New Fashion: Interventions in Materials and Techniques at the London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery displays the works of eight emerging fashion design labels (headed by nine designers), who we believe are making a unique and valuable contribution to fashion through their investment in innovation at a material level and their inspired approach to design. Currently a lot of media attention is focused on innovations in digital printing technology – the Fashion Digital Studio at London College of Fashion is at the forefront of this development. In contrast, this exhibition focuses on how a group of young designers are investing in slower, and often more traditional, design processes to produce highly original contemporary fashion.
Eleanor Amoroso uses the ancient art of macramé to create incredible pieces inspired by minimalist modern sculpture, while Felicity Brown uses very traditional techniques of dying and block-printing fabrics for her collections. All of the works on display reflect a deep commitment to craftsmanship and showcase a high degree of customisation and specialisation; in many ways, these designers can be seen as a new generation of couturiers.
This exhibition provides a rare opportunity for the public to view firsthand the creations of the most promising designers in the early stages of their career, when most of their work is still being produced in small batches and is not widely commercially available. It serves as a record of a moment in time that is often lost as their reputation grows; garments frequently go missing and are damaged during photo shoots or given away as gifts, so that often no archive remains. And yet it is an important time in a designer’s career, as it is frequently when their personal creative vision is at its strongest and when they are most able to experiment with construction and silhouette. On display at the exhibition, Úna Burke ’s leather pieces were designed as artworks to showcase her unique leatherworking techniques, which she has now applied to a range of accessories, including handbags and belts.
Zyanya Keizer ’s work features intensive beadworking embellishments that simply will not be possible for her to produce as her business continues to grow. Nicola Morgan ’s work incorporates enamel-coated sculptural details that were developed in the Rapidform 3D printing centre at the Royal College of Art. They represent an ingenious use of new technology but, because they are also quite fragile and expensive to produce, are not likely to reappear in the same capacity.
Derek Lawlor has developed new techniques of weaving wax cord into knit, which results in unique textures and three-dimensional patterns that often transform the original silhouette of the garment. He first showcased this technique with his graduate collection in 2009, and it has been fascinating to see how it has been developed over the past three years. Chi Chi Luo, who graduated from BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology at London College of Fashion in 2011, drapes lengths of hand-dyed silk directly onto a mannequin. She is quickly moving ahead with her first commercial collection. That will necessitate the adaptation of her design ethos into a form that will be more viable for larger-scale production.
All of the designers have launched their businesses within the last three years and are already garnering valuable media attention. Some have begun to experience real commercial success, which is facilitated by the strong network of support for young designers in London including London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise . Fyodor Golan were announced winners of the prestigious Fashion Fringe award during London Fashion Week in September 2011. The accolade has enabled them to expand their studio and gain important new clients.
Only time will tell how these labels and designers will fair. Through this exhibition we hope to draw attention to the careful balance that designers have to strike between the creative and commercial aspects of their businesses. By curating a show focused on truly emerging designers we hope to open up a dialogue which tackles these issues and challenges the fashion industry head on.
When: until April 7; Mon-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat 10am-4pm; Sun closed
Where: Fashion Space Gallery, 20 John Princes Street, W1G 0BJ
Tube: Oxford Circus