Thursday, 16 July 2015

New Designers: The Body in Motion

The Business Design Centre in London Islington began showcasing the UK’s pioneering designers in the Eighties. Year after year, New Designers has been a hit with peers and creative industry insiders who come and examine the latest designs. The anticipation of New Designers 30th anniversary in 2015 raised the stakes even higher. Across the impressive open space of the Business Design Centre, New Designers exhibits creative students’ final work. Of course everyone can see everyone’s work; it produces a combination of anxiety, fascination, but also excitement and relief that all the hard work has paid off and graduation is a done thing.

Some students presented on the back of Graduate Fashion Week, which was only a few weeks prior. Some visitors, like me, were lucky enough to get a second taste. In the penultimate week of June, New Designers Part 1 presents the fashion, textiles, costume, ceramics and jewelry design forerunners for tomorrow. The most talented design students presented could be seen to join the world’s most prestigious labels – Prada and Paco Robane were a few that came to mind today.

Oliver Thomas Lipp is a strong Textiles BA graduate from UAL’s Central Saint Martin’s; a man in a crowd of mostly female graduates. For his final project he investigated the structure of skin and hair, reinstating ‘couture’ through a simple yet powerful idea. Originally focusing on concept, he leaves behind issues such as colour and trend. Allowing this approach to reach its outcome resulted in aesthetically rich textiles. Flattening hamma beads with an iron, he threads them through by hand using different yarns, ranging from lurex to eyelash yarn on the swatches he demonstrated here. The result? A re-creation of the flexibility an elasticity of human skin and the regularity of hair. Lipp explains: ‘I have been inspired by folds in the skin, hair follicles and cells, investigating the way in which these textures move and interact alongside the body’. He also mentions how much he enjoyed in his work a tactile treatment of textiles, creating in essence a physical connection between textile designer and wearer. Who would not like to feel those plastic beads and soft yarn on their skin? Visually, the designs look graceful and lightweight. They also feel luxurious to the touch; couture finishes of true elegance.

In January 2014, Viktor & Rolf presented a modelcovered solely by body paint for their surprise fragrance launch. Viktor Horsting commented: “we liked that her skin was becoming clothing in a way. She’s nude but she’s not. She’s dressed in paint. Her skin becomes like a garment. It was a [conceptual] way of saying that perfume could be worn like a garment.” Lipp’s approach presents an extension of this idea for the luxury market; he channels the skin as a form of attire.

Alternative use of yarns was popular this year. Becky Jones, a graduate from Falmouth University, has also examined yarn with relation to the body. She explored transgender connections and the relationship between femininity and masculinity; the essence of what makes us who we are. She used hand woven textiles experimenting with yarns unusual for menswear, fusing mixed media detailing to emphasise a complex texture. Jones’ work lies akin to high-end fashion due to the lightness of her pieces. Her collection is elaborate and detailed, but not overly so.  What we remember from her work are the two opposing techniques, juxtaposed to highlight the overlapping relationship between man and woman. The use of subtle metallic textures in combination with her fancy yarns should prove popular.

Sam Gilbert, a 3-D Design and Craft student from Brighton, examines structure within the body by examining the functionality of human skin. Rigid metal structures or “diagrammatic body implements” replicate in simplified form, bodily structures and movements. Rubber connects metal pieces to one another. A lot of rubber in fact! Its function is to act as an allusion to our ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones that work closely with one another; a wrath of structure intertwined. Sam Gilbert’s admiration for the human body is clear. He explains: “we have so many kinetic motions within our bodies that we cannot see. I have translated a collection of muscle movements from around the body in a simplified diagrammatic structure and turned them into exterior wearable objects”. We are drawn to the closeness between Gilbert’s work and leather artisan Una Burke, who creates armour-like clothing and accessories to emphasise the human body and its wondrous structure.

The part of the show dedicated to jewellery and ceramics showcased the work of Alexandra Von Trapp, a jewellery designer from Edinburgh College of Art. She presented a complete deconstruction of the human body. Looking to human bones for inspiration, Von Trapp produces intricate, wearable metal pieces. She draws from memory, not from stills; her sketches are a bridge between mind and yield. Her work must be examined from the designer’s own perspective on the human form, since these sketches emerge with her imagination and memory, rather than a tangible source.  Her work is therefore organic and subjective: we examine Von Trapp’s perception of human bones, rather than the thing itself. Her metal necklaces look like water frozen mid-air; an organic feature that harmonises the elements of the earth with the body. She further uses natural products like horse hair, to arch the space between earrings. This replicates the shape of the jawline in an understated manner, creating a connection between man and animal. Von Trapp reminds us that we are all part of the same world.

Bath Spa University boasted a wealth of graduates who demonstrate immense creativity. The most striking was Textile Design for Fashion & Interiors BA graduate Tanya Fryer. Fryer looks to her physical surroundings to produce wall hangings, such as turning an outdoor view into an indoor one.  Tanya Fryer has travelled around Europe, searching for inspiration in architecture, only to return to the UK and settle on a landscape of London for her final pieces. Her strong, block colours recreate in negative the open spaces of the skyline. Through layering with mixed media print, she demonstrates the distances between people and the buildings that surround them. In her sketchbook, she incorporates graphics onto sketches for further inspiration; Tanya’s urban surroundings inspire her.

Many of the New Designers 2015 graduates found inspiration in the human experience. They look to the human form for inspiration, pulling apart and deconstructing the essence of who we are. Some took this more literally than others, examining skin, bones, muscles and hair, whilst questioning humanity through design. Others looked to our surroundings and culture with a similar aim and equally powerful results. The waiting game begins as we wait to discover what the next cohort of New Designers can bring.

This review was published on Modeconnect.

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