The economic slump may be a major headache for young graduates, but at yesterday's MA fashion show, a riot of vibrant colour, lavish print and corpulent silhouettes showed that the future is looking bright for a group of undeterred Royal College of Art graduates. Indeed, 'very optimistic in its flavour' was how the college's Head of Fashion Wendy Dagworthy described her womenswear mentees' collections.
Their tutor Tristan Webber was equally effusive: 'These students are re-defining the meaning of luxury through modern materials, morphing cloths and colours, and manipulating the bespoke with the irreverent.' Shubham Jain pulled off an eye-popping colour-saturated collection, embellished with oversized rope fastenings and complex flocking detail. And an incredibly detailed textured jacket from Colette Vermeulen was also arresting.
The pattern-heavy knitwear class of 2012 was reflected in the work of womenswear knitwear designer Rachel Chan, who charmed with an elegant narrative of structured pieces that played off hard graphic pattern against soft speckled hues.
Experimentation with materials and technology was in the mindset of most, such as Daniel Pollitt's plastic-wrapped trousers, Rebecca Thomson's mesh-heavy outfits and the mermaid-like PVC undulations of Trine Hav Christensen's dresses and jackets. 'They've invested their energy into generating their own materials, through bespoke weaves, poured silicone and advanced printing techniques,' said Webber. 'Garment surfaces have been extruded via 3-dimensional modelling techniques, sharply embossed forms and hand carved plastics.'
A strong menswear contingent particularly shone with the likes of Alexander Lamb, who underpinned a utilitarian and military blueprint with directional silhouettes. Hiroaki Kanai's tailoring-rich draped shapes and Benedicte Holmboe's enormous knitwear proportions were also torch-bearers for the programme's nurturing of strong design identities. 'RCA Menswear is celebrating, which is reflected in a combination of powerful silhouettes, an explosion of surface textile and print,' said Menswear Senior Tutor Ike Rust.
Now in it's fifth year, the Brioni and Royal College of Art award returned to shine its spotlight on a classic wardrobe staple - the blazer. The tailoring project, which tasks first year menswear students with creating an item of men's clothing in exchange for access to the Italian tailoring brand's master tailors, awarded its highest plaudit, the Brioni award, to Felix Chabluk Smith, with the Creativity award going to Hanchul Lee, and Tailoring being awarded to Francisca Hjermov.
Dagworthy believes experimentation and collaboration is what attracts students to the course. 'We encourage interdisciplinary - we want them to work in other programmes across the college, not just in our school,' she said. 'They work in rapid prototyping and they really experiment in material. We encourage them to challenge what's going on in fashion and to find their own design identity.'