Posted Monday 5 June 2017
What do you wear to an interview for a job you don't even want, but it's the only option available to you? The challenges facing young people struggling to find meaningful work are the inspiration behind a Kingston University designer's new menswear collection.
Emily Munden's garments celebrate the pride, self-worth and style of a working class generation determined to overcome the barriers they face in society.
"The collection is really a comment on the cycle of benefits and poverty being forced on people that you see on the streets and in the news," the 23 year old from Stratford Upon Avon said. "It's a tongue-in-cheek take on the ridiculous idea of getting ready for an interview when you know it's not right for you – but it's all you've been offered by the job centre."
Drawing on her own experiences of growing up on a Glasgow housing estate, the BA(Hons) Fashion student's final year collection mixes a street punk aesthetic with the workwear and everyday clothing worn by the characters who inspired her designs.
"My parents were younger than I am now when they had me, and worked really hard to support the family," Emily explained. "My mum wanted a better life and we ended up moving when I was 10, but I had that experience of living on the breadline and saw how hard it can be."
Emily's garments feature screen prints of slogans such as 'sorry, no vacancies' from news headlines and job advertisements. Each look plays with different representations of professional and casual styles through the use of dyed, bleached, distressed and frayed fabrics in mainly black, white and pink colours.
Tops made from Japanese shirting fabrics with open backs and unevenly fastened buttons are paired with a denim jacket and trousers - hinting at the traditional formal suit. While androgynous velour tracksuits are given a workwear twist through reflective tape sewn down the sleeves.
One of the most striking garments is inspired by a ripped-up football shirt, with red-and-white fringing given structure through a cotton collar and buttons. The look is completed with an oversized black PVC coat and black trousers.
The young designer has used a black-and-white chequerboard pattern in tops and shirts throughout her collection. A lightweight jacket with heavily-frayed monochrome squares is paired with grey trousers that have been screen printed with pink splatters to represent muddy and heavily-worn blue-collar work attire.
"I'm really inspired by those well-loved pieces that don't often get represented in fashion," Emily said. "I want my pieces to feel lived-in, to have a certain authenticity and rawness to them."
The final year student credits the year she spent abroad, studying fashion at the BAU Escolar Superior de Disseny in Barcelona on the ERASMUS exchange programme, with helping shape her evolving aesthetic.
During her course the young designer also honed her skills through a series of internships – one of the most influential with contemporary London-based menswear brand Liam Hodges.
"Spending a year in Spain at another top fashion school was a fantastic experience," Emily said. "I've always felt the London aesthetic has really influenced my designs – the idea of being brave enough to throw any outfit together and make it look good – and in many ways spending that time abroad made me appreciate the city even more," she explained.
"What I learned most from my internships, particularly from Liam Hodges, is to trust my gut and ignore everything else. I really like illustrating, but for me that stage is more about creating the character, and the clothes then come together in a more organic fashion."
Kingston University fashion tutor Todd Lynn said Emily had created a modern, current collection that was grounded in reality. "It's all about the personalities with her garments – each look represents an individual character and their story," he said. "I've always said her pieces could be sold today, you could see them in a store now.
"Emily is very good at analysing what's happening in the world around her and translating that into something real through her work, which is what helps her designs stand out from the crowd."