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RCA2020: One Designer’s View (Part One)

Isabel De La Roche – The Dripping Bag
Isabel has drawn on a background in shoe design – where the design of the product is clearly dictated by the anatomy of the foot – applying the same principle to the design of a ‘bag’. The result is a series of sleek sculptural body belts and pockets that can be worn on the body in various ways. The Dripping Bag is a soft leather pouch that is given a certain amount of structure and attaches to the hip by means of a sinuous tubular element. Dripping Bag is a well resolved and articulated 3D product which appears to be the starting point for Reticules, a virtual project, where the same principle is applied to varying scales and sites around the anatomy. In a world of gratuitously designed and often impractical ‘it bags’, Isabel’s quasi-architectural approach is welcome.

Andrew Culloo – Art Darlings
I’m always drawn to designers whose work stems from observing and thinking about the requirements of a real-life person. To me, that’s the nature of design, but many, particularly fashion designers for some reason, reject that approach as unimaginative. Andrew‘s project is a great argument for the principle ‘real clothes for real people’ – it’s just a question of finding the right people! Andrew has worked in the art world where he has observed women like Valeria Napoleone and Katy Hessel. Andrew’s work starts with exuberant prints which he pleats and drapes imaginatively in a way which will appeal to the kind of person he is aiming at.

Jonathan Rayson – Symbiosis
Of all this year’s graduating fashion students, Jonathan Rayson is possibly the least affected by the cancellation of the live show. In fact, it may even work to his advantage since his work is all about digitally enhanced imagery – as he puts it, ‘converging the real with the unreal, distilled to the unseen’. This project documents Jonathan’s thought process and design development, culminating in a section of his virtual runway show where metallic cyber models strut a multi-planar marble set. The use of technology is unquestionably skilful, but the crystalline perfection of his presentation is down to the fact that the reality he’s enhancing, is already close to perfect. His tailoring – in the sci-fi tradition of Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaia in the 80s is razor-sharp.

Danielle Elsener – Circling the Square
Danielle is clearly an innate designer. She addresses a design problem in such a way that the solution is dictated by the problem itself. That, to me, is true design, and we don’t find too much of it in the fashion business. Circling the Square starts with a zero waste pattern master that enables zero waste lays. Danielle prints her fabric with giant graphics which form seemingly abstract designs when the garment is cut out and sewn together. In white with bold pink, yellow or cobalt blue, it’s an aesthetic that’s dictated by the design process. The zero waste process produces great design details on super cool Kaihara denim jeans and works just as well on scrub sets designed for a navy medical unit.

Loy Chan – Seamless Weaving Initiative
Loy Chan sees the value of seamless technology primarily as a route to a zero-waste model, though he also talks about articulated joints and refers to the freedom of movement. These are the first steps in what will presumably be a very long term project. The technology will dictate the style, but Loy Chan gives us a foretaste of how he imagines the world will look with an (I think) imaginary spread for The New York Times Style Magazine entitled Future Closet, and described as ‘High-contrast design –from New York to St. Moritz.’

Junghee Yoon – Timeless Doodling
Junghee Yoon is a craft artist and knitwear designer. She describes her work as playful, but to me, there’s also a sophisticated beauty about it. She tackled her lockdown stress and anxiety by doodling with a crochet hook rather than a pen, and the results are mesh-like structures that she manipulates in her video, suggesting a pathway towards a ‘garment’. But they also work independently of the body, they are sculptures. And the still black and white photographs, where the crochets cast fascinating shadows are also beautiful in their own right.

Bronte Schwier – Assemble
Bronte’s project is absolutely contemporary in that it addresses a consumer who rejects wasteful fast fashion. At the same time looks back to a time when simple everyday objects had personality and were cherished by their users. Every time a garment is thrown away, so too are the (usually) cheap, mass-produced plastic buttons. Bronte’s beautifully crafted and articulated fasteners can be transferred from one garment to another. A button can be a life companion, as meaningful to its wearer as a piece of jewellery.

Tere Chad – Covid-19: ‘The Spectacle of the Shadows’
For me, Covid 19: ‘The Spectacle of the Shadows’ sets the tone of the entire RCA2020 show. Not only is it about the COVID crisis, but its format is also actually dictated by the crisis. What does a sculptor do when she can’t get to the studio? Tere looked at Kara Walker’s silhouette works, Alexander Calder’s ‘Circus’, and German Expressionist cinema. The result is a 14-minute shadow puppet video that imagines St. Peter at the gates of heaven, interviewing an endless queue of recently deceased from a COVID mass extinction. In a calm, measured tone, St. Peter quizzes world political leaders about how they dealt with the crisis, all set to a soundtrack by Paul Hindle. Tere has asked the RCA to keep this piece on its 2020 platform for future generations to judge the decisions that were taken.

Ian Griffiths

Ian studied in Manchester at the time of the new wave music scene, which has been a lifelong influence. He studied Architecture initially, then Fashion, and was encouraged by his tutor, the legendary Ossie Clark, to apply to the Royal College of Art in 1985.

Of his design education, he says, ‘Manchester taught me about raw energy and creativity, but the RCA taught me how to channel that energy into making something useful. It’s where I developed my commitment to good design.’

Ian jokes that he has the shortest CV in the business. One of his first projects at the RCA was a competition organized by Max Mara. As a result of that, he joined the company as a designer upon graduating in 1987.

As Creative Director of Max Mara, he believes in fusing the brand’s luxurious appeal with a streetsmart sense of cool. He says, ‘over the 30 plus years I’ve been with the brand, I’ve got to know the Max Mara woman as if she were my best friend. I want the best for her.’
Ian divides his time between the company’s headquarters in Italy, London and Suffolk. His interests include contemporary art, architecture and gardening, and his most frequently used hashtag is #ilovemyjob.

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