Fashion is no longer just about ‘the garment’ …
On Tuesday night Sydney’s Raffles College of Design took over Ambush Gallery in Chippendale for their graduate show 2016.
A huge open space, walls pulsating with tunes, matched with sheer adrenalin and anticipation running through the fashionista veins of this year’s graduating emerging fashion designers.
The charge in the air was tangible.
Each and every year, Australia welcomes a new group of emerging designers who hope to break into the Australian fashion industry. It is competitive, fiercely challenging and not for the feint hearted. The vast global arms of the international fashion industry at large and its devotees stand and wait with baited breath, beckoning those to live up to the industry standard. And in Australia, that bar is high. Very high. At least creatively.
Commercially our industry has suffered greatly through years of the ever changing climate of the digital age, struggling economic trends, and the inevitable rise of the “fast fashion” chains.
It has long been the case, for independent designers, that success is difficult to achieve and recognition difficult to attain. Support, government funding and financial backing are not as easy to come by as one might think.
I know it is the sentiment of myself and many others that the nurturing of our beloved industry back to its former glory days is a work in progress, for established designers and particularly for emerging talent.
I am pleased to report, I am really starting to see the tide turn.
We habitually look at fashion as the spectacle and traditionally iconic.
The space was filled with chatty, enthusiastic people who clearly loved anything creative.
This year, different to last, where the event was held at Carriageworks in a traditional runway setting.
2016 saw the graduate fashion designers share their space with other graduating Raffles students from Fashion Marketing, Photography, Interior Design, Graphic Design and Digital Media.
I had a long chat with Nick Comino, Raffles Program Director, who said, “this year we wanted to produce a show that encompassed everyone. We habitually look at fashion as the spectacle and traditionally iconic, so this year, we wanted to address things a little differently”.
He added, “even though a lot of the designers who have historically graduated from Raffles, may not have a label as such, the course offers them the opportunity to explore themselves and their own minds. Most find placement within the industry that we all love. Fashion is no longer just about the garment”.
I also spoke to Betsabeh Sohrabi-Sabi. The Assistant Program Director of Fashion and teacher of the course, Fashion Marketing. I asked her about how she felt about the contrast of her fashion marketing students showing alongside the runway of graduate emerging fashion designers; so different from the preceding year. She proudly showed me the work of her fashion marketing students; an essential wheel of course in the industry of fashion and the imperative and successful marketing of such.
Shortly after 7pm the lighting changed and the audible sighs of said fashionistas filled the room.
It was a full and excited house. The usual, wonderful suspects were there. Fedora hats, latest cuffed chinos and expensive brogues, not to mention the ever present designer handbag. Sky high heels, with and without platform, and carefully curated outfits. One doesn’t like to stare … but sometimes you just can’t help it! Surprisingly, many of the girls sported flats … an ever increasing trend I have noticed during recent months and events. A spill over from fashion week this year, with an obvious hint of permanence. Thank God! That’s a trend I’m all for!
Amazing tailoring, creative skill, and sheer mastery of sewing and construction went to Ruth Read who was selected to participate in an exchange program in Milan, an experience that fortified her attention to detail and craftsmanship, leading her to becoming a finalist for Emerging Designer of the Year in the 2015 Australian Wool Awards. Read currently has an internship with Vogue Australia, and will be travelling to Milan next year to gain further experience and refine her artistry. She said, “The making of fashion garments allows me to explore deep levels of personal expression. My designs and making processes allow me to develop fashion forms that communicate a ‘breaking through’ emotion. The final garment becomes a point of balance between internal and external. An equilibrium of dark and light”.
Another standout in the designer line up for me was Alexandra Uyen Nguyen. A label for both men and women, I loved her use of black and white and the “Flintstone” feel of her geometric prints. The see-through top combined with cotton; very clever, and my other favourite, the oversized, off the shoulder top with big bold stripes. I thought the collection refreshing indeed. Her collection, ‘States of Mind’ was influenced by the work of ‘outsider’ artists like Yayoi Kusama. Through the use of repetitive prints and oversized silhouettes her work challenges the conventional social norms of fashion.
In Hayley Kang’s collection, we saw the return of the classic sundress, a black and white maxi skirt teamed with an interestingly created crop top, and the use of blue and orange tones combined. Men’s suiting; a combination of pastels worked alongside plain grey, teamed with cropped drop crutch pants. I enjoyed the assymetrical skirts and her clever take on the geometrically patterned pea coat with “crayon effect”design. The use of fabric with self patterned spots, fringing and lattice work was inspiring. An altogether Alice McCall feel to me. Apparently, inspiration for the collection came from a traditional Korean folk tale about a masked dance, the purpose of which was to breathe courage into people, to break through the status quo and forego self-regulation.
Mary Quach … more black and white. In my opinion, always a winner on the runway and in life. I could see from very quick glimpses of her graduate collection that this young lady has the gift of design, sewing, and commercial ability. I loved the men’s cropped white trousers with a broad panel of fabric finishing off the hem. The gorgeous red coat with subtle stripe and hood, a traditional take on the duffle coat of old. Her women’s black pants shown with an interesting, wearable and textured top. Her collection to me had an almost industrial feel and laboratory driven design. I loved the details of lacing, the use of industrial climbing ropes, and gorgeous khaki sensibility. Her collection embodied fashion in an era of political subterfuge and dysfunction. A collection directly influenced by the Japanese film ‘Akira’ and its dystopian vision, coupled with the aesthetic influences of the constructivist design movement of the Russian revolution.
Alyce Chen’s beautiful cornflower blue leather dress was a standout also. A truly beautiful, wearable creation which I personally would like to see more of. Her collection explored female sensuality and sexuality as historically portrayed in romantic literature and painting.
Laura Davis’ work was a collection of immense quality. Clever layering, feminine skirts, and a beautiful green, long flowing coat closely related to the trench, but created outside of the box in super fun fabric. I loved her colour combinations, an art in itself. Her use of applique fabrics, unfinished hems, raw edges, and assymetrical skirts were interesting, versatile and wearable. “Frustrated by the perpetual revolving door of fashion, Laura took matters into her own hands, creating a label that represents a beautiful, minimalist life that prioritises style over quantity”.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to write about everyone in an article such as this, as time does not permit. Congratulations to all the emerging designers.
People are watching you. You are loved!
I should mention as a spokesperson for the Australian Fashion Industry … that our extremely talented established and emerging designers and their creative teams need your support.
What does that mean? It means we need you to spend your fashion dollar on Australian labels. Read our editorials. Buy tickets to events.
Follow LABEL MINISTRY on social media so our platform can become THE VOICE and THE PLATFORM. In this way, our work and our passion can ripple out to those whose full hearts are relying upon our work, far and wide across Australasia and the world.
Until next time,
Thanks To |
Special thanks should go to Romualdo Nubla, the photographer behind StudioMOR+. Romualdo is devoted to supporting, photographing, and representing Australian fashion, Australian emerging designers, and Australian Fashion Week and associated festivals across the fashion calendar year. Without these devoted professionals our industry would not exist. Please support so that our beloved fashion industry can flourish once again.
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