I was 11. I studied Fine Art Sculpture as an art foundation at Central Saint Martins. Studying sculpture was great because I felt really free from any expectations because of the way we were led as a class. Everyone was allowed to do what they chose. I feel like I have many mediums I want to try working in but at that point I felt the body and clothing was the way I wanted to work. This led me to applying for BA Womenswear.

What was your collection about?

My collection is an exploration of the Surreal. I see the pieces as the beginning of ideas I would like to explore further. I referenced Senegalese Cinema, mainly around the 1960’s when countries were gaining their independence. Within the collection I was contrasting mysticism, ritual to technology and the robotic.

How did you manage to overcome the difficulties of producing your graduate show during this pandemic?

I really had to realise that I wouldn’t be able to create as much work as I would like to. I changed my focus and really tried to work through the moment. I had to search for resources at home. For the jackets I used pillow stuffing and the leg covers are filled with cardboard.

What's next for you?

I will be doing my Masters in Womenswear and working on releasing new work by the end of the year hopefully.

Halina Edwards - Menswear Design

Halina's Collection Halina's Collection

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hey! I’m Halina and I am a Jamaican born designer and researcher based in London. I finished my MA at the university of Westminster in 2020. My mom was an inspiration as she used to be a seamstress in Jamaica. She used to make my primary chill dresses when I was younger, so I feel like that factored into me. 

What was your collection about?

My latest collection was inspired by Oguaa Fetu Afahye, which is a festival that is celebrated by the chiefs and peoples of Cape Coast in Ghana. It is an annual event that takes place on the first Saturday in the month of September. I researched into the traditional and common dress of the wearers who celebrate this festival. Akan war wear is often worn as traditional dress at this festival, particularly the 'batakari'. The batakari is a cotton smock with amulets attached to the garment, thought to protect the wearer from injury. Sadly due to the pandemic, I wasn't able to realise my collection, but an amazing illustrator I know called Alex Mein kindly illustrated my 8 look collection for me. The drawings are so beautiful and capture the mood of my collection so perfectly too. It was a nice way to explore how I can communicate my collection without actual clothing. 

How did you manage to overcome the difficulties of producing your graduate show during this pandemic?

It was hard, but starting work at The Black Curriculum (a zine which celebrates black culture) at the same time as completing my degree was a blessing. It helped me keep my focus, and continually pushed me forward.

What's next for you?

Depending my knowledge on my heritage and background by travelling to countries that resonate a lot to me is a big one. I want to be able to do primary research in these countries, and make something from what inspires me and moves me in the moment.

Class of 2020 Creative Graduates

A Promising Future

During a period of dread and despair, these seven outstanding creators have successfully returned this lost hope for the future. Not only have they proven that a global pandemic cannot stop them, but also have created authentic and intricate garments, suggesting a bright new future for the fashion industry. Keep an eye out for these names - they are the new generation of creators, here to bend the rules and build the future. 

By Juliette Eleuterio

YUGEN_STORIES

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