Fashion: The Graduates

spring2008fashion1The fashion of tomorrow starts today. Just look beyond the banality of the high street, and cast your attention to the up-and-comings of the fashion world: fresh and innovative designers to emerge from Glasgow School of Art’s Masters of Textiles Design. It’s a course that has a formidable reputation for releasing the likes of Eley Kishimoto, Matthew Williamson, Julien Macdonald, and Jonathon Saunders, to the fashion world. So let me introduce you to the new generation: Florence To, Shona Douglas, Lori Mitchell, and Emmi Lahtinan.

“This is a direction which is a bit different for me” says Florence To. And so it is. Previously she variously worked on the Spring/Summer collection for Preen in 05, completed her honours in Fashion Design in 06, helped to produce pieces at Paris Couture Week in O7, and involved herself in assorted London Fashion Weeks. One thing is for sure; she is as ambitious as she is skilful. Florence explains her collection as, “focusing more on the features of textiles; the shirts and high waist bottoms are simply a background.” She’s inspired by sculptures and interiors. Curtain rings, wrapped with raffia and strips of polyvinyl, are used to create organic looking waistcoats and dresses which overlay sleek monochrome tailored silhouettes. “These,” she says, “can be seen as decorative accessories, distinguishing the concept of the everyday fashion.”

For Shona Douglas, as her collection demonstrates, accepting the Masters in Textile Design was a twofold decision. Textiles are foremost in her mind, and yet she says “it was important to me to understand everything about fashion if I wanted to design and direct my textile around it.” All her garments are hand woven on a loom, then finished with raw edged wool and silk hemlines. The colour palate in her garments includes deep sea greens and navy, which offset the delicacy of her corresponding wraps. She describes her work as having “running contradictions of rough hewn primitivism.” Purity is important also, as the cutting of the fabric is minimal and folds around the body with ease.

The emphasis on fashion telling a story of a historical time time is what guided Lori Marshall’s work. Taking inspiration from the Burrell Collection, just outside Glasgow, Marshall looked at the stained glassed windows and applied the same ideas to her apparel. “I wanted to use this source because of its graphical style and colours” she remarks “and contrast it with what was happening in today’s society.” The contrast between old and new is brought forth by her subtle hand drawn illustrations (derived from contemporary images of children, alcohol and plastic surgery), then applied either through traditional printing methods, or digital printing. The result is not only dream-like but humorous, too.

Conversely, Emmi Lahtinan places emphasis on practicality and function. The collection is composed entirely of dresses, each similar in form and structure with gradations of difference procured by her treatment of the textile. Surreal globular forms, resembling Miro-like shapes, have been screen printed and dyed together onto linen. Up close, these tonal splotches and grids create a distinctive illusion of depth floating on a kind of weightlessness. Finnish modernism, she explains, is challenged in her work by surrealism that is evident in “how the dresses give the illusion of 3D even thought they are completely flat.”

What can be appreciated in viewing the work is the integrity and finesse with which these designers produce. The love of craftsmanship in the garments is palpable. The designers show mature restraint among all the collections. But such descriptions do not do these garments justice. Visit the Atrium Gallery at the Glasgow School of Art where they are now exhibiting. Enjoy.

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