Posted Tuesday 7 February 2017
Fashion is taking centre stage at the Canadian High Commission in central London after Kingston University students put their design ingenuity to the test to create sustainable sculptures inspired by Canada's Inuit and First Nation hunters.
Eight second year BA(Hons) Fashion students worked with renowned fashion sustainability champion and artist Dr Noki, along with London based Canadian designer Todd Lynn, to create the figures, which have been installed in the large display windows of the embassy ahead of London Fashion Week.
Working in pairs, the students used recycled items from second hand shops and materials from their own wardrobes, mirroring the sustainable approach of Canada's indigenous communities. Kingston University fashion student Hannah Gilbert worked with course colleague Bevan Dainton to create a sculpture they named Inutuujuq.
"Dr Noki's philosophy is all about using sustainable or recycled material and this was the main theme of the project," Hannah said. "We found a snowboard in a charity shop that became the foundation of our character. We used a colour palette of tans and browns combined with rusty red strips from some old Canadian blinds I had at home to create an authentic, sustainable look with a modern twist."
Hannah explained she and Bevan were keen to reuse any waste they made during the process, echoing the sustainable approach of the Inuit people. In a nod to the respect First Nation hunters pay to their prey, using every part of an animal they hunt, the duo hand-sewed patterns reminiscent of Inuit designs on their garments using frayed thread from the blinds. "This project has highlighted the importance of ecological concerns in fashion. Eventually I hope to have my own label and that is something I want to maintain in my own work going forward," Hannah said.
Dr Noki explained that although the pieces look back and embrace Inuit designs, the students were working in a thoroughly modern way with sustainability at the forefront of their minds. "I believe it is important that the idea of environmental impact is embedded in the work of all designers, Dr Noki said. "Fashion is all about ideas - and sustainability is an idea that constantly evolves. I'm trying to bring modernity to the cutting table."
Dr Noki said everyone could play a role in improving sustainability in fashion. "You're already associated with the pieces in your wardrobe because you bought them, you decided on them, now you're not interested in them, chop them up and use them again. Instead of holding onto them like some sort of important trinket use them for your future, reinvest in them again."
Živa Červek, an Erasmus exchange student from Ljubljana in Slovenia who spent a semester on Kingston University's BA(Hons) Fashion degree, stressed the importance of what she learned from Dr Noki. "It wasn't only his lectures that were helpful, but also his tips and vision in helping us shape our ideas," Živa said. "The sculpture I worked on with Rhys John was made from black stockings stuffed with any kind of filling that we could find, along with other black garments that we embroidered with colourful yarns.
"The theme of our sculpture unfolded during the process itself - silhouettes we developed during the draping process reminded us of an animal and we connected that with the idea of a Canadian hunter."
Kingston University's Head of Fashion Elinor Renfrew said sustainability was a key aspect of the Fashion degree course. "Working with Dr Noki was an exciting journey for our students, collaborating to push boundaries and embed concern for the environment in their designs," she said.
Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mrs Janice Charette, said the team at Canada House were delighted to be able to join forces with the talented group of Kingston University of students. "The fashion sculptures created for display in our windows tap into stories of Canada's First Nations and Inuit communities and everyday life in the Canadian north. The impressive use of up-cycling and sustainable materials demonstrate the true power of imagination."
The sculptures will be on display at this prestigious location just off London's Trafalgar Square during London Fashion Week in February 2017.