Brave New Worlds asks questions
By BEL JACOBS
One of the pearls of this season’s London Fashion Week is Brave New Worlds: The Changing Landscape of Fashion - this year’s International Fashion Showcase (IFS) at Somerset House. A collaboration between the British Council, British Fashion Council, London College of Fashion, UAL and Somerset House, IFS gives 16 young designers from across the globe the chance to familiarise themselves with the British fashion industry through creative mentorship and business support residency.
In return, they allow us into their worlds through a series of compelling installations at Somerset House, on now till February 24th. “Many of the chosen designers come from developing fashion economics and countries often marginalised in the fashion industry,” says Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Vestoj and Sergio Research Fellow at London College of Fashion, UAL, in the programme. “However, being an outsider to the establishment can bring valuable autonomy; something that these young designers understand acutely.” Issues of sustainability ,gender and sexuality and the “sidelining of certain cultures and ethnicities” offer inspiration to the work on show which is, by turns, disturbing, moving and compelling. “The aim is to build a future for fashion which continues to encourage unbridled creativity, while examining the speed of consumerism and capitalism’s demand for constant growth,” writes Cronberg. “Questions like these run through every participant’s work; these designers know that at this moment in time, social responsibility is paramount. We cannot bury our heads in the sand or feign ignorance. This is fashion as political protest and social activism.”
AMESH WIJESEKERA is a graduate of the Academy of Design in Sri Lanka. His love for textile and colour is enhanced by working alongside the skilled craftsmen and women of his home island, including artisan communities working in knitwear, crochet, handloom and batik which he mixes with digital techniques. Having previously worked with Edeline Lee and Zandra Rhodes, Amesh will launch his brand at International Fashion Showcase in an installation inspired by Vesak, the largest cultural festival in Sri Lanka.
Rwandan artist and fashion designer CEDRIECT MIZEROIS has a unique vision of fashion which strives for social change. His long-term project Fashion for All puts the women and men of the rural village where he is from at the centre of his work, presenting a vision where all are include regardless of age, size, social or economic status. The Kigali-based artist invites the audience into this concept to create work with him in an installation which harnesses the power of the imagination to transform ourselves and our world.
Womenswear designer CLARA AGUAYO, who lives in Montevideo, won the National Young Innovators contest. Her work, often created with fabrics retrieved from the heyday of the Uruguayan textile industry, is characterised by tailoring techniques combined with zero-waste pattern cutting. Clara’s disturbing installation reflects on mental health and anxiety, creating an environment that is affected and modified by the presence of an audience which asks us to consider how we affect and modify each other through our actions.
Designer and stylist DURAN LANTINK is known for his upcycling methods and collage techniques. Paramount to his ethos is a desire to produce clothing using innovative, sustainable and ethical practices. Projects with the homeless community in Amsterdam and sex workers in Johannesburg show a fascination with the beauty of diversity. As a stylist, he works with numerous magazines and created Janelle Monae’s vagina trousers for her ‘PYNK’ video. His installation questions the permanent state of sale and discount in the fashion industry exploring the destructive phenomena of Black Friday and sales riots.
LAURA LAURENS is based in Bogota. Her work is grounded by a sense of social justice and seeks to reconstruct Colombian identity following recent conflict. In 2016, she began working with former fighters and victims of the armed conflict, collaborating with former FARC rebels to rework military textiles into fashion collections. At the International Fashion Showcase, Laura presents work from an ongoing partnership with the Emberá community of indigenous trans-women.
MORTANAKAITE is a womenswear designer based in Vilnius. She also works as a costume designer for theatre and film which provide strong influences on the development of her collections. The city of Vilinius is almost a character in her work which muses on ‘Lithuanianess’ through memory, nostalgia and self-reflection. Her installation seeks to capture an essence of place through light, scent and atmosphere, inviting the audience to wander through a strange and poetic version of her city.
Based in Pondicherry, Indian designer NAUSHAD ALI’s minimalist inclinations always start in textiles and craft processes. Naushad works closely with weavers across India to develop fabrics; he has been developing methods to rework waste fabric and fibres into new fabric. For the International Fashion Showcase exhibition Naushad extends this philosophy into physical space itself, creating the display from waste materials and offcuts destined for the rubbish heap.
RONI HELOU is a womenswear designer who graduated in 2016 from Creative Space Beirut, an NGO providing free education in fashion design. Roni’s environmental and animal rights activism heavily influences his brand, which strives to engage in methods of sustainability, local action and fair practices. His installation asks what his brand can do to tackle the Lebanese garbage crisis and change behaviour around recycling and waste.
Self-trained designer Irakli Rusadze founded SITUATIONIST in 2016. The brand is now stocked in Browns and shows on-schedule at Paris Fashion Week. Distinctive pattern-cutting is at the basis of the work, alongside a desire to challenge ‘post-Soviet’ stereotypes and reflect on contemporary social problems in Georgia. Situationist has an ongoing collaboration with Bassiani nightclub in Tbilisi and frequently works with young Georgian artists. The installation, entitled ‘Borders’, draws inspiration from the films of Sergei Parajanov.
Johannesburg-based THEBE MAGUGUIS works constantly to find new ways of presenting women and their role within South African society. His designs are sleek and forward-looking with motifs from the continent’s storied past. At IFS, he presents a collection entitled ‘Art History’ in an installation and zine which draws on South African contemporary art to question the politics of aesthetics at play in the fashion industry.
CURTIS OLAND is part of a movement of indigenous designers from Canada. Raised in Western Canada, his memories of its mountainous landscape are a continual source of inspiration. Curtis trained at Ryerson University and won the Emerging Menswear Designer Award at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week is 2017. His work often focuses on the use of raw and organic materials and his installation offers the audience a spiritual and meditative experience, musing on the communal and ancestral knowledge that informs his practice.
DAVID LEE is a menswear designer based in Fortaleza, Cearáin the north east of Brazil. In 2017, he won the GQ + Reserva New Talent award. David’s work mixes crochet techniques originating from Ceará with tailoring and sportswear references. His installation at International Fashion Showcase explores notions of strength and fragility as counterbalanced characteristics of modern masculinity.
Italian label Ice SURFACE TEMPERATURE was founded by brother and sister Kristian and Laura Guerra. Before founding the brand, Kristian won ITS in Trieste and Laura has worked as a pattern cutter under Alexander McQueen and Miuccia Prada. Their work revolves around rapidly shifting social interactions and urban customs and the role fashion can play within them. In a moving installation, they present a project on transit spaces - the ‘crossroads of lives, spaces of contamination but also waystations and settings for pluralism’.
Tom Trandt, founder of MôiĐiên, is a graduate of Parsons. Since its inception, the brand has taken inspiration from Vietnamese history and contemporary culture while seeking to create ethical and sustainable fashion practices in Vietnam. MôiĐiên means ‘outspoken’ and is founded on the principal that clothes can act as a voice of the wearer. The collection and installation draws on the recent demonstrations and protests taking place across Vietnam, where clothes are often used as a tool for citizens to speak their mind.
RAHEMURRAHMAN is a British Bangladeshi menswear designer and graduate of Central Saint Martins. Rahemuris works with the Bangladeshi fair-trade organisation Aranya and their network of artisans to develop a collection and installation which evokes his British Bangladeshi upbringing.
Nairobi-based jeweller AMI DOSHI SHAH brings her technical training and curiosity about local materials together to create sculptural pieces. Working with semi-precious and bi-product materials, Ami seeks to amplify the raw beauty of local materials and often draws on the landscapes of Kenya for inspiration. Her installation, titled ‘Salt of the Earth’, explores the complex historical, political and material properties of salt, which has had a profound impact on Kenya’s history.