Representing the creative future

Modeklasse 2023: Guided by Grace Wales Bonner

Discover the collections and process of this year’s Modeklasse students

Imagine learning your craft from no other than Hussein Chalayan, the iconic Jil Sander duo Lucie and Luke Meier, and Grace Wales Bonner. This class, the diploma graduates of the Modeklasse, the fashion department of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna did that.

Situated in Austria, the university puts a big approach to bringing designers in as tutors, so students have the chance to learn first-hand how to translate their practice into the real world. Former teachers of this department include Raf Simons and even Vivienne Westwood, who met her husband Andreas Kronthaler whilst teaching at the university. Over the duration of 8 semesters, the students indulge in research, craft and skills.

“One of the things that I appreciate the most is the opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration and interaction with students from different departments and disciplines,” says Johannes Hartmann, one of the graduates. “This vibrant exchange of ideas opens up a world of possibilities,” he adds. Moreover, the cohort of students comes from all over the world, interacting with your peers, therefore, truly broadens your horizon, Johannes says. Collaboration allows for work not only to flourish but to expand beautifully.

The student cohort of 2023 is the last class graduating under the guidance of Grace Wales Bonner. You can see her traces in the students’ work, shown in meticulous research and deep thought put into the garments they are making. It is almost like having beautiful works of art walking down the runway, carried with grace. It is clear that the students are starting to question the system, whether they need to make new clothes or just reference the archives. It is a challenge – one that this class may have completed for now.

Julian Schock

It all started in Milan. At the Fondazione Prada, he saw the Elmgreen and Dragset exhibition “Useless Bodies”.  Looking at the art, the term “liminality” became important to Julian. Tracing it back, that is where his graduate collection xxx started. “Liminality is the space between two states of existences or places, it is the transitional point. To me, it can also be the point between the idea of a past and a future. The liminal spot would be the present moment, never quite “there” to arrive,” he says. From there on, he started playing with motion, seeing clothing as something dressing a vehicle. “I saw myself at this liminal threshold, being in my last year of studies and working between different realms of experience. I also see this as an immersive point of power to draw bold connections from,” he adds. So, he designed garments that serve as a hybrid between business and sportswear, making distinctions between different categories blend into one. In his creation process, it started around the idea of the queer male. “I believe that a garment is an object, so the pieces are meant for everyone. Grace Wales Bonner called it a fusion of the essences of a runner, romantic drapes and perverted tailoring. In a way, I began designing a holistic wardrobe for this collection without ever planning it.”

Johannes Hartmann 

“Maybe there is an alternative” is the title of Johannes Hartmann’s final collection. To him, the collection “pays sensitive attention to the interference of neoliberal imperatives in the intimate fabrics, which upholds the human.” His collection could be seen as a beautiful marriage of fashion and art, practicality and expression. “The individual pieces of this collection are a composite of wearable garments and soft sculptures that interact with each other to create a complex and nuanced sensory experience. The garments offer a sensitive portrayal of the body, accentuating its vulnerability and evoking emotive responses, whilst the soft sculptures distort and extend it.” To add to the sensory experience, he incorporates elements of sound, painting or sculpture into his garments. During his time studying, he even undertook a guest semester in the transmedia art department, led by Jakob Lena Knebl. “This experience allowed me to deepen my engagement with this particular artistic medium and integrate it into my practice as a fashion designer,” he says. As for his collection, the clothing explores the privatisation of joy, happiness, emotions, and needs, whilst showcasing a shift towards individualisation, fostered by capitalism. “Central to this work is the recognition that joy and happiness cannot be purely a private matter, but rather are inextricably intertwined with communal experiences.”

Karolin Braegger 

Karolin Braegger’s work is based on curiosity and attention to detail. The relationship to her work is defined by the fact that she always wants to get through to the bottom of things. The process for her graduate collection arguably started when she was visiting an exhibition with her mother when she was 17 years old. “The exhibition featured Andy Warhol flowers, but they were made by another artist, Elaine Sturtevant. I pointed that out to my mother, and she said that copying things exactly as they are lies within the freedom of creating art,” Karolin says. More recently, she sat in the kitchen with friends, discussing artistic gestures and collections that have a certain radicality to them meaning reduction and decidedness. “We googled the origin of the word radical, and it actually comes from the Latin term radicalis, which basically means rooted,” she adds. “My initial idea, I actually had it in my first year of studying, for this final collection was to take archival pieces and radically copy them – something from Comme des Garçons, something from Margiela. My favourite outfits from different designers, the ones I never considered to be „out“. I was tempted to copy them one-to-one, or even borrow them from an archive,” she says.

In her design practice, she uses the copy as a tool to imitate and understand the procedure during the process. She works with patchwork, using textiles from different sources. The materials are screen-printed, including appropriated text fragments. She tends to put a lot of emphasis on textile manipulation in her work. Reflected in her graduate collection, she finds a strange contradiction in today’s fashion world – you constantly have to create something new whilst referencing the archives. Therefore, her collection is about the reference and the difference between the copy, the fake and the original.

Laura Hoermann

Inspired by Richard Wagner, Laura Hoermann dedicated her graduate collection to his work Tristan und Isolde. Her collection “Nacht-Geweihte – Tristan und Isolde” is a romantic exploration of the opera. “I like to create little worlds within my collections. I want people to dive into it and unfold it. This opera was the perfect way to prepare for this process,” she says. With her garments, she is telling the story of the characters. “They are reflected in the music, but not visibly. I am trying to create them; through the music I hear and the emotions that are created by it. I am drawing along those lines, forming the silhouettes and making them into vivid characters.” In her process, Laura always chooses a theme ahead of creating a new collection. She discovered this opera and knew that she could create a world around it. For Laura, the constant need for novelty presents one of the biggest challenges that fashion students are currently facing. “On one hand, we wish to create new things, on the other, we know that the process of creation and production should be limited. Also, mentally, there is this idea of novelty, that fashion in the best case, should never be repeated. Still, everyone takes inspiration from former ideas. I think this is a dilemma of tension between interests.: