Representing the creative future

Deeply personal and relevant: Discover  the 2022 HEAD graduates

Crawling out of their shell, the students show the world what Swiss fashion is

Hidden behind the blue of the lake, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland is a fashion school called HEAD. While the location in Geneva may seem off-the-radar, the school’s seven buildings are filled with talent. “There might not be much of a fashion context,” says designer and tutor Lutz Huelle, “but I think for the time the students have in Geneva, it’s a very healthy environment. It’s not as cutthroat as other big cities.” Geneva can be seen as a playground for fashion – a blank canvas in a town where everything is possible. “It prepares the students for other places in a gentle way. Being here is very calming and positive,” he continues. Yet still, Switzerland in itself is a country drawn by craftsmanship. When you think of Switzerland, you think of Swiss wool, tradition, and hand-made goods. Now, there is a new wave of creatives emerging – the fashion graduates of HEAD, the Haute Ecole d’Art et Design.

HEAD is giving the wings to 34 people, letting them fly out into the world to do their own thing. When it comes to teaching, there is a special emphasis on methodology. “I see the role of theory as instrumental to the students’ practice,” says Aude Fellay, a teacher who is in charge of theory in the MA. In addition to their final collection, they have to write a theory-based essay to ground themselves and be empowered in their practice, she adds. “The conversation between theory and practice is central to our teaching approach.”

“What I loved this year is how the students tied their personal stories into a wider context – before that, it was so focussed on themselves, so they forgot that it had to go out there,” adds Lutz. “The most successful collections this year were deeply personal but equally super relevant to the outside world. After two years in a pandemic, there seems to be a notable shift: students are coming out of their shells, making clothing in a communal atmosphere.

It is almost impossible to convey two courses (BA and MA) into a few sentences, but what stands out is their creativity, their varied inspirations and their appreciation of craftsmanship. HEAD allows the students to be themselves and to create, whether that is on their own or with a creative partner.

Apolline Stangherlin, L’object à default du corps, BA Fashion 

“The seat is taken. We are in the theatre and we leave our seats at the interval to go out for a cigarette. Putting our coats on, the seat is anchored in the social understanding that the seat is occupied: the coat inhabits the seat and becomes an entity in itself. It embodies our presence, even our memory.”

Going from this manifesto, Apolline Stangherlin’s collection L’object à default du corps is based on a conceptual reflection of the garment. “In my work, I question the space of the clothing, independent from the body. It is my interpretation we can have of this object. These reflections are being found within the context of my thesis, which helped me dive deeper into this topic,” the designer says. In her world, the garment is conceptualised as a lively object, because of the human that wears it. “Obviously, the clothes have a material value, but the immaterial value is defined as the memory and trace left by the person who wore it,” she adds. Inspired by this thought, she wanted to materialise the life within clothes, the memories that give them personality, by working with the archetype of the classic wardrobe and its codes. Executed in lively colours, the designer blows bags out of shape, big enough to carry all the memories. The skirts are carefully draped around the waist, having a classic white shirt tucked in. It floats with the body, in a special rhythm, giving it strength by providing versatility. For this collection, she felt particularly inspired by the work of Olivier Saillard and his views on fashion and garments. “In his performance with Tilda Swinton, clothing is transformed into a relic by recalling vivid memories of life and displaying the memory of those who wore it.” Another artwork she was inspired by was “the dressing gown of Balzac”, a sculpture by Auguste Rodin, showing the cloth in which Balzac liked to write. When looking at the artwork, there is a sudden intimacy revealed, says Apolline– the sculptures tell us a story, a story that makes us dream and think. And that is exactly what Apolline’s creations do.

Xavier Weber, Magma, BA Fashion

In the second year of his bachelor’s degree, Xavier Weber experimented a lot. He played around with concepts with the goal to create something around his family and his childhood. Growing up in a diverse community, there were a lot of contrasts, which inspired his final collection, Magma. He grew up in Grenoble, France and gipsy camps, which is quite the opposite, he says. “I was inspired by a lot of natural things,” Xavier says, “From the floors of my childhood home to the Magma stones and the paper of my father. Every reference is from my childhood.” Besides his upbringing, he finds another source of inspiration in French Rap music. He is particularly drawn to La Fève and Booba. It connects him and his father since they listened to it together. Xavier calls this his starting point. “I grew up with it, it tells my story,” he says. “I started listening to it when I was really young. I didn’t understand English back then. French lyricism in rap touches me a lot and there is a large diversity in French rap.” Our native languages have a higher power over us, someone once said, if you speak to someone in a language they learnt, you are speaking to their brain, but if you speak to them in their mother tongue, you are speaking to their heart. Xavier’s collection is a labour of love, as warming as the magma of a volcano. His collection reflects utility combined with enormous wearability. His efforts have been greatly rewarded with the Bongenie prize, which is handed to the most remarkable bachelor collection.

Lucie Lascaux & Simon Valabrègue, I Love my D…, BA Fashion

During the lockdown, Lucie Lascaux and Simon Valabrègue had an intuitive idea. “We wanted to have a fox, a stuffed animal, running down the runway. We had exactly this image in mind. That’s where we started from,” they say. The design duo found each other by intuition, it was an impulse that told them to create together. They worked together in their first and second year, and then they realised how well they clicked. They complement each other – from pattern making to sewing. For this collection, they found particular inspiration in taxidermized animals. “We thought it was a very interesting object, which shines a light on our relationship with nature’s environment or on our relationship with deaths and objects in general.” To them, the broadness of the topics seemed like a very good starting point for a collection. From then on, they wanted to create silhouettes with intention. Semantically, the idea was rooted in the expression of our relationship to objects through fashion with a sarcastic tone. The references of their collection are mostly rooted in death, they say. “For example, there was a period of craftsmanship in Paris in the 19th century, where accessories were made from a dead person’s teeth,” they add. Moreover, they were drawn to grungey images they found on the internet, prints of dead bodies on matrasses. The narrative of their collection was about this idea of birth and death and a potential rebirth. What is certain, is that the collection is a bridge between the living and the death – the joy we have and the things we fear.

Elise du Couédic, Journey to the East, BA Fashion 

Journey to the East is Elise du Coudélic’s final BA collection, exploring Chinese fashion. Inspired by a trip to China, the designer wanted to re-interpret Chinese fashion in her own way. “I really liked the fact that the traditional garments have a long train. It looks like a long road, which I find very pretty. I really wanted to incorporate that into my collection,” she says. Her garments are hybrid creations, uniting western and Chinese patterns. One of them features hand-written Chinese calligraphy. She merges a variety of materials, silk with cotton and rainproof fabric. Even though Elise’s experience had been disrupted by the pandemic, she still had a wonderful experience studying at HEAD. For now, she is on her journey to find an internship.

Alaa Alaradi, Collateral, BA Fashion

“During my process, I wanted to go with my intention, so I called it collateral,” says Alaa Alardi about her collection.  Whenever something beautiful happens within the process or some accident, it is collateral in a way. What is beautiful and special about her work is that she embraces flaws, she uses them in an intentional way. “I like to leave a grey area within my work. As soon as I see flaws or even if something does not add up, I use it to make it intentional. For example, I worked a lot with ceramics and leather. I would mould my leather before cutting or assembling it. When it didn’t exactly go as I imagined it, I just went with it,” she says. Embracing flaws is an essential quality to let the process flow. Way too often are people more concerned about perfection rather than the beauty that can come out of the process. “It all came together, in a sense where I can truly look at my work and appreciate the beauty of accidents in a very collateral way,” she says. Inspired by the Spanish painter Antoni Tàpies, Alaa admired his use of mixed materials. “Throughout his art, he used a lot of different materials, different canvasses, different techniques. It has the same atmosphere to it. His hand does it all, you can see it is coming from him.” The more you use your hands in your work, the more you can see that, and that is a beautiful thing. “I love recognising that,” she says. For her, the use of ants is a common thread throughout her work. She is the sculptor of leather and knit, she moulds, making everything imperfect into a piece of art.

 

Léanne Claude, Septembre, fin de l’été, BA Fashion

“I mostly work with Swiss Wool,” opens Léanne Claude the conversation about her Bachelor collection Septembre, fin de l’été. “I wanted to work with sustainable wool. So, I was interested about what is happening here, in Switzerland,” she adds. For most, Switzerland might not exactly be a country associated with fashion, but with traditional craftsmanship. People who work in Switzerland with the Swiss wool know everything about it, it’s really beautiful, she says. That’s how it started – the wish to make knitwear more sustainable. “My work is a bit isometric in a spontaneous way. I wanted to work on the sustainable process too, for example, I wanted to use some secondhand clothing to start the process. I used some deadstock fabric. I wanted something really minimalist. Less is more, like my vision of sustainability.” Inspired by the photographer Lina Scheynius, the designer was drawn to how the image maker captures intimacy. “It was really something I wanted to do in my work. I wanted to capture emotional intimacy within my threads.”

Carmen Soto, J’ai os ollos pleins de lágrimas, BA Fashion

Clothing carries memories. Deep down in the seams, you can still smell the coffee you spilled on your white dress, or the sweat you felt at your final exam. The idea for Carmen Soto’s collection J’ai os ollos pleins de lágrimas started from a conversation with her mother: “She told me that she could still remember the clothes that she and I were wearing when we came to Switzerland. My dress had been made by my grandmother with fabric scraps from a dress she made for my aunt. My mother still keeps this dress as an object on which she can gaze and travel back in time for 30 years,” Carmen says. It is a beautiful symbol of uprooting and the hope that comes with starting a new life. The beauty of a blank page, the ray of sun that feels warmer than ever, when a new chapter is about to start. “It is very much the materialisation of migration,” she adds. “What stroke me was this perpetual reuse and transformation of a piece of memory and a piece of fabric that clashed. This is why I decided to only use existing pieces of clothes which I transform.” Carmen’s collection patchworks materials together like the brain collages memories. Pink silk meets delicate tulle, stretchy red jersey meets fragile white lace. She wanted to experiment with the fabrics, see what they can be once she preserves them with sugar. Her preservation worked as the passage between generations, made through saudade. “Saudade could be described as a feeling of nostalgia for places, people or even moments which, in the case of children and migrants, we have only known through stories told by our parents. It is to feel the past through the memories of others,” she says. In her collection, the nostalgia she feels is symbolised by tears. Carmen wanted to visualise this by tears that are crystallized into a solid state, materialized by sugar, which could disappear again- just like the tears and their sadness. “My five looks represent five different moments in the life of a displaced person. These looks are the illustration of a reflection that ran in my mind throughout the whole semester. It is the conceptualization of another body measured on mine.”

Norma Morel, Don’t be scared be yourselt,  BA Fashion 

As the collection title suggests, Norma Morel’s graduate collection, Don’t be scared, be yourselt, is inspired by Celtic historical references. “I wanted to tackle a subject that is close to my heart, which is the Celtic universe that inspired my whole aesthetic. It is not only ancestral motifs but also the religious aesthetics and the appearance of warriors,” she says. The centrepiece of her collection is the tartan, which has been first used by the Celts through the kilt. It helped her find her way through her collection like a red thread. “I wanted to deepen my roots in Celtic culture, which is a part of me by creating my own tartan. I had it woven in Scotland,” she adds. Another part that inspired her collection is punk. Inspired by the queen of punk, Vivienne Westwood, Norma pays homage to the icon who inspired her from day one. The disruption of the system, and the bravery to be different and to speak up. Mixing it with contemporary references, which is executed in her choice of colour, material, shape, detail or even her model casting, she is reinventing the subculture in itself. She wanted to reflect the spirit of androgyny, which was very present during the punk movement. “My pieces were guided by classical garments, such as the shirt, the trench, the kilt or the jeans. Through the construction details, I have developed the cuts and design of my pieces, keeping the punk aesthetic in mind as well as the more artisanal work I found in Celtic culture.” Metal is also an important part of her work- she chose to work with it where it floats with the rhythm of the body, easily moulded into it. It allows her to reinterpret the armour by making it dangerous and fragile at the same time.

Sophie Raynard, Oeil Moteur, BA Fashion

Everything progresses constantly. Phones get optimized, apps get more efficient and televisions get bigger. Scientific progress is an integral part of our daily lives. “I am fascinated by all the spectacular advances that our society can make today. However, I am both concerned and disappointed by the way in which all this progress is used,” says the designer Sophie Raynard. Her graduate collection Oeil moteur, is a collection that is mocking the scientific progress and advances in our society. “It highlights the absurdity of useless progress in which billions are invested, such as space tourism. The idea of space tourism was launched by Elon Musk, who did everything he could to make it feasible,” she adds. Following that period, experiments were conducted for that one trip to space that was meant to last for about 9 months. All those experiments were conducted in a space similar to a classical greenhouse. “The experiment was supposed to last at least two months, but they realised after a few weeks that the culture did not take the space conditions into consideration.” According to Sophie, this is a serious and societal issue, but the collection treats the subject with humour to make it easier to deal with. “Motor Eye represents a team of five super girls who set out to conquer space. Dressed in futuristic clothes, animated by mechanisms with absurd functions,” she says.

Nabila Mdaghri, Ce n’est pas parce que la vie n’est pas élégante qu’il faut se conduire comme elle, BA Fashion

Nabila Mdaghi’s final BA collection is menswear only. Before she started this course, she worked for a brand, which got her into menswear. “There, I got really interested in menswear – how they are dressed, because not every man looks the same. There is tailoring, so many details and so many small things that are very important,” she says. In her collection, she wanted to incorporate her love for tailoring and merge the thought of traditional menswear with more feminine aspects. “For me, I think it’s sad when all men dress the same way. That’s why I wanted to expand the world of menswear a bit.” Inspired by the people she sees outside, she says that the act of observing is her biggest source of creativity. “I get inspired by what is around me. I get inspired when I work with my friends, seeing how they are dressed. I also get inspired by my own wardrobe. Nabila merges traditional tailoring shapes with bright colours and a touch of gender fluidity, for the modern man who vows to expression over conformity.

Tanguy Mélinand, 10/03/2014, BA Fashion

“On Monday, the 10th of March 2014, a fire occurred in my childhood home,” says Tanguy Mélinand. Naming his final collection after this event, he wanted to transcended and re-transcribe the emotions it evoked. “This collection is a story whose development is based on the chronology of a series of photos taken by my father, who reported the disaster to our insurance,” he says. Going through the images, Tanguy drew reference to each photo in an individual look. “Each look in this collection depicts a specific fragment of this event. The clothes unfold this disaster, one after the other, as it happened factually, showing the different stages of personal understanding of this trauma.” His clothes, partly made out of seaweed, show the progressive evolution of the fire that took over the house. Looking at it further, it represents the distance that gradually settles between the event and the memory, Tanguy says. “The changes in the state of mind are this collection’s main object of study. I am passionate about experimenting with materials, ingenious manipulations, collaborations and textile innovations. Those techniques have allowed me to approach this concept more closely,” he adds. Concerned about the state of the world and the desire to make things more sustainable, Tanguy gravitates towards upcycling to turn his dreams into reality. For his collection, he also collaborated with the ceramic artist Nathalie Louarn, which led both of them to the recycling of enamel, which turned the jewellery and accessories into surprising colours. To develop his collection, he wanted to develop a material himself. Expressing his spirit, Tanguy developed a durable material containing marine algae. “Having grown up in contact with them, seaweed has always fascinated me and seemed to have immense potential as a raw material. Creating this innovation has allowed me to include a part of my personal history in the creation of a collection that is just as personal.”

Léonie Dubois, “Raconte-moi comment c’était avant”, BA Fashion

Translated to Tell me how it was before in English, Raconte-moi comment c’était avant is an invitation to remember, says the designer Léonie Dubois. “This collection is a way to perpetuate a heritage of memory by reinterpreting them today. It’s a poetic parenthesis to the unstoppable time, a moment of appeasement,” she says. In true sustainable fashion, each piece is a momentum, meant to be kept as a treasured item, intended to be passed down to the next generation. “Inspired by my mother and my childhood, this project aims to enhance fashion through nostalgia, emotion and playfulness brought by the use of artistic techniques of childhood, spontaneous activities like hobbies and manual work,” says Léonie. Her process strikes with strong research and experimentation. Her creations aim to bring a depth into fashion design by creating clothes that arouse an emotion so there is more attachment and value to the final piece– because, by the end of the day, what attaches us to clothing, is emotion. To realise this approach, Léonie did a deep-dive into her mother’s wardrobe, which is packed with precious items of the 1980s and 1990s: “Ulitimately, my creative approach in this project is to find that tension between something visually vintage that evokes a sense of timelessness, which subsequently allows the object to retain its value over time,” she says. Léonie drew a lot of inspiration from the act of creating manually – adding buttons, patchworking, and the magic of creating at the moment. For the designer, the essence of creation lies in the moment: the unexpected visuals that cross our minds or the forgotten things that randomly resurface our minds. “In our world of throwaway stuff, there is something essential about keeping hold of nice things that belong to someone you love. They touch your skin, the smell of them, the idea they use to wear and live in it. The memory of the garment. The memory of love, a wearable memory,” she says. Because in the end, what ties us to clothing is not the fabric code, it is the memories we made in it, good and bad.

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