Representing the creative future

Modeklasse 2024: Between myth and well-made garments

Discover the collections and sketchbooks of the 2024 Modeklasse designers, taught by Craig Green

In a recent article for Vogue Germany, journalist Alexandra Bondi de Antoni described the Modeklasse, the fashion course at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, as follows: “There is no other fashion course that is so ignored, yet so mystified as the Modeklasse in Vienna.” She has a point – Vienna isn’t exactly a fashion capital; some people don’t even know that Austria isn’t Australia. Yet still, the Modeklasse is a highly respected course, fostering a new generation of industry talent. Besides the affordable fees, the Modeklasse sets itself apart even more by employing an industry professional as a guest tutor every three years. Last year, the British menswear designer Craig Green was appointed as the new guest professor, following in the footsteps of Grace Wales Bonner, Hussein Chalayan, Vivienne Westwood, and Lucie and Luke Meier. The Viennese fashion department might be unheard of, but with its unique learning approach, it might be ahead of the curve. In the world of fashion education, it might even be the best-kept secret there is. Notable alumni include Martina Tiefenthaler, CCO of Balenciaga, and most recently, Christoph Rumph, a young independent designer in Paris.

This year, the Modeklasse is showcasing the works of six graduates. They have all been influenced and inspired by different themes, but what connects them is the knowledge passed on by their professors, tutors, and industry professionals. Thanks to the Modeklasse technical team, they learned what a well-made garment is supposed to look like and, more importantly, how to make it, says graduate Oliver Kuzma. A qualitative approach meets a modern outlook, it seems. “During my five years of studying fashion, I experienced three different approaches under three different industry professionals and gained valuable insights from each of them that I will carry with me forever,” says Viola Kollár, another graduate of this year’s cohort. She describes her experience with Craig Green as very impactful; he took the time to discuss all the details and made the effort to put them into words. “Once, on a presentation day, one of our tutors forwarded a message from him to me. It was clear that he genuinely cared about me and thoughtfully considered my ideas,” she says.

“My approach to leading the fashion department is centered on the belief that the future of human-led innovation lies not only in embracing technology but also in understanding that genuinely original ideas stem from physical craftsmanship and hands-on interaction with materials. Our responsibility as educators is to encourage creative thinking by empowering our students with these necessary skills to express ideas and explore concepts freely,” Craig Green explains. The newly appointed professor’s aim is to push innovation and originality in fashion design, encouraging students to be fearless and bold. In addition to the university’s internal jury, this year’s collections were judged by Simon Chilvers, Lulu Kennedy, and Serge Carreira.

After their studies, the six graduates are now ready to take the world of fashion by storm. Meet Pouran, Martyna, Alissa, Oliver, Viola, and Yuliya and their final collections.

Alissa Herbig

Throughout her studies, Alissa Herbig realized that she enjoyed hand-making things the most. Therefore, naturally, incorporating her deep love for hand-crafts in connection to queer feminist conversations into her collection was a no-brainer. Strictly speaking, she started her collection in her second year while she was working on a project focused on reinterpreting traditional garments. “As part of this project, we took a trip to Montafon in the Alps, where we learned embroidery techniques from Maria, an elderly woman with a deep knowledge of traditional crafting techniques. This experience was incredibly enriching and led to my passion for incorporating traditional craftsmanship into my work,” she says.

During her student days, Alissa loved to go to the Wienerberg flea market near her home in Vienna. “I spend a lot of my Sunday mornings there. Every time I come across a hand-knitted cardigan, I get incredibly excited! It’s a bit like the feeling I get when my grandma or sister gifts me a pair of hand-knitted socks in the wildest color combinations. For me, handmade textiles and clothing capture the love and care put into creating them. They hold a special, warm feeling.” Alissa moved to Austria about nine years ago. She immediately started thrifting traditional clothing. “One of my favorite finds was a white wedding Dirndl with huge puffy sleeves and pearl embroidery, made from silk. Austrian Trachten often have these eccentric silhouettes and opulent details, which was completely new to me,” she says.

Prior to living in Austria, Alissa associated Trachten with the German Oktoberfest in a very traditional, rather conservative context. Discovering the details in those garments was really exciting for her. Still, she didn’t touch them for a long time when it came to her projects – until now. “I was put off by their conservative and patriarchal undertones, which made me hesitant to use them despite my fascination with their beauty and craftsmanship,” she says. After a lot of research, she was ready to reinterpret Trachten clothing from a feminist perspective in her collection.

After another study trip to London, Alissa was drawn to archives and the notion of archiving a craft. She started making her collection by delving into academic research on craft, archives, and traditional clothing. She began to experiment with techniques like felting, knitting, embroidery, and painting. “I sourced flea markets as part of my research, hunting for the perfect traditional pieces and handcrafted textiles to serve as the foundation of my collection. I initially developed techniques and silhouettes separately before merging them throughout the process. The collection went through about three major transformations as I iterated and refined, constantly seeking the right balance of elements that felt contemporary and authentic to my vision.”

Yuliya Hlazun

Overcoming the pressure to make “the best collection of your life” is arguably part of most students’ processes. For Yuliya Hlazun, it was her biggest challenge. But fortunately, she overcame it, and the glorious result is her collection. “The starting point was a quote by the artist The Wa. It said, “Here just to scream”. Why do I scream? When do I scream? Am I happy or desperate? I began my research without knowing exactly what I was looking for,” she says. When she was starting to work on the collection, she started to imagine a character and created a microcosmos around them. This character was inspired by a video she saw on Instagram, which depicted a guy who was seemingly in trance, walking in a long, dramatic vine red jersey Superman cape, which was attached to a T-shirt. He wore this in combination with torn, black, dirty jeans on a very sunny day in a busy city. “The absurdity and the contrast of his dark, lost appearance and bright yellow midday sun was a perfect metaphor for our society.

Expectations that we need to fulfil on an everyday basis like being nice and proper when we actually don’t feel like it.” Sometimes, even for multiple days in a row, Yuliya does not feel like doing anything. She does not even want to leave her apartment. She is starting to feel miserable. All she does is drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and listen to music. “But then, somebody rings the bell, and you quickly need to throw the best piece of fabric on yourself and run downstairs to pick up the post. This is what my collection is about.” She loves the beauty or everyday objects. The feel of bedsheets when you just dance in front of the mirror. She’s done that a lot, so she wanted to translate that feeling into garments. “Oversized sequins are the main decorative element of the collection. Combination of low-key and very extra helps to highlight the contrast of two very opposite states of mind that are essential for this work – desperation and celebration.” The whole process of making the collection was about the fabrics. She wanted to explore the textures and different materials like jersey, wool, leather, mesh, knit and mix them together. “My vision was to create something garment and real (almost boring), with all those seams and finishes that I am so obsessed about. At the same time, I wanted to make something with a light draping that had been fixed with just two little hand stitches.”


Oliver Kuzma

Oliver Kuzma is a Baudelaire connoisseur. The poem “Spleen” was the catalyst, the starting point for his graduate collection. “The idea that one has all this luxury and time while still being miserable just didn’t make any sense to me. Time has become a luxury nowadays in a very toxic capitalist society. However, somehow in this absurdity, beauty still blossoms,” he says. Oliver was very struck by a quote by Emil Cioran, which says, “yesterday, today, tomorrow – these are servants’ categories.” To Oliver, this quote is fascinating yet liberating. “Once you lose track of time and just capitulate to the absurd, everything becomes cathartic. The shackles of time shed and your creativity set free. This realization was very important for me this year.”

During his time in the Modeklasse, he had the privilege to learn what a well-made garment is supposed to look like, which helped him to find out what his collection should be. In fact, Oliver’s collection isn’t just a collection. It’s a wardrobe. A wardrobe for his favorite writers, artists, and poets. It would be a glimpse into what they’d wear today, were they alive. He wanted to create their perfect wardrobe. Imagine suits, jackets and coats, lining trousers all the way down, and little intricate details. Long story short – he made luxury in its purest form: high quality.

When it came to making the wardrobe, he was in his element – Oliver loves tailoring. Mostly inspired by Victorian and Edwardian menswear, he researched a lot of historical garments and patterns to understand everything. “That made things really difficult because you really have to nail the pattern. You really have to consider the shoulders of each individual, the protrusion of their shoulder blades, and how they stand,” he says. The results are made-to-measure looks. You see them and, struck by the high level of craftsmanship and artisan refinement, you immediately think, they barely make them like this anymore. “These are garments that take a long time to be made, they needed a lot of fabric, and there is no space to cut any corners. Simply what luxury fashion was before big conglomerates and big businesses. Highlighting craftsmanship over theatrics and crowd-pleasing. It might not get me the attention or draw many eyes in, but it draws genuine and appreciative people in, which is the audience I want to reach.”

Pouran Parvizi

For her final collection, Pouran Parvizi dug deep into the notion of the gaze and its ever-transforming power. “Fashion, in this context becomes a medium for discourse – a political canvas for shaping messages, challenging perceptions and revealing how micro politics become macro politics,” she says. With her final collection, she aimed to create her own language within her own universe. Starting with a self-monologue, there were a lot of notes, research papers and agendas to connect the gap between her fluid identity from fashion to anti-fashion. “My intention was not to make a conclusion or find an answer, but to initiate a dialogue with myself in the first place and hopefully with others.” Pouran’s collection thrives of her intuitive approach. By accepting her fluid identity and challenging the concept of perception, she tried to create garments that question the norms and start the dialogue. Designed for a woman who is constantly changing, multitasking and being herself, this collection aims to celebrate femininity in all its glory. By doing that, the garments become so much more than just fashion – they become intricate symbols of experimentation and self-expression. To create the garments, Pouran inspected her own wardrobe and studied the relationship between the clothes and the body. “As I open my closet, I don’t just see an array of garments, I see endless possibilities, where every object holds significance.

This holistic perspective served as the foundation of my design ethos – a narrative that extends beyond mere clothing to embrace a dialogue on identity, perception and inclusivity.” For Pouran, a garment is something that can tell you a lot about yourself, almost like a non-verbal language. In her process, she mostly enjoyed playing with the perception and the conventions of the garment and its making. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Pouran’s interest in fashion fosters from her endless curiosity in her surroundings. The collection’s creative process was heavily influenced by reevaluating and reinterpreting the objects that surround us and infusing those linked to the garments with a new meaning. She repurposed and re-imagined but most importantly, she created a universe within her collection. “Each garment in this collection goes beyond being just an outfit; it serves as a medium for personal expression, effortlessly transitioning from day to night, from casual wear to evening attire; a trouser becomes a dress, a jacket becomes a skirt and bodywear transforms into evening wear. Each piece embodies the transformative power of design, reshaping the wearer’s identity with every wear.”

Viola Kollár

Most people keep their diary to themselves, but for Viola Kollár, it inspired her collection idea. “I have been writing this kind of journal for years, but it’s not very structured. Sometimes, I just list the mundane things I did, such as work, school, or meeting friends, without getting into the details. Other days, I only write about a secondhand bag I bought, providing every detail about the bag and nothing about the day. I once told a friend about this, and he said that I should turn it into a collection,” she says. The collection’s seven looks represent seven days in Viola’s life. Of course, not every day is super exciting, but all of them have an emotional significance. “A see-through bias-cut slip dress with no added details represents vulnerability for me, but I pair it with gloves, shoes, and a bag for a fully ‘armed’ look. Often, fashion arms the insecurities.”

Inspiration-wise, Viola was very inspired by long-forgotten designers, and Antonio Berardi made a particular impression on her. He is an underrated fashion designer who was never really respected during his time. His taste subtly influenced the collection. Most people in fashion school love making garments and dream of creating couture gowns for red carpets, but Viola realized how much she loves to create shoes and accessories. “I truly believe that a bad outfit, but a good pair of shoes, can save the look, but not the other way around.” Naturally, she wanted to give a big stage to the shoes, bags, and gloves in her collection. To manufacture these, she even took a course in shoemaking last year. “I enjoyed working with leather so much that I ended up making a bag, then another one, and another one as well. My focus shifted entirely to accessories, so when it came to making the garments, I wanted to keep them simple and raw.”

Martyna Bierut

When Martyna Bierut thinks about her collection process, she describes it as intuitive. It started with her reflecting on emotionality and rationality and how those two affect her. “I often commend myself for being rational and view my emotionality as a weakness. I realized this perception stems from societal views, where rationality – characterized by mathematical and logical thinking guided by reason and intellect – is considered a masculine trait, while emotionality – often associated with hysteria and abstract thinking – is deemed feminine,” she says. From then on, she began to dive deep into the dualisms of order and chaos, masculinity and femininity, and other contrasts. She found solace by observing nature, where “these elements merge more seamlessly and coexist harmoniously without the constraints of societal rules.”

When it came to making the garments, Martyna trusted her intuition and used the freehand crochet technique. This technique is more abstract and different from conventional methods by not counting the loops using pattern calculations. “I wanted to perceive the pieces I crocheted as painted canvases of landscapes. I used my crochet hook as a brush and my yarn as paint. Every single small loop is filled with some of my emotion, from joy and contentment to pain and fear,” she adds. One big duality Martyna is shedding light on is the difference between art and craft – where are the boundaries between the two? And why is one more respected than the other? “Textile work is often relegated to the realm of feminine craft, seen as lesser than art because it originates from women’s household chores.”

During the process, she threw herself into the deep end, partially taking on the role of the housewife and a painter in order to redefine the perception of crocheted fabric by infusing it with the essence of fine art and presenting it to the public. “The process was very long and physically painful. It took a lot of time before I could see any results, which was both frustrating and frightening,” she says. By undertaking this intense process, Martyna managed to blend two abstract worlds together, creating artful garments suitable for everyday wear.