Representing the creative future

LCF MA Fashion 2023: deep research meets a unique vision

Discover the collections and sketchbooks of this year’s LCF MA Fashion class

The MA fashion course at London College of Fashion gave its annual show, presenting the work of menswear, womenswear, knitwear and footwear students during London Fashion Week. “In the eighteen months of our MA journey, we have built a small family – but above all, we all are challenged to find and express our voice as designers,” says Clementine Baldo, MA womenswear graduate. “Our Fashion programme director Jessica Saunders and course leader Nabil El-Nayal are keen to cultivate our values, ethics and responsibility towards sustainable fashion,” she continues.

In a world threatened by crisis, LCF’S young designers seek alternative methods to bring their ideas to life, without harming the planet too much. Sourcing responsibly and locally is on top of the list.

Looking through the students’ work feels like flicking through a storybook. Each collection tells an utterly personal story through seams, pins and pieces of fabric. Louis Mayhew is marrying art and craft by showcasing his past as a painter and decorator, Yaqi Shi is looking into the social meaning of the suit and Luting Chen is redefining the ideology of sizes and body shapes in menswear.

It is hard to sum up the class of 2023 in one paragraph yet one sentence, but it is visible that these well-researched collections are not just there to be looked at, they are here to question and critique. These clothes might not always be wearable, but they have something to say, in a day and age where blending in is favoured over standing out.

We sat down with seven graduates from this year’s MA class to discuss their collections, inspirations and processes.


Louis Mayhew

Louis Mayhem created his graduate collection “Shortcuts”, inspired by his time working as a painter and decorator. “I looked at my colleagues and myself, and the way we were modifying our clothing. Personally, I define shortcuts as hacks or modifications done to our clothing to enhance their functionality, comfortability aesthetic or longevity,” he says. Looking at his clothing, is reminiscent of a juxtaposition of different stories, highlighting the fine line between aesthetics and craftsmanship. “Painting, decorating, and the construction industry offer me a lot of research which ultimately leads to workwear references,” the designer adds. Led by innovation, the designer’s process is about sustainability. By getting his materials second-hand, he was able to produce his collection at a minimal cost. For example, he used a local recycling initiative, the Watford Recycling Arts Project, for all his fabric. The low cost wasn’t the only advantage; the freedom this process gave him was another plus in terms of development. “Because I made the collection myself, I had to find ways of making life simpler. This included a zero-waste pattern-cutting technique derived from a basic formulaic process. A simple process that was simplified by painting the fabric edges – meaning the seams could be sewn edge to edge for construction ease.” Post-graduation, Louis wants to continue building his design practice based on innovation and a slow,locally-minded approach.

Min-Ji Kim 

Being Korean, Min-Ji Kim’s graduate collection “UnIVerSaLly DoMiNanT” is about her bi-cultural identity, formed by her origins and American influences. “I used pin-up magazines from the 1950s that my grandfather collected during the Korean War whilst fighting alongside American soldiers,” she says, talking about the main narrative in her collection. “There are many images of women draped with objects sold primarily to men and I see this through the lens of strength and power of the feminine body. I convey strength through using colour, textiles, glass and bold silhouettes to capture masculine tropes that add that back onto the body,” she adds. During the Korean war, Kim’s grandfather was a pilot. His pilot suit harness, the double-breasted jacket, the tie, and the tailored waistcoats make a frequent appearance in her looks. She took these pieces and juxtaposed them with female elements, found in 1950s imagery she found – ranging from bikinis to big tulle skirts.

The designer likes to play, whether that is through materials, shapes or blowing elements out of proportion, such as the life-size tie around a model’s neck or the giant blazer that exaggerates on the shoulders, a typical element of power within dressing. “Initially, I played around with placing glass on the body as a vehicle to convey the playfulness of random objects on the woman’s body, sold to men via the magazines,” she says. Whilst she made that discovery, she was knitting on two types of knitting machines: a domestic one and an industrial one, to bring more of her own visual textile language into the collection. “It was difficult to find the balance of the avant-garde and ready-to-wear,” the designer shares, touching on an issue a lot of designers are facing. Standing out is great, but a balance is what makes a collection cohesive. By the end, Min-Ji found exactly that – a balance, which makes her embrace her identity as a designer.

Yaqui Shi

Yaqi Shi’s final collection “S|HE[She|He|They]” is about redefining the power of womenswear by depicting the beauty of the female body by simply exaggerating its curves. “The project started with my obsession with men’s suits,” the designer says. “The neat construction, tailoring, details, and craftsmanship– all these are characteristics of men’s suits that I admire and would like to bring to womenswear,” she continues. Whilst coming up with this idea, she finished reading the book The Second Sex by French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. “After reading it I found that loose suits are actually hiding women’s femininity. At the same time, this is an acknowledgement that masculinity is superior to femininity, which contradicts the idea of ‘the power suit’,” she says. With this collection, she wanted to challenge power– what it means and what it stands for by constructing exaggerated curves and exposing parts of the female body to redefine a strong sense of female power. The references in her collection range from traditional tailoring techniques over streamlined sculptures to hat-making techniques. Her process was a journey. Iniatially, she used think foam material to drape a large and exaggerated silhouette. “After reflecting on these processes, I found that these big silhouettes actually violated my original intention. Although the effect of exaggerating the curves of the female body is achieved, it actually covers the female body more.” Subsequently, the designer tasked herself with exaggerating the curves whilst showing the basic lines of the body – keeping a balance of the natural and the imagined.

Aditi Sarna

In India, classical dances are often performed barefoot. What might look beautiful, can be to the detriment of the foot. This issue inspired “Chhaap”, the graduate collection of MA footwear student Aditi Sarna. “The collection is promoting healthy feet among Indian classical dancers by providing them foot coverings for practising or performing the age-old beautiful norm of art, which is Indian classical dance,” she says. Inspired by her upbringing in India, Aditi saw her mother and grandmother as well as herself performing the dance from a very young age. “There are certain traditions that have been formulated centuries ago and these beliefs have been accepted and taught from one generation to one another. Growing up, I began questioning some of the reasons and developed certain reservations about certain notions– the biggest concern was not being able to wear footwear while dancing,” she adds. Looking back on her past, she came across issues that were tough, from calluses to friction burns. Once she identified the issue, she began to interview several Indian dancers to find out how many people were aware of this issue. “The ultimate goal was to make footwear or a covering to protect and prevent the injuries and deformities that arise due to barefoot dancing, minimising or nullifying them and ultimately revolutionising a concept that not only adheres to the traditions but also elevates the art form and broadens its horizon beyond the stage.” To understand this, she studied the postures of Indian dancers to understand the fluidity of their leg movements and studying how they can be transformed into a shoe To stay as close as possible to the dance, she only took two components – alta, the red dye colour, and ghungroos, the ankle bells. The aim behind it all was to give the look and feel of the ultimate barefoot dancing experience without having to compromise on any traditional aspects of Indian classical dance. Her biggest challenge was to critically question a topic so close to her, she says. “To incorporate footwear in a dance form that is performed barefoot, it was extremely important to understand the reasons for its forbidding. The biggest challenge was to preserve the authenticity of the traditions of Indian classical dance as the culture and beliefs of this art are so strong that even the slightest diversion from the roots or the essence was not an option.” The result led her to create almost-invisible footwear, as closest to the skin as possible. By wearing this, the dancers will be able to dance without sacrificing their health in return.

Luting Chen

When we talk about fashion, we talk a lot about womenswear.  Why is nobody talking about menswear? Well, Luting Chen is. Her final collection “Timeless”, is about menswear, and more particularly about a new sizing system that is more inclusive, and more sustainable. “When we talk about menswear, good fit and clean look are the key points to success for a brand to survive. It is necessary for a brand to fix its size system to achieve a customer’s trust and satisfaction. A good fit can only be achieved through an actual sizing structure of the body,” she says, paraphrasing Abdul Manan. Our bodies change constantly during a lifetime – a fact, which fashion does not cater towards, but against. Clothes don’t grow with you, they grow against you. “I am trying to design a size system with tailoring techniques to make garments suitable for men of different sizes and ages so that the garments can last a lifetime and always fit, which is also a way of sustainable design because the lifetime of garments is extended, and waste problems caused by unfitting are avoided,” she adds. To solve the issue she detected, she did a lot of research on the size system. Attached to frustrations, the size system does not reflect real bodies and makes retailers, as well as consumers, experience clothing that does not fit. “Another key point of the project is to consider the size system of clothing to understand the changes and characteristics of the male body shape at different ages and the needs of this fluid body shape mapping on clothing. I did research with papers and books, from which it can be seen that, with the increase of age, the correlation between body shape change and body weight is most significant in the middle torso, followed by the lower torso and arm parts, followed by the joint and rotor parts.” Luting’s project is a testament to what sizing can be – the potential is huge and it needs to cater towards bodies, instead of against them. Just like the NYC-based influencer Abby Bible said, which Luting quoted: “Unfortunately, a lot of luxury designers exclude the plus-size market because they think we are all living in temporary bodies.” Maybe that is the mindset that has to be changed.

Dong Feng

When the words “first home” are mentioned, one usually thinks of the four walls they grew up in. The memories that inhabit dusty corners and the scent of fresh air when you open the windows. Dong Feng, took the words more literally. “My concept is about the womb, we were conceived and protected in the womb. Therefore, I named my collection first home,” he says. In the mother’s womb, we are protected from all the weight that is in the world. “With the world developing rapidly, many people have psychological issues and feel insecure; insecurity is also a type of mental illness. I am also insecure, so I was inspired by protection, protection of the body and mind because I feel very comfortable “hiding” in my clothes.” The womb is comfortable, the world isn’t. With his clothing, he wants to create a sense of comfort, almost like an installation hugging the body. “In addition to researching the womb, I read some books and articles about colours and fabrics in order to find out which ones would make people feel more comfortable and regulate their mood,” he says. The result is a colourful collection, seemingly so comfortable in all its padding, that you would just like to jump into it and take a nap. Before diving into his project, Dong first had to learn about the womb and all its complexities. “Each womb structure in this project corresponds to a part of the garment. The womb will keep changing shape with the baby inside since it is growing. The silhouette of the clothes will take different forms,” he adds. In the end, the designer reached a high level of comfort and sustainability, just like it should be.

Clementine Baldo

Exploring the concept of the monster, Clementine Baldo’s collection “KER- I rather be a monster than a woman”, questions the process of restoring intimacy and reconnecting with the body after sexual and domestic violence. “I want to use my creative voice to raise awareness about domestic and sexual abuse and celebrate survivors through the representation of the healing process,” she says. KER stands for a creative collective of artists, who are united by the desire to represent a wider spectrum of what domestic and sexual violence is, which she founded with the photographer Eugénie Flochel. “In my collection, I have focused on the expression of corporality and on a violent and vulnerable feminist message regarding society’s new view of the female body,” she adds. In our day and age, we recognise the unrealistic standards that are imposed on women’s bodies – from unhealthy thinness to everlasting youth. The monster is a metaphor for the human form and defiance of social pressures, says the designer. Her creative voice is driven by a statement from Ferris, which says: “I would rather be a monster than a woman, it seems easier.” Clementine herself grew up in a family of artists and studied art history and fine art. Her collection has been inspired by a mix of artists’ works and academic research from Ana Mendieta’s work “Untitled” to the symbolism of the breast. In her process, she symbolically destroys her own body to nurture a violent yet vulnerable version of female corporality.