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Kingston University School of Art graduate's MA Fashion collection celebrates strong female icons and encourages women to break free from stereotypes

Posted Tuesday 19 October 2021

Kingston University  School of Art graduate's MA Fashion collection celebrates strong female icons and encourages women to break free from stereotypes Rachel Page's collection features elaborate prints and detailed embellishments. Orezime Esseh, left, models a printed blouse worn with a tailored suit while model Abbey Broughton wears a trench coat with black sequinned flowers. Photo credit - Ashnah Jones

A Kingston University graduate has created a striking and colourful collection at the Kingston School of Art Fashion Show 2021 that aims to inspire women to be true to themselves and escape the stereotypical presumptions placed on them.

Rachel Page's three outfits - a trench coat, a tailored suit, and a jumpsuit – were designed to be confidently worn by anyone no matter their shape and to impart a feeling of independence, individuality, and sophistication to the wearer. They feature in the show which is the highlight of the fashion school's year and represents the culmination of students' work on the masters course.

The title of Rachel's collection, The Indelible Impact of the Female Gaze, was inspired by the writings of 1960s feminist Betty Friedan who challenged some of the assumptions at that time about a woman's role, she said.

"Friedan wrote about how women were expected to find fulfilment only as wives and mothers and this gave me inspiration for my collection," she explained. "I designed the outfits around the idea of encouraging women to celebrate their true selves and break free from stereotypical assumptions placed on them."

Orezime Esseh models the intricately embellished trench coat. Photo credit - Ashnah Jones

Rachel, who goes professionally by the name of Rachel Carter, was also influenced by 1940s actress Hedy Lamarr who, although an early inventor of a form of telecommunications, was more famous as a film idol.

"I became interested in Lamarr because she was a famous leading lady but taken less seriously for being an inventor. For my print designs, I drew inspiration from old photographs of Lamarr in vintage clothes and in her home surrounded by vintage interiors, as well as from vintage postcards and samples of vintage material," she said.

Rachel's outfits combine warm, soft tailoring using a fluid twill fabric with striking prints, patterns, and embellishments, while the fabric's matt finish contrasts with shiny organza and velvet material used for blouses worn under two of the garments.

The trench coat features elaborate prints and black flowers handmade from clusters of sequins and matte teardrop Swarovski crystals. The green printed suit is embellished with French vintage sequins and the jumpsuit has rose colour Swarovski crystals hand-sewn across the garment.

They feature in the fashion show which is usually live but this year, due to the pandemic, an interactive website has been created to showcase Rachel's designs and those of other students.

"My designs aim to be inclusive and accessible and enable women to feel they can be who they want to be," Rachel added. "Each outfit can be worn a different way, so although the designs feature strong, bold prints, the trouser suit can be paired with a white T-shirt or the jacket with a simple black dress. You can adapt the outfits to make them true to your own style."

Rachel had always been interested in textiles, print design and embellishment, although she decided to study fashion to broaden her skillset, she said.

"I've always loved experimenting with print and surface design because you are creating pieces of art which are then translated onto garments and can transform them," she said.

After graduating with a BA in Fashion, Rachel worked for five years in the industry before embarking on the Fashion MA at Kingston University after a colleague recommended the course.

Orezime Esseh models the elaborate suit jacket. Photo credit - Ashnah Jones

Her studies coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic's second lockdown so she had to research and test ideas for her collection at home. Eventually, she was able to use the University's fashion workshops when she started making her clothes.

"It was so helpful to be able to use the workshops, especially when it came to pattern cutting. The trench coat involved around eight metres of fabric, so I needed space to cut the pattern and place it onto the fabric. The University's fashion technicians were an amazing support, especially with the technical aspects such as zips and collars."

Rachel described her masters course as an excellent complement to her experience. "I wanted to improve my decision-making when designing a collection and my tutors gave me the support to believe in my decisions and go with them," she said. "The course gave me the confidence to work on a collection that was solely my creation and ideas, and it helped me mature as a print designer going back into industry."

Since achieving her postgraduate degree, Rachel has been running a freelance print design business for womenswear and her clients include major high street brand Reiss where she designs prints across women's and children's wear.

"I am so excited that my designs are part of the Kingston School of Art Show 2021," she added. "It's great that everyone can see the designs online and it's brilliant that I can share my collection in this way."

Rachel brought creativity, attention to detail, and a passion for the subject to her studies which would stand her in good stead for her future career, Kingston University's MA Fashion course leader Richard Sorger said.

"Her graduate collection displayed a real craftsmanship, and masterly skills in print design and embellishment. She clearly has a desire to create clothes that are bold and striking while being accessible, and she succeeds extremely well."

  • Rachel's final collection is in Kingston School of Art's Virtual Degree Show 2021
  • Rachel's designs, under her professional name Rachel Carter, feature among the collections of new graduate designers
  • Find out about studying fashion at Kingston School of Art

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