It is not rare for fashion graduates to steal the scene at various graduation shows or fairs thanks to their original and clever creations. This wasn't the case at the Glasgow School of Art end of the year show where, for some kind of sad reason that remains unknown to visitors, the graduates of the Fashion Department represented the weakest link of the academic chain.
One of the strongest section was actually represented by the graduates of the textile department (though the jewellery graduates are even better as we will hopefully see in a future post) that cleverly and coherently showcased during the Graduation Show that took place in June at the Reid Building experimental pieces in various materials, made with different techniques.
Inspired by other disciplines including art and architecture, the showcased samples displayed a richness of variation, textures, patterns and colours that were lacking in the fashion collections.
Moving from architecture, inspired by images of harbours and fishing yards and fascinated by the themes of scale and texture variations and juxtapositions such as soft and hard, Jenni Barrett, the recipient of the Bill Naysmith Innovation Award, mainly worked with ropes and cords.
The designer created net-like samples and accessories based on traditional knotting and braiding techniques using polyester cords, shoelaces and cotton (in various forms including matt or mercerised yarn and waxed cord).
The pieces, in muted tones with some neon highlights here and there and characterised by a rigid and solid consistency, also borrowed from the work of Bridget Riley and from the distorted shapes and lines of the Op Art Movement, while Barrett mentioned as fashion influences Proenza Schouler, Peter Pilotto, Issey Miyake, Eleanor Amoroso and Jantine Van Peski.
Miyake's pleats must have been firmly in the mind of Asami Ohara as well. The designer folded and pleated structures in which plastic elements were inserted to create three-dimensional effects.
At times Ohara trapped tiny plastic pearls in tulle or created long ruffles inserting sections of neon coloured drinking straws to create support, proving that everyday materials can help a designer finding fun solutions.
The theme of Olivia Qi's final collection of knitted textiles for womenswear was instead transparency. Inspiration came from very different visual projects, colour combinations and geometric forms as found in the works of photographer Viviane Sassen, artist Richard Caldicott and photographer Carl Kleiner (the brilliant visuals for his cookbook for Ikea proved particularly inspiring for this graduate).
The young designer first collected everyday household objects that had a strong visual presence and were characterised by both transparent and reflective qualities. She then produced drawings of these objects on acetates, tracing papers, opaque vinyl and reflective paper and transferred the drawings onto knitted fabrics, interpreting qualities from paper to yarn that incorporated sheer, transparent and translucent fibres.
The final stage for the designer was adding a textile vinyl that had both a functional and decorative purpose.
Kirsty Tuckwell worked with acrylic surfaces and plasticised elements, coming up with see-through samples that replicated the consistency of glass surfaces.
Among the designers who moved from architecture there was also Louise Guillemin. Working with a palette that comprised black and various shades of grey, Guillemin created a series of roofing slate-like formations composed of geometrical figures made or fabric or padded elements, ideal for decorative purposes around the sleeves or the shoulder area.
Elinor McCue approached instead the architectural theme from a less technical point of view.
Her collection #layerbuildembellish focused indeed on creating a solid or soft surface and embellish it with plastic elements forming abstract motifs, geometrical figures, rigid fringes or broken plates.
Fun prints à la Marimekko were evoked by Karen Blackwood's and Joanna Dixon's collections, while Ruth Crothers borrowed from art for her printed textiles.
Among the most colourful printed pieces there were Natasha Samasuwo's. The designer tried to produce dynamic motifs for high end womenswear.
The starting point was a research in colours and drawings for ceramic and glass pieces for interior design, and the combinations of colours in mineral stones such as agate and quartz.
The designer then produced drawings using acrylics, gouache, watercolour and Procion reactive dyes; further mediums were employed to create iridescent, gloss/satin and metallic qualities. All these techniques were then replicated on fabrics using digital, hand and screen printing techniques, such as foiling, flocking and Procion indirect painting and block printing on silks, wools and cottons.
Colourful examples of woven textiles were also present and they included Delia Lee Silva's thick tapestry-like designs.
Woven cherubs with soft feathery wings and stylised images of angels won Christopher McEvoy-Barton the Incorporation of Weavers Innovation Prize.
The same prize was also awarded to Amy Bond who came up with a selection of pleated and three-dimensional pieces in bold colours based on geometrical shapes, optical illusions and rich patterns that at times looked like abstract and more modern re-editions of classic tartans.
The theme of three-dimensional surfaces was tackled by Heather Ann Hobb, with a series of knitwear samples that moved once again from architecture.
Hobb's patterns and details in relief were designed to be applied on the surface of a sweater or used only for partial details such as sleeves.
Hannah Dykes also worked along the same lines, knitting waving patterns and three-dimensional zigzag motifs.
At times her patterns seemed to reproduce the waves of the sea in a soothing palette of vanilla, cream and blue with some sparkles of red added.
Tactility and comfort were also explored by Emily McIlwaine with a collection that moved from Barbara Burman's essay "Pocketing the Difference: Gender and Pockets in Nineteen-Century Britain".
The designer first collected everyday items from people's pockets that led her to a colour analysis and an exploration of different textures and depths.
In the same way as Cy Twombly coated paintings and sculptures with paint, the designer also coated fabrics with foil, beeswax and silicone. The final collection included textiles that grant the wearer a sort of sensory and emotional experience and a sense of protection.
Camouflage rather than protection was the main theme of Jo Morney's collection, inspired by the graphic lines on dazzle battle ships, reinvented for a series of luxury menswear designs.
Ciaran Moore interpreted instead this theme in a digital key to create a sort of abstract camouflage, an experiment that guaranteed more variations to the designs and proved ideal for modern menswear designs.
Embellishments were strong in other collections: Kelly McEwen created thick neoprene surfaces and then decorated them with a series of colourful elements.
The grids, flowers (and roses in particular) and palette in Ava Marr's collection displayed instead a clear derivation from Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs.
You could argue that not everything was perfect and that some ideas weren't completely new, but, as a whole, the presentation was quite interesting, especially in the case of those textile designers who explored other fields and disciplines rather than looking for inspiration just in the world of fashion.
There is one piece of constructive criticism, though, that should be moved to graduates of creative disciplines: the most common pitfall many graduates succumb to nowadays is that, too often, they tend to reference other young or contemporary artists and designers, as if they didn't know anything about history or if they weren't interested in looking back, learn from the past and create their own future.
Yet, not knowing your past and displaying a terrific attachment to the present may represent a huge mistake. You can indeed only advance if you do know your past and not if you deny it or simply pretend it doesn't exist in favour of a more eye-catching and visually stimulating present.
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos