It is always worth discovering what resonates with fledgling talent. This year, 14 young designers will graduate from NCAD to an uncertain future in a constantly changing industry. What distinguishes this year’s group, says Angela Kelly, their head of department, is their diversity and common interest in fabric manipulation and fabrication. “They are much more surface led, and their design inspiration is much deeper than UK students’,” she says.
They are encouraged to underpin their design with research. “We have a huge archive, and many students use it as a base for their collections,” says tutor Linda Byrne. “We encourage them to investigate their heritage and what resonates with them.” Students also collaborate with other departments to use fashion design in different ways, including graphic design and typography, and even in medical devices.
Student Eve O’Reilly makes an impact with her collection, Blue Rinse, which aims to challenge the notion that femininity is always associated with youth, and the obsession with age, celebrity culture, fakery and beauty. “This is aimed at the 50+ women who reject the anti-ageing beauty industry,” she says of her zany collection, which celebrates growing older in an nonconformist way. These colourful, over-the-top, glamorous pieces are deliberately photographed with “granny items” – Zimmer frames, chair lifts, hair curlers and trolleys.
Conor O’Brien, already making a name for his use of Irish wool, calls his collection Friend of the Body, which defiantly embraces the body’s natural contours. “I wanted to distort conventional stereotypes of what is “flattering”, and using natural fibres such as cotton poplin, worsted suiting, moleskin and native Galway fleece, my aim is precisely what I do in my own personal dressing – which is taking back control.”
Molly Walters is the winner of this year’s River Island bursary, with a collection very much in keeping with trends. Waste Not, Want Not is inspired by her late grandmother’s philosophy of taking care of her possessions and garments, using embroidery and print to evoke memories. “I explored ideas of sentimentality, ownership and personalisation of clothing through juxtaposing traditionally ‘disposable’ clothing like a grey tracksuit, loungewear and undergarments,” she says.
Students referencing their cultural backgrounds produce some dramatic effects. Patricia Deac, for example, takes inspiration from traditional Romanian dress, but used in modern romantic streetwear, such as a big black skirt with a black embroidered bomber jacket decorated with Romanian cord details. Mila Burov draws from 16th-century art with a vibrant, colourful collection using quilting, avocado dye and experimenting with leather, showing her detailed skill with fabric manipulation. “I love drama,” she says of a floor length fluffy pink gown.
Elsewhere, Anna Rave explores the idea of heimat – a feeling of home not tied to a place – drawing from her experience of living across the world, in a series of pieces made from felting, knit, laser cutting and fabric manipulation using deadstock fabrics. Emilia Amirhanov references family photographs from Estonia and the value of material objects for curating memories of childhood. “I wanted to create pieces that are special and personal, as well as highlighting the importance of preserving our cultural heritage,” she says.
An ingenious sleeve drawn from the construction of the thumb in glovemaking is a feature of Meghan Thomas’s collection, Battle of the Flowers, which takes inspiration from her grandfather, who was a glovemaker, and her grandmother. They were a glamorous pair who honeymooned in Jersey during the Battle of the Flowers festival in 1960. Another feature of her collection is a removable pocket, “so customers can customise their clothing to suit their needs”, she says.
The NCAD graduate collections will be on display in NCAD, Thomas Street, Dublin, June 10th to 15th
Limerick School of Art & Design
Twenty-six fashion students will graduate next month from Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD). What stands out from this group, says tutor Michelle Molloy, is the diversity of their work. “They are concentrating on cut, technical experimentation and a lot of digital advancement in response to industry,” she says.
There is also a huge diversity of themes and individual responses to design from this group. For example, Austin Collins uses sustainable processes such as ultrasonic welding and 3D printing for a collection inspired by megalithic stone circles. Aisling Guo examines burial artefacts from the Bronze Age for her shapes and fabrications, which include biodegradable hessian and repurposed gold satin.
Foraging with her father in the forest inspired Jessica Hennegan’s pieces, which use fabric offcuts for a basket-style weaving technique. Anna Morrison draws from her passion for the UK music and festival scene to develop a multifunctional protective garment that can also be used as a tent. “In the world we live in today, it takes a lot more work to stand out, and a huge focus is on what can I offer as a designer,” says Morrison.
LSAD graduate show opens in the Clare Street campus, Limerick, on Saturday, June 3rd