Royal College of Art MA Fashion Show 2017
The event began with ‘Show One’ – a half-a-hour catwalk/showcase featuring 18 students’ collections. But first, the location: a large white expanse of towering studio space (which, until recently, was the workspace of Turner-Prize winning artist Rachel Whiteread) with the ceiling covered in lights and contraptions far above my technical understanding, all of which ensured each designers collection was viewed the way they intended. Walking into the space, every surface was covered with lit circles, a number of disco balls further adding to the reflection and creating an immediately sensory experience before the show even began.
Zahra Sooty Hosseni
In the frenzy of seating allocations a women sat in the middle of the stage, perfectly still and dressed modestly in head-to-toe black with only her face and hands on show, with lips and cheekbones carved with intense black makeup. She sat on the floor, her dress spread around her, moving incredibly slowly among it all – placing a large pointed-hat on-and-off her head in a ritualistic manner. This was the work of Designer 1: Zahra Sooty Hosseni, who opened the show. Prayer song sang out through the speakers as other models joined the women, all in similar black garments with deep green graphic panelling. Her dress was carefully unfolded and spread-out to create a prayer mat, and the models performed a choreographed religious prayer in unison – a stunning yet fitting collection to open such a show which pivots around ‘confronting deep and urgent questions’.
Each collection was moved fluidly from one to the other, so at points of transition designer’s collections and visions merged on stage in a moment of beautiful contrast, and on rarities accidental marriage. I would just like to say that I cannot possibly do justice to every student’s work with this far too short review, so I have decided to focus on a few of the ‘landmarks’ of the evening instead. If you would like to explore each designers’ work individually, I highly suggest you go to rca.ac.uk/show2017 to discover each of the students’ work for yourself and through your own lens.
Zowie Broach, RCA Head of Fashion, commented, “It is fitting that the Show takes place at the very moment when the UK decides on its future Government. Since the UK voted to leave the EU last June, students have been asking urgent questions about owning their 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.”
After Show 1 finished (and was met with raucous applause), the audience was invited to explore the live installations throughout the building – with champagne and canapés a plenty if you so fancied. Highlights included sculptural dresses made from carbon fibre by Dan He, an installation by Binbin Hu featuring white knitwear which was connected across multiple models’ bodies and Louis Alderson-Bythell’s stunning ‘laboratory’ of constructed pieces made from wire, plastic and a plethora of other materials.
Live piano music rang throughout the space, summoning the guests back to our seats for ‘Show 2’. The dynamic, multi-layered presentation began again. A particularly memorable section of the second half was Jennifer Koch’s, who decided to show her collection (which reminded me a little of metallic sweet wrappers) through crazed dancing and running – instead of the usual slow lap – around the space, throwing gold fortune cookies across the floor (a slip hazard to say to the least) and into the audience.
Silver confetti burst through the air and onto the floor as the students’ and models’ took their celebratory laps. It was over – all that work, all those different visions, ideas and incredible craftsmanship had been seen; yet I desperately wanted to see every piece up close to appreciate it in its glory to a far more appropriate level (which was an option if you visited the studios the next day from 10-1pm, but unfortunately I had a train to catch). Guests poured out onto the already over-filled street – covered with show-goers and models and photographer and cameras and, to everyone’s surprise, moving vehicles – the only reminder that it all happened the silver confetti stuck sporadically to the bottom of our shoes.
Images by Daniel Sim for the Royal College of Art