Posted Tuesday 24 October 2017
Cultural traditions, identity and an eye-catching array of Swarovski crystals took centre stage as Kingston University's graduating MA Fashion students showcased their latest collections on the catwalk at the Design Museum in London. A selection of 10 fashion designers from the University's Kingston School of Art postgraduate degree course unveiled their work at the event, which took place at the world's leading contemporary design museum to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the course.
Graduating student Dardana Djantio Etchike's garments explored the tradition of breast ironing in her home country of Cameroon, Central Africa. The practice, typically carried out by a girl's mother, has become more widespread over the last 50 years with dietary improvements in Cameroon leading to a quicker onset of puberty."The practice is largely used on girls aged nine to 15 years old and justified as a way to prevent sexual assault," Dardana explained. "Girls are compressed and restricted and it naturally creates a real desire for freedom. My designs are largely focused on those desires, how the body is expressed and how it feels in relation to the environment around it," she added.
Under the guidance of her mentor, acclaimed sustainable designer Dr Noki, Dardana created garments that accentuate the chest with oversized ruffles and deep blue stitching contrasting with stark white cotton and fringing – also inspired by the dreadlocks typically seen on Cameroon men. "It was important to me to weave my ethnic identity into my textiles," she said. "Being mentored by Dr Noki really helped me find my voice as a designer and how to express it."
Course mate Marika Fujita channelled her complicated cultural identity into her collection. Born in Fukuoka Japan to a Japanese mother and Chinese father, she spent her childhood flying between the two countries and trying to figure out where she belonged. "Sometimes people with mixed heritage pick one to identify with, but I always found myself wanting to protect both - there's so much beauty in each of them that I wanted to preserve," 23-year-old Marika explained. "I hope my collection shows how two conflicting cultures can merge harmoniously."
Marika created a range of double-hooded coats and vests with interchangeable sleeves and pockets in a style that paid homage to the countries' history of war. "The Japanese tradition of shimenawa – a ritual of rope-laying – was the inspiration for the detail on the sleeves of my garments. I was also inspired by Chinese ink paintings created using a wool technique that was popular in the Song dynasty era. The heavy army-uniform style of the overcoats and vests represents my feeling that both cultures should be protected," she said.
Brazilian-born Caroline Perino's work is set to shine after she secured sponsorship for her final year collection from crystal experts Swarovski. "I spoke to them about my passion to become a designer – they loved my ideas and offered to provide the crystals for my final looks," she explained. "My collection has lots of 3D elements that you can feel – like beads, foam shapes and even ceramics - so adding the crystals felt like the perfect final touch."
The 25 year old combined her love of science and analytical thinking with her creative side, pairing shapes and curves to create a range of garments reminiscent of a surrealist painting. "Each dress is a canvas, where I painted what was in my head – there are lots of different inspirations that may look unconnected to begin with, but on closer inspection you realise they fit like a puzzle," she said.
MA Fashion course director Richard Sorger, who joined Kingston University this year, said celebrating the course's 10-year anniversary with a catwalk show at the Design Museum was an exciting opportunity for the students to showcase their work at one of the country's great cultural institutions. "Kingston University's MA Fashion course has a history of producing confident, articulate designers who have challenged the more traditional concepts of fashion over the years," Mr Sorger said. "Our students delve into the culture of fashion and their research into social, political and often controversial topics always culminates in exciting, forward-thinking designs. This year's cohort has certainly lived up to that reputation," he added.