Near the entrance of the Pavilion of Latin America-IILA (Italo-Latin American Institute) hosting the collective exhibition "El Atlas del Imperio" curated by Alfons Hug and Paz Guevara for the 55th International Venice Art Biennale, there is a humorous spherical installation by Salvadoran artist Simón Vega.
Entitled “Third World Sputnik”, the sphere is actually a recreation of the Soviet Space Program's Korabl-Sputnik 5 satellite made with found and cheap materials. Cut and assembled aluminum cans recreate the original heat shield of the capsule, while random objects, including a T.V., neon light, car seat, and plastic control panels, are employed for the interior design of the cockpit.
The capsule, that also features sound effects recorded in a popular marketplace in El Salvador, looks at the effects of the Cold War in El Salvador and Central America, while hinting at the disparities between the "First World" and the "Third World", since it juxtaposes technological progress and cultural, social and economic limitations.
Dominik Chapman's portfolio for his graduate collection (showcased in May during the Westminster University fashion show), tells a tale of space conquests combined with military uniforms, Soviet symbols, Prussian eagles, Medieval armour and circuit boards with a urban and sporty twist.
The starting point for the collection was not a space war, but a futuristic battle in which the young designer's warriors fight clad in dynamically modern versions of reinvented Medieval armour integrating in their metallic decorations the patterns of circuit boards.
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Dominik Chapman: My name is Dominik Chapman and I live in London. I was born in Leicester and grew up in a small village just outside of the city called Great Glen. I did my foundation study at De Montfort University when I was 18 before moving to London to attend the University of Westminster’s Fashion Design course. During my year out, I designed at Urban Outfitters Europe and Alexander McQueen's McQ line, and I also spent a month in Florence studying Italian.
In your portfolio, you take us through a series of different references, from tribes to sportswear, space attire, and armour as well, can you tell us more about the genesis of your collection and the research behind it?
Dominik Chapman: My research for my final collection started with the idea of a futuristic battle and by looking at old Medieval armor and trying to imagine how it would look if reinterpreted into a sci-fi film or futuristic setting. I then progressed to looking at circuit boards and how their patterns could integrate with the shapes of the armour. From there I started looking at modern forms of armour such as bomb disposal jackets and military body armour. It was from this research that I began looking at old German military ponchos and American Ma1 bomber jackets and started fusing them together. My print work came from my research into circuitry and the Prussian eagle from my research into German military. The resulting emblem was a fusion of the eagle and circuitry, which I then printed and quilted onto my silhouettes.
Some of your pieces, especially the capes, have a sort of "urban drama" about them that is almost cinematic, did you watch any specific films while working on this collection?
Dominik Chapman: I didn’t watch any specific films. But I do watch a lot of comic book and sci-fi fantasy films, which probably had a subliminal impact on my work. I also used to play a lot of computer games (PlayStation) before I started uni, when I actually had a time! I guess I drew a lot of inspiration from the games I played, in terms of mood and attitude.
Do you feel that we are just putting barriers to creation when we say it's impossible to innovate menswear compared to womenswear?
Dominik Chapman: For a runway collection I don’t think there are any limits to what you can show. It's all about trying to create a mood and fantasy that reflect your process when designing. I think with menswear there are many more rules and traditions that can be hard to crack. But they are what make menswear such fun for me to design. It’s exciting to push the rules and challenge the perceptions of what men should wear. Whether a man would wear anything I showed is another question. But in my collection I would like to think I have been able to incorporate a few wearable pieces. I think real innovation in menswear will come more from fabrication and print than silhouette.
Which was the most challenging part of creating this collection?
Dominik Chapman: For me I think it was letting go of my original idea. A lot of times when designing you get so attached to an initial idea that you don’t let it grow and develop. As soon as I’d done this, everything sort of flowed pretty smoothly. Timing was a bit challenging, trying to coordinate quilting the capes, printing and crochet, but it all came together in the end.
Is there a designer you particularly like?
Dominik Chapman: Massimo Osti was a huge influence when designing this collection and I referenced the book about his work many times. He is a designer who I think has been truly innovative throughout his career and had a massive influence on menswear. Moncler were another brand that I referenced as they are the label you think of when you start researching quilted outerwear.
Were you excited about presenting the collection during a proper catwalk show and how was it?
Dominik Chapman: I was really excited and nervous at the same time. It was something that I’d been looking forward to since I first saw the Westminster graduate show when I was on my foundation and had been something I’d been working towards since the start of my studies. The show went really well for me and I was really pleased with how the collection looked on the runway. There were a few things I wish I’d been able to tweak in hindsight, but I think that will always be the case with anything I do!
You did an internship at McQ, would you like to work for such a label in future?
Dominik Chapman: I loved my time working at McQ and learned so much about print design and the design process as a whole. If the opportunity should arise I would love to go back to the company and work in a print design role.
Any plans for the immediate future? Would you prefer to sart your own label or to work for a fashion house?
Dominik Chapman: Well, the first thing on my "to do list" once I graduate is to get a job, I don’t really have any desire to start my own label now. Maybe in the future if an opportunity was presented to me it would be something I would definitely consider. I’d love the opportunity to do print or outerwear design at an Italian label. In a print design role I think Versace would be an ultimate goal. But any role in which I got to actively contribute to a collection and expand my skills would be amazing!
All images of Dominik Chapman's collection in this post by Simon Armstrong.
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