Student Showcase: London College of Fashion MA Show 2011

General atmosphere at the MA show private view showing work by MA Fashion Artefact graduate Vesna Pesic

In London, the MA Fashion show has the reputation of being a starmaking showcase with the potential and  history of launching the careers of the capital’s most promising and exciting new designers. Galliano, McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Stella McCartney and Gareth Pugh are among those London-trained designers whose graduation presentations cast them into the fashion media, and retail spotlights.  For students enrolled in fashion design programmes at London’s well known design universities, the MA show is a golden opportunity to attract media and commercial attention, and to procure either positions at well established brands, or the financial and logistical support to launch their own labels.

Additionally, there are legions of fashion students pursuing fashion degrees that do not culminate with a runway show.  At schools such as The London College of Fashion, exhibitions, conferences and performances take place to feature the work of the talented and dynamic students in these courses. Last year, I was an exhibitor at The London College of Fashnion’s MA (non catwalk) show, having completed the MA Fashion Curation course. This year, I returned to the show as a writer for Worn Through, eager to check out this year’s  final project presentations.  My aim was in essence to curate a micro-sampling of the work that stood out, by the students whose projects most embodied the philosophy and challenges of their chosen courses.  They were all  forthcoming and eager, and proud to be featured here and to share their work and experiences with the community of Worn Through. Hopefully their stories will engage and inspire, and you will not be hearing the last of these rising stars For the benefit of those considering study in London, I am including brief course descriptions and links to the university website, where you can find out more about all of their undergraduate and graduate programs, faculty, course fees and the application process.

Fashionable exhibition goers mingle with the graduates

The MA 2011 show was held in the cavernous and maze-like exhibition space in the basement of Victoria House in central London.  Arriving at the start of the private view, the gallery was already buzzing with activity, as students, guests and faculty (dressed to the nines!) were deep in a celebratory networking frenzy.  After taking time to survey the show, and greet friends and colleagues I set to asking selected students about their work and if they would be interested in being featured in an article for Worn Through. What follow are each students answers to my interview questions, photos and links to their work preceded by course information.

MA Costume Design for Performance

The course aims to develop confident and experimental practitioners who will push the boundaries of the subject of costume beyond its established traditional role. You will design, realise and experiment with costume based performance ideas that enable you to define your individual voice in relation to contemporary culture and practice, while responding visually to the relevant performance context.Beyond the understanding of performance and the role of character creation through costume, the study of Costume Design at MA level allows you to locate your practice within the wider realms of contemporary culture and art, as well as within the relevant dramatic, social and philological contexts.

Berthe Fortin, MA Costume Design for Performance

Describe how you came to be on the MA Costume Design for Performance course. Include, what you did before, and what drew you to this unique course of study.

I started getting involved in fringe theatre and film productions when I lived in Montreal, Canada, while pursuing a career in graphic design. I also did a BA Honours (with Distinction) in Fine Art at Concordia University in Montreal. I have been interested in performance art for a long time and when I decided to move away from graphic design to concentrate on costume.  MA Costume Design for Performance offered me the opportunity to develop concepts and designs through practical experimentation and collaboration with performance practitioners. On a technical level, this course allowed me to build on my previously acquired skills.

Photos courtesy of Berthe Fortin, 2011

What was the inspiration behind your MA final project?

The Brief for the MA project was to develop the concept and design of a performance of one hour with a minimum of six characters. From our design, we had to realise one costume and produce a short performance from one scene in collaboration with a choreographer and a performer. I was inspired by the opera L’Orféo by Monteverdi to interpret the Greek myth of Orpheus.

My aim was to create a current and engaging performance piece about universal human fears. My project culminated with a speculative site specific live installation and production of a short film for inclusion within the installation. I used latex extensively in my design to represent skin and to allow a physical experience of the live installation. In my project the audience would have the opportunity to touch the latex. The tactile aspect of latex, its sexual connotation and ephemeral qualities relate to the narrative of my piece and serve to express a range of emotions from desire to repulsion.

Performance photo courtesy Berthe Fortin, 2011

The costume at the centre of the action represents Eurydice and her union with Orpheus and I used latex in the design to create her skin and flesh. The defining action in this film is when, for a brief instant, Orpheus comes into close contact with Eurydice through his contact with the costume that represents her. Within this scene I explored how costume design enhances the visual experience of the performance by depicting the close relationship between the characters through costume transformation.

What sort of career development activities did you undertake during the course?

I was the costume designer for the company dreamthinkspeak’s live installation ‘Before I Sleep’, commissioned by the Brighton Festival 2010. I also did a two week placement at Glyndebourne Opera House.

Do you feel that costume design for the stage is a developing/dynamic or nostalgic/traditional practice?

Costume design for the stage is definitely a developing and dynamic practice. Performance art has the purpose to raise questions about our time and engage in an exchange/debate with the viewers. Such exchange can only happen if there is an engagement between the two, hence the performance has to relate to the present to reach people in some way. Audiences are now well in tune with diverse art forms and up for new challenges. In order to provide audiences with new and innovative experiences, designers and directors need to constantly develop their art to provide the audience with innovative productions.

What sort of projects are you seeking to work on after graduation?

My aim is to practice costume design at a high level, in order to position myself as one of the leading practitioners in the field of performing art. Non theatre specific spaces, experimental film and live installation are platforms in which I am particularly interested. I seek to collaborate with a wide range of practitioners including directors, writers, choreographers, and audio and visual artists.

MA Digital Fashion

Digital fashion at LCF is concerned with practices which foreground digital technologies as a primary means of design and production, and involve both virtual and real spaces. The MA is designed for those interested in exploring new and creative approaches to fashion design and production utilising the CAD/CAM, printing, embroidery and body scanning facilities available at LCF, and integrating old (manual) and new (digital)technologies in fashion, footwear and accessories design and product development, digital printing for fashion and accessories, or patterncutting and production.

Marie-Anna Lynch, MA Digital Fashion

Marie-Anna Lynch's MA project exhibition

Describe how you came to be on the MA Fashion Digital Fashion course. What did you do before, and what drew you to this unique course of study?

I studied Texiles: Applied Print at Middlesex University where I learned to apply print to anything and everything and I was also introduced to digital printing. My work was mostly based on combining digital printing with screen printing. After having completed my BA, I felt like I wanted to explore different aspects of creating textiles and exploring new and creative approaches to fashion design.

What was the inspiration behind your MA final project?

Intrigued by research into the Hyper-Color inks of the 1980s that were a one-season fad, I turned my focus to studying the viability of thermochromic and photochromic digitally printed surfaces as responsive to the body states of people sensitive to heat and light or with medical conditions, such as epilepsy or lupus. With first hand experience, I was able to collect scientific information from medical professionals and via setting up a blog for sufferers. My hypothesis was that, just as flowers like the morning glory, are sensitive to various wavelengths and curl up or fade, an early warning system, hidden within a printed fabric, could be both an attractive and effective signal for prevention or withdrawal from destabilising medical conditions. Floral designs seemed a natural vehicle for the prints and by working in collaboration with film-maker Suzie Parker and a commercial horticulturalist’s greenhouse, I planted over 200 seeds of different varieties and set up 4 video cameras to record continuously for six weeks. Once the film had been completed, the blooming flowers spoke for themselves, and were transformed into repeat or placements prints.

Digital renderings courtesy of Marie-Anna Lynch 2011

Who do you hope would wear your pieces?

I have come to conclusion that using thermochromatic inks is a good and interesting way to help raise awareness and provide support for people with body and environment temperature related problems. However I’ve designed this collection to appeal also to people who do not suffer from these conditions. I also wanted to bring hyper-colour back, in a way that hasn’t been seen before.

What’s next for you? What do you hope to do? What are you working

on/creating next?

I aim to propose a business model for a new and body-responsive kind of clothing. I am currently back in the printing studios experimenting with new temperature thermochromics inks on different types of fabrics, devising new ways of combining digital and screen printing.

MA Fashion Artefact

This provocative and original course was developed from our former MA Fashion Accessories course and has been expanded to take on board the material exploration and studio practice of leather, metal, plastic and wood. Its intention is to create supportive working environments that enable you to develop and explore new methods of production to create Fashion Artefacts that challenge and push boundaries in the area of fashion and lifestyle products.

Kat Marks, MA Fashion Artefact

Kat Marks at the MA show private view, 2011

Describe how you came to be on the MA Fashion Artefact course. What did you do before and what drew you to this unique course of study?

I finished an undergraduate degree in Fashion Design 2008.  I knew that I wanted to pursue an MA and move into the European market. I was attracted to the creative freedom and material exploration that Fashion Artefact provided.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Karass’ your MA final project?

The initial spark came from author Kurt Vonnegut.  I was inspired by his novel Cat’s Cradle in which he coined the phrase “karass”, as ‘a group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God’s will’.  I connected this phrase with the theory of emergence, a complex way of understanding systems. This became the basis for how I approached the material function of each artefact.  I was also heavily influenced by the photography of Jan Saudek.

A piece from the Karass collection,

What are some of the material processes involved in your work?

The Karass is made of acrylic Perspex, vegetable tan cow hide leathers and brass hardware.  Perspex and leather are similar to fabric textiles, in that the process involves 2D pattern cutting with the intention of developing 3D product. I advanced this methodology through the combination of industrial and hand-craft techniques.  I developed a technique where by I tattoo intricate designs on the Perspex by engraving and then flooding the surface with an ink bath.  Often times the creative direction was intuitive. Design decisions were made during the material process rather than defined through drawing or technical specification.

At the centre of your MA Show presentation was a projection of the video of Karass you made, currently viewable on SHOWstudio. How did you form this dream partnership with SHOWStudio and Nick Knight?

I have always admired Nick Knight’s use of moving image as a digital platform and I have aspired to work with Knight and SHOWstudio from early in my career.  The process began with an email exchange and over several months we met and discussed the project.  The final result is The Karass, a film which depicts both the material nature of this collection and the character-muse that the artefacts embody.

Who do you hope would wear your pieces? where would you like them to be sold/or where are they going to be sold, or do you feel they exist primarily as sculptural objects?

I see the artifacts I create as tools to be used in the generation of original images.  My creative philosophy consists of two equal parts: firstly craft/design/material and secondly image generation. I would like to see my work continuously used this manner rather than for the purpose of reproduction for a market.

Karass project credits, courtesy of Kat Marks

What are you working on/creating next?

I am taking time to exhale; rejuvenation is vital to the creative process!  I have just picked up Vonnegut’s “JailBird” I look forward to a fresh incubation of ideas.

To see more of Kat’s professional portfolio click here.

MA Fashion Curation

MA Fashion Curation offers a unique opportunity to investigate and develop the specialist practice-based, critical and interpretative skills involved within the discipline of fashion curation. These include displaying dress; creating ‘stories’ from objects; writing texts to target audiences; model-making; collecting, handling and archiving garments.

Jennifer Rothrock MA Fashion Curation

How did you come to be on the MA Fashion Curation course?

I started as a fashion designer/seamstress and my designs were continuously inspired by research of historical dress. Eventually I realised I loved historical dress more than modern fashion and decided to attend the MA Fashion Curation course.

What was the inspiration behind your MA final project? Why did you choose the topic of Victorian mourning?

The inspiration for my MA project is my passion for Victorian mourning dress and rituals. Lou Taylor’s book, Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History was my first exposure to the subject matter. I came to the programme knowing that I wanted to explore this topic for my MA project, and with the support of my course directors; fulfilled my original purpose in planning an exhibition on mourning dress and the rituals surrounding it. I discovered that one key element of Victorian mourning dress, the widow’s peak cap, did not survive in museum collections. I used my prior expertise as a seamstress to fabricate a replica widow’s peak cap for the MA exhibition. The research allowed me to study and engage with museological and curatorial issues surrounding the role of replicas in museum collections and exhibitions.

Curator's plan, courtesy of Jennifer Rothsrock, 2011

Jennifer, you moved from the US to London to pursue your MA. Do you think there is a different approach to teaching and looking at fashion as an academic subject in the UK?

Fashion is more  accepted as an academic subject matter in the UK, not just as a commercial commodity. In my opinion, in the US, fashion does not yet have academic respect. The Fashion Institute of Technology and The Metropolitan Museum of Art are changing that, and hopefully it will spread.

Replica of Widow's peak cap by Jennifer Rothrock, 2011

What are some of your favourite museum collections of costume?

The V&A was always the place I looked forward to the most when visiting the UK. Now that I’m living here in London, I’ve also enjoyed recent exhibitions at Blythe House, Kensington Palace, Brighton Museum, and the Museum of London.

What’s next for you? What do you hope to do? What are you working on/creating next?

Like most graduates I’m looking for work! While in school I started volunteering for Kensington Palace on their upcoming Queen Victoria exhibition, and making replica garments for the Dress for Excess exhibition at the Royal Pavilion/Brighton Museum. My dream is to manage and curate an historic dress collection, whether at a small local museum or at a large one like the V&A. I’m also very keen on curating small, more independent projects of my own. I would love to someday actually curate my MA project!

MA Fashion and the Environment

The course reflects and contributes to an evolving world, nurturing ingenuity and inventiveness to create groundbreaking new work. It will meet the needs of graduates who have identified a specific interest within fashion, who wish to explore and deepen their knowledge and expertise whilst engaging in a holistic, interdisciplinary, multi levelled approach towards design for sustainability.

Saida Bruce, MA Fashion and the Environment

Describe how you came to be on the MA Fashion and the Environment course. Include, what you did before, and what drew you to this unique course of study.

After completing an BA in fashion design and marketing in 2004, I had the opportunity to work with Terraplana for a a short period. Exposure to this company’s ethos inspired a new way of thinking towards the fashion industry. Terraplana are at the forefront of sustainable design, concentrating on clever design strategies, that consider their environmental responsibilities. After a trip to South East Asia I gained an internship at The Hemp Trading Industry. I worked alongside the design and production teams. The company’s focus is the environmental impacts of their material use. I wasn’t actually looking to study at MA level but I saw this course advertised, and it attracted my attention as it offered opportunities to study the issues within the fashion industry I had briefly experienced through my previous work placements.

Saida Bruce, MA show installation view

What was the inspiration behind your MA final project?

During the course we investigated the fashion life cycle as a way to view the garment industry holistically. This view exposes the aspects of a garment’s life that are environmentally damaging. Whilst researching this I became fascinated with how we feel about the clothes we treasure, love and connect with. My final project aims to develop a new design strategy that intends to create clothes that are emotionally durable, so that the designer is aware of the garments life once it is in the users hands. Therefore creating a slower more thoughtful approach to design. It also adds an incentive to the wearer to keep and wear the garment longer, slowing down the rate of consumption. My garments are designed to age gracefully, to grow with the user. This was achieved by inserting layers of printed fabrics in the weak areas of the garment. These layers show the wear and tear of the garments life.

Do you propose that these garments be produced commercially?

The garments I made for this project are conceptual, however I would like to see the idea developed into a more commercial range. I would actually like to develop the idea into a Men’s Wear range, as generally Men’s Wear fashion uses intricate design details, and from my personal knowledge most men wear their clothes to death!

What do you think is a critical course of action for us to adopt in our choices about clothing in order to engender positive change in ecology?

The challenge we face at present within the fashion industry is our consumerist society that is now so used to being able to buy cheap clothes. I feel we are at the point where attitudes need to change; we should be more creative with what we do with the clothes we already own. Customising, upcycling, sharing and swapping our clothes are some of the activities that consumers can use to keep their wardrobes new and exciting, without having to go out and buy something new. If we had more conscious consumers, designers, manufacturers and retailers we could help promote a positive sustainable change for the fashion industry.

Whilst on this course, myself and three other students from our group were lucky enough to go to Sri Lanka to conduct research on their garment industry. Sri Lanka produces apparel for numerous well-known retailers. We witnessed positive changes within manufacturing, within factories themselves, and via corporate social responsibility programmes ensuring acceptable working conditions, welfare and adequate wage packages. Changes are on their way. One prime example is has been initiated via From Somewhere who have collaborated with Tesco, to produce a product range that uses surplus fabrics from one of their factories in Sri Lanka.

What’s next for you? What do you hope to do? What are you working on/creating next?

I would like to develop my MA project. I would also like to work with a textiles designer, and develop fabrics that could work well together and facilitate the idea of the aging process. I would definitely like to gain a role in a suitable company, to share my design enthusiasm and to be part of a creative team where I can learn and develop new skills. I feel I have learned crucial new ways of thinking, considering sustainable design. I work with the Camden Green fair where I have coordinated the Ethical fashion Area for the past few years. Last year our MA group produced a fun interactive area promoting ideas on how to be more sustainable in fashion. We held workshops offering skills on customizing, knitting, crocheting. We had a swap shop and an ethical fashion show showcasing sustainable fashion designers. There is possibility that we will be doing this again this summer!

MA Fashion Footwear

MA Fashion Footwear provides an opportunity to challenge footwear design and manufacture through new technology and by hand craftsmanship; in the process, developing innovative techniques for mastering fashioned footwear. Our designers are a unique force of freethinkers who accept no boundaries. The programme aims to continue the link between the impossible and the achievable, to challenge aesthetics, and be a global player in the promotion of individual creativity.

Sheng Rui, MA Fashion Footwear

Describe how you came to be on the MA Fashion Footwear course. Why did you decide to study in London?

I had been working in the shoe industry for five years since completing a BA level fashion accessories course at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. Before I came to London, I worked for a Chinese footwear enterprise called Red Dragonfly. The job gave me many chances to go abroad and witness the fashion world in Europe. Meanwhile, I was bothered by recognising my design developmental limitations. I decided to break these barriers by studying abroad. MA Fashion footwear is a course that is famous internationally because  so many successful designers graduated from here. I feel London is the best city for young designers – the quality of education and opportunities for new-gen designers are the main drove me to come here.

Photos courtesy Sheng Rui, 2011

What was the inspiration behind your MA final project?

Water and the human body. With my designs I evoke the decorative effects of water’s fluctuation when stirred by the human body. On the technical side, I tried to utilize some pattern cutting techniques from costume making in my shoe design. I used the techniques to create both organic and geometric shapes using challenging combinations of materials such as rubber, satin and metal wire.

Who is the Ray Sheng  shoe customer?

This collection is especially for women attending evening formal occasions, but the flats can be also worn more casually. Elegant shoes should be sold at an elegant place to the elegant women or the woman who is trying to be!

What’s next for you? What do you hope to do? What are you working on/creating next?

I will try to further develop these concepts for sure. I am also waiting and seeking for a good opportunity to restart my career and business. I will try my best to give more good options of footwear for my dearest women!

MA Fashion Photography

MA Fashion Photography relates directly to its philosophy and structure and remains based essentially on practice, as opposed to theory. The course explores the rhetoric of fashion photographic production and contextualises theory and practice within fine art, popular culture and mass media. Through photographic practice, you will examine social, cultural and critical issues involved in the practice of fashion photography and the impact and construction of the fashion image as a spectacle. In broad terms, it is a multidisciplinary framework for independent study leading to an original body of photographic or written work proposed and negotiated by you.

Isis Linguanotto, MA Fashion Photography

Describe how you came to be on the MA Fashion Photo course. Include, what you did before, and what drew you to this course of study.

After high school, I decided to get my BA in Fashion Design at the School of Arts Faculdade Santa Marcelina, in São Paulo, Brazil. I developed my interest for photography, during the course through the Photography and Styling lectures. I discovered how photography could give me the creative freedom I desired.

I also took short courses on photography techniques of lighting and processing, and engaged with the practices of photography and styling. I wanted to improve my technical levels and researching knowledge, so I applied for the MA in Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion. I received the International MA/Post-graduation Scholarship. Also, the buzz of London seemed very tempting!

Private view photo courtesy Isis Linguanotto 2011

What was the inspiration behind your MA final project? Why did you choose to shoot children and is this an area you worked in before or plan to continue?

The “Boo! A Garden Full of Nightmares” project explores the ironic relationship between children and the macabre aesthetic. 
Its narrative is told in staged images filled with symbolic elements, darkness and humour. 
 The stylized, emotive and sometimes melancholic narrative reveals its inspirations by illustrators like Quentin Blake, Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, and their roots in the German Expressionist cinema and American Film Noir. Working with children is an inevitable element for my work, as they bring the lightness and humour to the thematic somewhat violent. It is something I’ve been exploring for a couple years, in other stories, and that I intend to take forward.

From "Boo: A Garden of Nightmares", courtesy Isis Linguanotto, 2011

Do you feel the MA stressed the collaborative nature of fashion photography and challenged the notion of what a fashion photograph is?

Fashion photography is never the work of one individual; you need numerous others behind you to make things happen. But, as a personal choice, I tend to maintain my team as small as possible, and do as much as I can myself. I still enjoy doing my own styling for the shoots. But this project opened the doors to something different in the way of collaboration. I ended up working with a writer that put my narrative on paper, in the form of a poem, and so I also ended up with a children’s book!

Would you recommend the course to aspiring photographers? What are the qualities you think would make for success on the course?

I would recommend the course to current photographers that want to develop their creative skills. For aspiring photographers it is also important to gain practice in the field, like by assisting someone whose work you admire. On the course you need: an open mind, joy for research and exploring different areas and tools, and being able to get out of you comfort zone. In the field communication skills, professionalism, and self-marketing are required.

What’s next for you? What do you hope to do? What are you working on/creating next?

Right now I’m researching new stories, to promote both women’s and children’s wear, continuing the dark humour theme of my work. I intend to produce more photo-illustrated books and I am working on showing my MA project work in other spaces. I’m also working as a freelance photographer.

See more of Isis’ professional portfolio here.

Having gotten to know the work and stories of some of this year’s talented and dynamic MA London College of Fashion graduates, I am truly impressed and inspired. Their work is of outstanding quality, and it must be mentioned their professional dedication and shining personalities seem to be also key ingredients in what will surely be there imminent professional and creative successes. I thank all the participants for their time and cooperation, and wish them all the best in future creative endeavors.  And thanks for proving that London’s MA Show offerings are top notch, both on and off the catwalk!

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  • Abie February 24, 2011 06.56 am

    You missed the MA of the History and Culture of Fashion at LCF (I graduated from that program last year!). That’s surprising, because that program is right up Worn Through’s alley. Were no HCF student presenting? If so, then that’s a real shame…

  • Jenna February 24, 2011 07.51 am

    Hi Abie, MA History and Culture did not present at the exhibition this year, they had a “pecha kucha” presentation evening, which I was unable to attend, unfortunately. The exhibit this year included all of the non-catwalk practical MA courses. MA Fashion Film, Journalism and History and Culture held their own events. If you click on the link “I returned to the show” you can see the full programme of graduate events. Hope you enjoyed the article and that all is well for you following completing the course!

  • Worn Through » Grad School Profile: The London College of Fashion
    May 27, 2011 - 8:29 am

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