Graduate Fashion Week 2019

This was my second year attending the London Graduate Fashion Week. It was as amazing as last year to see the creative and fashion celebration of students and graduates all under one roof.

I have been to a few different events at this venue and it always amazes me how much they fit into the space. Although there is a great number of stands and displays, it is evident that the best work from the top students at each institution are selected.

What my mum and I enjoyed the most last year and this, was attending one of the catwalk shows which included collections from a range of universities. I always love seeing the designer’s personality being displayed through the garments and the range of design on show. Some were subtle and elegant and others were maximal, loud and experimental. Although the latter would be something that I would shy away from, these are the ones that I remember. It was great to see the extent to which the students were not afraid to take risks and push their creativity. There was one designer in particular that used texture to its fullest potential, especially with regard to the structural details within her honeycomb dress, creating 3D form and shape in delicate fabrics.

The most useful part of the event for me was looking at the other communication, promotion and marketing work produced from students at different universities. The stands displayed imagination and endless possibilities, giving me the chance to observe visual reports and self-promotion material. I enjoyed looking through portfolios and photographing my favourite layouts and ideas for future inspiration to take into year 3. There was a vast range of themes and topics, largely based on current societal issues. This reinforced the amount of scope possible when it comes to Level Three, with the importance of pursuing a topic that is personal and interesting to the individual – it is this that shines through the work. I was also impressed with the theme in some students’ work being carried through in to a range of promotional goods.

I found it an overwhelming, yet exciting environment to learn from other students and gain inspiration and insights but it has really motivated me to explore possibilities and think outside the box.

I have since contacted two girls whose work caught my attention; one focused on ‘normality,’ exploring imperfections, and the other created characters to represent four themes around mental health. I would find it valuable to gain insight into their projects seeing that they are focused on similar topics that I hope to explore.

Rachel

Blank Canvas Fashion Show

Second year NTU Fashion Design x FMB

The collaboration between the two courses was effortless, so much so that I did not realise that the exhibition was not completed by the fashion students themselves. FMB did an amazing job of marketing the brands with their boards mirroring the style of the garments and inspiration behind them. I thought the illustrations on the boards to display the garments worked well; I feel that this gave a more personal approach, rather than just photographing the pieces. The illustrations emphasised the textures which I don’t think would have been fully showcased in a static photograph.

Watching the fashion show, we obviously only got to see the finished products which were stunning and so well executed. It was clear how much time had gone into the creation of the garments. I would not even know where to start if I was asked to make an item of clothing! The aim was to shed light on societal issues and therefore a recurring theme was around sustainability. A checked trouser suit and oversized puffer jacket stood out to me – I saw them as acting as reassurance, structure and protection from the uncertainty we are currently facing.

The garments displayed their designer’s creativity and self-expression as well as their talent at pattern cutting. However, in my opinion, the only downside to the entire thing was the lack of diversity in terms of model sizing. It was great to see inclusivity in terms of race and ethnicity; however this didn’t extend to body shape. Seeing that this year’s Mental Health Awareness month theme is body image, I hoped that a proportion of the garments would be designed for someone greater than a size 8 body or under the height of 5 foot 7. This just shows that there is still an expectation in the fashion design world to create prototypes to suit the typical model aesthetic – tall and thin.

There was such a great turnout to watch the show and I was pleased to attend, not only to appreciate the talent within the school and gain inspiration, but to support a valuable cause – Supporting Opportunity in memory of Becky and Philippa.

Rachel

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Christian Dior exhibition at the V&A museum. In 1947, Christian Dior changed the face of fashion with his ‘New Look,’ which redefined the female silhouette. Coming from an Art background with a love for intricate and interesting architecture, I admired the use of architectural-like frames dedicated to the human body throughout all the designs on show. The black line drawn illustrations on the white walls leading to the exhibition began the championship of the Dior artistry and craftsmanship of haute couture; they were seamlessly simple, yet intricate and eye-catching.

I really could visualise what Dior meant by the quote, “Everything created by human hands expresses something – above all the personality of the creator.” (1954) The space portraying the work of the individual creative directors really displayed each of their distinctive styles and interpretations of the Dior brand and their values. Some designers, such as Marc Bohan’s, built on the classic Dior tailored aesthetic; whereas John Galliano’s were exuberant and really pushed the boundaries in terms of the expected for the fashion house. Galliano’s creations really stood out as being the anomalies of the whole exhibition.

When mum and I were discussing our favourite pieces from the exhibition, I seemed to be unintentionally drawn to the designs by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current creative director at Dior. She celebrates feminism in a modest yet open way, understanding and representing the women of today. She also appears to acknowledge and build on the creativity and craftsmanship of the previous creative directors, as well as respecting the classic Dior elegant style. What I think works effortlessly is her mix of modern tailoring and ethereal romantic style to create beautiful evening gowns, keeping the designs youthful, yet true to the brand’s values of feminism.

A couple of my favourite pieces were the Mémoire D’hiver Dress (2017) and Brise Mémoires Ebsemble (2017). The hand-painted silk petals, caught between the layers of delicate fabric, looked stunning and I now appreciate the time and skill that went into making such a gown, as well as the narrative behind the flowers that the petals represent. I loved the simplicity which made the delicate individual flowers become the focal point and therefore a brilliant tribute to Dior’s love for his garden.

I adored the ball-gown space where the dresses where displayed in a regal mirrored circular silhouette, highlighted by white spotlights. I was able to see the dresses close up and therefore the finer details appeared magnified. I was in awe of the beaded, sequin numbers, just as much as the effortlessly minimal designs made of silk. Anyone wearing any of these gowns would feel as if they were in a dream; I could imagine it would be a real fairy tale experience.

The toiles also fascinated me. As consumers, the finished garment is the focal point and all that can be visualised, however seeing a room full of mock-up garments really brought home to me the stages that a design goes through when being ‘brought to life.’ I think I was most surprised by the pen and pencil marks on the stark neutral fabric.

I came away with a deeper understanding of Christian Dior himself, with specific regard to how he changed fashion history. The Dior signature style has developed and evolved over the years, however the handmade attention to detail remains constant, as well as the extraordinary craft and skill that goes into every garment.

Rachel

Upstart!

I recently ordered this book and it is now one of my favourites. Visual identities for start-ups and new businesses has a heavy focus on the aesthetic, particularly that of graphic design. No matter the medium of the identity, the personality of the brand is showcased, particularly through the chosen colour palette and shape silhouettes selected. This is the first book that I’ve come across that presents fresh branding ideas; each has an element of playfulness combined with professionalism. I enjoyed looking at all of the authentic styles and stories, as well as seeing what is achievable for a young business.

Layout and graphics is an area that I’m currently interested in pursuing as a future career and therefore it is great to have a body of inspiration, especially now that there is such an emphasis on creativity in branding. Not only will this book be useful as I continue to develop my own visual identity and business card, it will also be something that I constantly reference in third year, whether it be front cover design, identity or even layout for my final visual report.

The layout on the page is based on the images that are very much the main focal point. There is a hierarchy of visuals; however each image makes a statement in itself. The designers have been very selective in their refinement which is something I am still trying to master – often than not less is more. I have also noticed that the background that the business cards, labels, packaging, etc are photographed against make the visual identities pop and add another layer of interest. They bring the colour palette to life and tie all of the elements together bringing cohesion. Although there is a synergy across all of the business’ branding material, the backgrounds reinforce this.

I am going to select five of my favourite visual identities and analyse them in my sketchbook, exploring what fits with my personality, approach and skills and what does not.

Rachel

Fashion History from 18th to 20th Century

I have only recently got round to looking at the Taschen Fashion, A History from the 18th to the 20th Century books that Tim recommended to purchase in first year. I wasn’t expecting the books to be A3 size; however they are packed with the transition of fashion through time. I was surprised by the amounts of shifts in style, some more subtle and others being massive transformations that have shaped fashion today.

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I feel that not only do clothes define a decade but they also define people and the attitudes of the time. Clothes are a key part of culture, class, personality and even religion. The books are a fascinating excursion through the last three centuries of clothing trends. I also found it interesting to see how my ancestors would have dressed and the innovation and accomplishments that have happen in history.

I found the section on corsets very interesting. In the late nineteenth century, few people believed that women would ever be freed from corsets or that one day they would wear skirts revealing their thighs. It is this transition away from the corset, especially after World War I which accelerated shifts in various aspects of society and culture. I didn’t realise that there was a growing fascination with sports at this time and so for active women, they required day-to-day clothing to achieve a certain level of functionality.

I feel that Paul Poiret was inspirational in this way of thinking, putting forward a new line of fashion that did not require a corset. His 1903 ‘Confucius Coat’ was straight cut and ample in shape. These designs liberated women away from the corset, leading fashion to evolve from an artificial form to a more natural shape. I am thankful we haven’t returned to the highly structure corseted frame today. I feel that if this was to occur, female body image would become even more negative and restrictive.

Chanel also played an important role in designing clothing for comfort. I admire her forward thinking, simplicity and chic appearance, using male shapes to create more relaxed silhouettes. Chanel has been a huge driver in the fashion world, creating a whole new dress ethic that I feel proposed a style for women who were ready to pursue their own active lives. This has continued today with business women proving their individual worth and women empowering other women, praising achievements.

I really feel that it is this development away from the corset that has led to a more diverse, tolerant and enlightened future of fashion for women, with a greater sense of experimentation.

Rachel

Icons of Women’s and Men’s Style

I picked these books up when I attended Graduate Fashion Week last summer. There is the first of its kind behind nearly every item in the wardrobe. I enjoyed looking through the books to see that although the definitive example, often created by a single designer, has achieved icon status, its various reinterpretations have become fashion staples season after season. Especially in the men’s style book, definite examples were designed for a specific use; it was interesting to see how the styles have evolved over time.

I love how the books are set out; they are so simple and the illustrations and large imagery really speak for themselves, not needing much of an explanation. On adjacent pages, I saw item by item, the most influential and legendary garments and accessories.

The books gave me a really digestible history lesson and made me more aware of the subtle differences between certain styles.

The men’s cargo pants developed from the medieval period in to a more practical garment with more pockets and movement. I didn’t realise that during Second World War, distinctive pockets on the trousers categorised the uniform worn by US paratroopers – who often added an additional pocket, making them the only servicemen generally permitted to make alterations to their uniform. A type of cargo pants are still worn today which infers that people approve of moving away from the norms; adjusting the traditional aesthetic.

The women’s trouser suit is still being supported today. I am a massive lover of wearing trousers on a daily basis. However, in the 1920’s and 30’s it was bold for women to play with gender stereotyping. Elsa Schiaparelli designed some of the early suits and Frida Kahlo also wore the suits. However I believe that this was more accepted because of their artistic nature and celebrity status. I consider we have gone back to the 1940’s where trousers were worn for sports and leisure. The suit today could symbolise the rise of business women and the power of the female empowerment movement. Suits today range from a softer silhouette, like the one popularised by Yves Saint Laurent in the mid-1960s to a more fitted body and looser leg, combining structure and casual.

These two books will be a great resource for me to use throughout my time on FCP. The provenance and history of each item is explored in-depth which is a good way for me to understand the stories of the designs and appreciate the celebrities who made them famous. It was also clear that some of the styles are recurring today, shaping the way we dress.

Rachel

Lush Zero Waste Store

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While in Berlin, I wanted to have a look inside Lush’s packaging free store. Although it was only a small store space, the products can be seen alongside hundreds of innovative, packaging-free alternatives.

In 2017, Lush customers saved 800,000 bottles by choosing naked shower products going into landfills or recycling. This just shows the power a brand can have and reinforces that making small changes really can make a difference.

In the store I saw glitter without plastic, shampoo bars, soaps, glow make-up sticks, shower gel and solid deodorant. They were also selling reusable metal tins to store these products in which also shows they have thought about those who still require somewhere to store their products.

The naked stores are an amazing response to the awareness of plastic pollution I was in some ways surprised that they were able to fill a shop space with entirely plastic-free products. Usually only a couple of items fit this criteria.

The concept that I found most innovative were the naked shower gels, each product was bottle shaped in a bright block colour; these looked so effective lined up next to each other on the shelves. Although the products are beautiful, I feel that these shops do open up a conversation and an opportunity for discussion. Presenting these issues to consumer is a way of educating in a subtle and fun way, giving guidance on how to make sustainable swaps.

The Naked Shop was like the cosmetics store of the future. It showed me how amazing cosmetics can look even if there is no plastic packaging. I hope more brands start to alter their products to become more sustainable and focus on plastic avoidance. I also hope that Lush open more of these store over the UK so I can get my hands on some of the products.

Rachel

Berlin Trade Show Experience

I was lucky enough to gain a ticket to the Berlin Trade Shows at the time of Berlin Fashion Week 2019. While I was there, I attended four trade fairs: Seek, Neonyt Fashion Sustain, Premium and Show & Order.

I was surprised that more exhibitions weren’t approaching people to talk to them; a lot were simply sitting within or behind their sections. However, this showed me that their products spoke for themselves to the extent that they didn’t feel they needed to interject or push them forward. They were obviously waiting for people to approach them.

I honestly did feel very out of place in the shows, possibly because I was going round by myself. This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that the stand holders looked very unapproachable and unfriendly. I was trying to subtly take photos but felt I was being watched the whole time.

I believe that there was a greater focus on sales, rather than experience. I understand the importance of revenue, however in my opinion, a great experience that interacts positively with potential consumers is a more effect way to gain attention and increase brand awareness. For example, in the Premium show, there was a photo booth in one of the brand areas and others were offering free food and beverage tasters. This for me would have created a more intimate experience with the brand and shows they are looking at the bigger picture, not just the units sold.

Having said this, I did enjoy experiencing the trade shows. At times I found them overwhelming, especially the Premium display as a result of the enormous size and space they occupied; it was like a maze in there trying to navigate my way around. However, I loved how each stand cleanly and clearly presented their garments and accessories, making it easy to spot the brand’s style at a quick glance. The shows gave me a great opportunity to gain a body of images that will be very useful in the trend forecasting project.

I possibly enjoyed the Neonyt event the most because I loved seeing all of the innovative ways brands are going sustainable. For example Nuuwni are a brand that use 50% fruit to make their fully vegan bags.

When walking around, I noticed serval recurring themes: everyday streetwear, combining casual with formal, beanies and bum bags styled in a certain way and leopard print were all featured in some capacity in a large majority of the brands’ displays. This will be something I will bring forward in my group when we start to analyse our trend research findings.

Rachel

Fashion is…

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As part of a Christmas present from a family friend, I received Fashion Is – The Metropolitan Museum of Art Book. When flicking through the book, it really encourages the reader to think about the myriad of definitions for fashion.

The book has a simple layout with a clear narrative through different eras and styles. On one page, a white blank canvas, states, ‘Fashion is…’ with the adjacent page portraying a full-bleed image explanation.

It also reinforced the extent to which fashion can portray an emotion and attitude, whether it is luxurious, confident, eccentric, etc. It is all a means of expression for both the designer and the wearer. I was expecting just to see costumes and dresses from prehistory to the present; however I was presented with paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, adding another dimension to the page spreads.

I enjoyed exploring all of the different textures and materials such as line, shape, paisley, silk, etc. The pages and pieces ranged from understated to exaggerated, fun to serious; however my favorites were ‘Fashion is practical’ with Buttercups by Daniel Kelly and ‘Fashion is line’ with a costume dress from 1887. These two pieces show a stark contrast with one being organic forms and basic shapes, and the other being structured and controlled – but both are just as appealing to the eye.

When I was doing my first year project with the theme of ‘futuristic’, I explored space age themes through designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne. The pages defining ‘Fashion is art’ and ‘Fashion is risk’ reminded me of the forward thinking attitudes of the designers at the time. The Yves Saint Laurent dress was in fact inspired by the work of abstract artist, Piet Mondrian. The dress is as if the painting, Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow (1930) has come to life with the thick black borders highlighting the bold geometric shapes almost giving it a robotic feel.

This book showed me the extent to which fashion has evolved over time but more importantly that fashion can be whatever one wants it to be. Everyone has their own definitions of fashion and this book certainly highlighted this for me. I believe fashion is … what makes you feel comfortable and be fully yourself, rather than dressing to match societal norms or expectations.

Rachel

Little People, BIG Dreams

These two women are outstanding inspirations of mine; they have achieved incredible things, building upon and striving to achieve their childhood dreams. These Little People books clearly illustrate the women’s stories in an easily digestible way – the visuals make the different elements more memorable for me.

Audrey Hepburn

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Hepburn proved that no matter what anyone says to push you down, by never giving up you can succeed. I admire how modest Hepburn remained throughout her success; becoming a UNICEF ambassador, finding happiness in helping people across the globe. This is something I aim to do on a daily basis; I, like Audrey, gain more satisfaction from doing something for others, rather than I do from my own achievements. Audrey did whatever she could to help others because she remembered how she had felt when she was a child in need.

Coco Chanel

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Chanel proved that being different allowed her to achieve so many more incredible things, compared to if she had followed the norm of the era. She also demonstrated the power of simple and elegant styles, stressing that comfort is the way to dress. She brought the new style of simple and straight, freeing women from the restrictive corset typical of wardrobes at the time. Chanel showed that women can look and feel amazing without the corset; her easy to wear styles changed women’s clothes forever.

These two quotes are two I try to live by:

“Dance as though no one is watching. Sing as though no one can hear you. Sing as though no one can hear you. Live as though heaven is on Earth.” – Hepburn

“To be irreplaceable one must always be different.” – Chanel

Both women came from a fragmented childhood, but their determination and diligence made them grow in to be two of the most influential women of all time. They showed that being different and stepping away from the norm can inspire others to think differently too.

Rachel

The New Fashion Rules

The New Fashion Rules by Victoria Magrath was a book that I found both engaging and informative.

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‘The rules of fashion have changed.’ As we are all aware, the new digital era is all about being seen, liked and inspired. I was amazed at the extent to which the book explored such a vast range of subject matter, for example, how the evolution of the internet changed the way we buy and wear clothing, fashion industry impacts, diversity, innovation and so much more.

The book reveals the pivotal moments that have transformed the fashion world, exploring all the key dates that will be so useful to look back on. From the nineties through to the noughties, the most notable events are captured. I also enjoyed the practical tips for navigating the ever-changing fashion landscape.

The section that I found most interesting was the chapter on the virtual model in starring roles. Upcoming models and Instagrams aren’t people at all – they’re CGI models, airbrushed and flawless. I wasn’t aware that Instagram profiles such as @Lilmiquela and @shudu.gram have thousands and millions of followers.

Shudu wearing the Fenty Beauty orange lipstick was something that hadn’t been seen before. CGI models are taking the place of real people and competing for air time. It is like people aren’t enough and so we are looking for the next best thing.

Considering the industry is beginning to champion inclusivity and diversity as well as promoting the message that flaws are part of natural beauty, I can’t understand the desire for CGI models. These models can be dressed, airbrushes, shaped and adapted to suit exactly what a brand envisions for their imagery, which I feel goes against acceptance.

However, technology has been the driving force behind huge changes we have seen in the fashion industry over the last 20 years. Social media has given ordinary people the platform to voice their opinions, enabling everyone to push forward for change. Therefore CGI models are just another innovation that could be seen both positively and negatively, but they do open up a host of new opportunities for brands to experiment with.

Rachel

Visual Merchandising Tour

The London trip gave me the opportunity to not only broaden my cultural calendar, but also undertake contextual research for the upcoming two projects.

Chloe and I went round together and focused on the Covent Garden, Soho, Regent Street and Carnaby Street areas, also going to Dover Street Market on the way.

When walking down the streets, I made sure that I took in my surroundings from different angles, getting photographs of what I could see directly in front of me and up and down. I was able to look at areas of London in a new perspective which I could use as visual inspiration. I am going to crop some of them to reveal the texture of the architecture or design, which may stimulate ideas for creative concepts.

I honestly wasn’t blown away with the window displays that we walked passed, especially the Topshop window display which was very overcrowded and bombarded with colour and pattern, without a focal point. The font used in their campaign imagery is also like one you would have seen in an M&S advert a couple of years ago and didn’t, in my opinion, correspond with the bold window display.

Similarly, I found that & Other Stories competitors’ displays were uninspiring and none of them utilised technology which could be a gap to be filled. The Reiss window, Arket and Cos all used static mannequins with muted colour palettes which were not engaging.

Having said this, other brands did infuse subtle hints of ASMR into their displays – based one the different senses: Penhaligons, diffused fragrance on to the street, Muji, had aroma diffusers on inside of the window, Diesel had large rounded white balls stuck around the doorway and Gentle Monster used fabric and texture. I have learnt that it doesn’t have to be extreme, as this could be uncomfortable ASMR, but there could just be a reference to it.

I am pleased that I asked to interview one of the & Other Stories’ visual merchandisers as I was able to fill our gaps in secondary research and gain insight into their current concepts for displays, their aesthetic and key considerations. I am going to review my transcript and pull out any gaps and opportunities that we could go forward with.

Rachel