Politics, theology, identity: RCA Fashion Show 2017

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On Thursday 8 June, the evening of the UK General Election, the Royal College of Art (RCA) presented its annual Fashion Show, amidst the whitewashed minimalism of Rachel Whiteread's former Shoreditch studio.

Each of the 48 MA Fashion students introduced their collections in their own way, mixing performance and installation, music and choreography to create a dynamic, multi-layered presentation that simultaneously exhibited their craft as well as their engagement with the knotty issues of the world outside fashion.

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The work, demonstrating extraordinary thinking in brave new ways, set the seal on the inspirational guidance of Zowie Broach, Head of Fashion since 2014.

'It's fitting the Show took place at the moment the UK decided on its future Government,' reflects Broach. 'Since the UK voted to leave the EU last June, students have been asking urgent questions about owning their own culture that haven’t been asked for generations. They have been pushed to ask deeper questions about fashion within the current political climate and its power to effect change in this unsettling landscape’.

These questions range from the explicitly political, to the theological, as well as considerations of how our relationship with our clothes shape our attitudes towards our identities and each other.

Bianca Saunders’ menswear collection redefined contemporary black masculinity and challenged stereotypes by presenting nuanced clothes that play with non-linear gendered form. Eleanor Rousseau, whose collection is about Manchester youth culture, made political banners for her models to hold, with phrases including 'CORBYN IN TORIES OUT', 'SAVE OUR FUTURE' and 'PEACE FOR MCR'.

Abbie Stirrup's practice spanned spatial design, performance art and sportswear innovation, explored new and evolved ways to dress, cover and work with the body as demonstrated with a live 'silicone pour' at the Show. Zahra Hosseini's collection, inspired by religion, offered a moment of real contemplation. And there was such joy: from Jennifer Koch's bouncing boys to Rose Frances Danford Philips' beautiful birds of paradise.

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The event also offered the opportunity to see graduate collections from the winners of the annual Brioni Award, including overall winner Rhiannon Wakefield, winner in Innovation Dan He, and winner for Tailoring Per Hanson, will also be on display.

The graduating students of 2017 are treading their own path, but hope to build on the success of last year’s graduates who are already proving to be a powerful force in fashion. Onebyme, part of InnovationRCA, the College’s centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship, incubation and business support, showed for the first time at London Fashion Week Men’s. Kang Hyuk Choi (MA Menswear, 2016) recently showed at Seoul Fashion Week and is working in collaboration with Showstudio, Machine-A and H Lorenzo; while Supriya Lee (MA Womenswear, 2016) showed at Fashion East AW2017.

All show photography: Daniel Sims. See the online catalogue here: http://fashion.rca.ac.uk/2017/

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