The graduate season always is a bit like a whirlwind, not only for us here at 1 Granary, but likely also for press who travel to London for the wide variety of graduate shows including CSM and RCA, followed by Antwerp’s weekend of shows and installations all around the city. While there are hundreds of designers out there that present their work, and each is so unique and different, it almost feels as if press is riding on an overarching wave of reportage – a trend of reporting trends, so to say. Without wanting to step on anybody’s toes, we have noticed how many platforms make decisions of which collections to feature in their ‘top … of x school’. It has become pervasive to select collections that readers are likely to find amusing and entertaining, as opposed to choosing well-developed and resolved collections. (To set the record straight: we personally appreciate their work, but don’t appreciate how it’s flattened out by the press who takes one aspect of their collection that is most sensational.)
What this effectively does, is sending a message to those students who are still shaping their design voice. Who are still thinking of what their final collection should be about; how they should communicate with an audience. One can easily say that most collections are a true representation of designers, but as this industry becomes increasingly more competitive, kids are keeping their eye out on what they think will receive a lot of exposure and get their name out there. It might result in them being hired, or generate enough attention to keep people interested in a brand they might launch. In addition, continually making sensational selections transforms the entirety of graduate designer work into an overall feel of them being ‘crafty’, ‘comical’ or ‘studenty’, while often a great part of the collections is strong and thoughtful. It undermines and disrespects the effort, and can sincerely make brilliant designers feel like what they did was bad or pointless. We feel there needs to be a renewed appreciation of graduate work; to re-evaluate how we all write about the shows and assess designs. To genuinely appreciate well-designed collections that come from a place of honesty, that are intelligent, carry complexity, and yes, may have a tinge of humour in their essence.
The RCA Show last week was thoughtful, on-point within the current climate, and its format of two show parts split by a break in which installations could be seen, felt relevant to our times. One thing that particularly stood out to us personally was the division between design aesthetic in all those separate parts, giving them a different kind of coherence than we have experienced during other graduate shows. After last year’s experiment to reformat the RCA show and present one look per designer only, this too was a refreshing way to experience the work of a 48-designer MA Fashion class, and felt like it did justice to everybody’s designs. We do not want to pick any favourites, just sincerely applaud the entire class for the beauty they have created, and arresting us for three hours of true design appreciation.
Words Jorinde Croese Photography Simonas Berukstis