Representing the creative future

Ravensbourne Fashion: Class of 2022

Discover the sketchbooks and final looks of the 15 graduates from Ravensbourne university

What do you present after three years of university, when two of them happened in the whirlwind of online learning and social distancing? “I think a lot of people would see this as a disadvantage. But I wouldn’t say so. Lockdown allowed us to focus on ourselves, and our work. Being in our rooms made us face it- we were not permanently exposed to the work of the other students and therefore couldn’t compare us to each other as much”, says Lillian Clark, one of this year’s Ravensbourne fashion graduates. For some, this was the relief of pressure, for others, it was less bright. “For the first time in my life, I felt the importance of freedom. It was so depressing. I needed to get through this and document it”, shares Weina Zheng.

It’s always hard to sum up a show of fifteen people into simple words, every sketchbook is the entry point to a vision, a world where creativity rules over everything. It is a unique moment in time, where a designer has the chance to stand for their creation before a wave of capitalism hits them. This year’s Ravensbourne show is a celebration of that. A celebration of creativity and how it brought us through the darkness of everyday life.

Stepping out of the shadow, this year’s fashion graduates of Ravensbourne University are proving that other universities, outside the prestigious scope, are catching up. In the frame of London fashion week, fifteen selected students had the honour to present their hard work to a wider audience.

Vanesa Gjini

Vanesa Gjini’s collection Sworn Virgins is a love letter to her home country of Albania. “Sworn Virgins are women with limited options in life who have sworn a life-long oath of chastity to “become” men, taking on the appearance of men, entitled to the same rights as men and socially accepted in the Albanian culture as men”, she says. “The idea of my collection is quite personal since it is part of the culture where I come from. I wanted to celebrate this within my work.” Her work is putting an emphasis on trousers by using deadstock pieces and transforming them into new garments. Some of the sworn virgins refuse to dress like the traditional male in trousers and suit jacket and wear traditional clothing instead, which consists of skirt and trousers to cover the legs. Another key element of Vanesa’s collection is the worship of craftmanship, by using crochet techniques. “Albanian women spend their childhood hunched over fabric, needle in hand, learning to crochet doilies and embroider designs on tablecloths. I have up-cycled old family crochet doilies which most Albanian families use to decorate their tables into new modern items,” she says. The final strong element of her collection is the vision of transparency, communicated through organza, a fabric as delicate as traditional femininity.

Yimei Chen

Inspired by Pawel Jaszcuck’s photographic series, Yimei Chen created her graduate collection. “I am amazed by how he took the photos of the very drunk Japanese businessmen laying on the streets, staircases, or sitting in random places awkwardly”, she says. “The positions are mostly twisted and distorted which makes people feel not only uncomfortable but also out of place”. Reflecting this in her collection, she distorted the traditional rules and patterns of fashion. “I have trousers going on in the wrong position, I also have a jacket with 4 arms, which makes the model look squeezed”, she continues. In terms of colour, the designer went for a juxtaposition of traditional business-attire colours, combined with loud neon shades. A special detail of her collection is the heat-reactive colour: “I used heat-reactive colour in three of my garments. Dark green changes to neon green, brown changes to orange and blue changes to white.”

Amy Powell

When Amy’s grandparents gifted her an antique Victorian veil, she was stung by its preciousness and beauty. Now, she recalls this moment in time as the starting point for her collection “A Man Marr’d. “The collection tells a story of an unwilling groom. Drawing inspiration from my love of history and my interest in exploring male emotions and perspectives, I used the story of an unwanted arranged marriage to create a collection that depicts the liberation from such societal expectations”, she says. She is an avid collector of items from the Victorian day and age, for example, she possesses 3 handmade wedding veils, leather gloves and an array of hand-painted and carved fans. “I took the veil and my love for Menswear and decided to flip the narrative on arranged marriages of the time”, she says. In terms of silhouettes, Amy dived into abstract cutting of classic shapes and expanded her textile work, which she explored over the course of her final year at Ravensbourne.

‘Uncle’ Callum Docherty

Calum Docherty’s graduate collection heel——–face is inspired by two sports which may seem like the total opposite at the first glance- wresting and ballet. “The main idea of the collection is this journey of a professional wrestler. He starts very young. In the industry, he is being called a green wrestler, which means that he is inexperienced. It is his journey from being this young and growing up under all the trauma that the industry puts him through. I saw a parallel to ballet dancers and how they treat their bodies to enhance their performance. It’s a big combination of how these athletes put their bodies through all this trauma just for the sake of performance”, he says. His sketchbook collages the two worlds together. The rough meets the sensitive through the analogue medium. He took colour inspiration from the movies Black Swan and The Wrestler, two films that were initially planned to be one, he says. “It’s made by the same director. It’s actually meant to be the same film, but they never got funding. They split it into two films. It was meant to be a love story between the two characters.” The designer is inspired by the beauty in the grotesque, detecting parallels between how ballet dancer breaks in their shoes and how a wrestler tapes up their fingers. “They do it in the exact same way. It’s about all the injuries that are hidden behind the canvas of this perfectly polished product. The idea is that the looks are being pulled off the model.”

Xander Jones

Xander Jones’s graduate collection monsters are real, is in its most literal sense about monsters. After coming back from his internship at Walter van Beirendonck in Antwerp, the designer wanted to dedicate his final collection to something current. When we are young, monsters are born out of myths and imaginary spins, and once we grow up, they look less scary but nonetheless, they still exist. “I talk the same way about monsters as I talk about billionaires and things that go wrong in the world. I refer to them as the monsters we see. The monsters in our childhood are never real. Then I compared them to the billionaires in this world”, he says. His creations are hybrid pieces, marrying the metaphorical and the literal. Sketches of monsters that carry the innocence of childlike fantasy are juxtaposed with the 3D-printed faces of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, reminding us that monsters are indeed out there, masked in human form. He also drew references from the artistry of 1980s horror films, which combined beautiful cinematic imagery with grotesque storylines.

Victoria Ivanova

One could say that the way that Victoria Ivanova ended up at Ravensbourne is fate. When the Lativa-born designer applied to the course, she got first accepted onto the foundation. When she came home later that day, she received an invite for another interview. “They let me onto year one then. They said it’s fate”, she says. Her graduate collection at Ravensbourne called ‘Born free in CCCP’ is inspired by the post-Soviet union day and age. Having grown up in Lativa, a country that used to be part of the Soviet Union, the designer only experienced the former dictatorship through tales in history books. “It started with a conversation with my English friend. They said that we’d never get to fully understand each other since they were born free and I wasn’t. That inspired me to think about the times of the Soviet Union and how people became free once the regime broke. They didn’t know what to do with all this sudden freedom but no money. During the times of the dictatorship, they never had to make a choice. They had the same clothes and cars”, she says. This inspired her to dive into techniques of upcycling and reusing- creating choices of what is already there. “When they finally had all the choices to do this, they were upcycling their clothing.” Re-imagining that narrative, the designer tied her heritage into seams and drapings, showing that you can make something beautiful out of nothing.

Alessandro M. Raso
Growing up, Alessandro M. Raso’s parents were chefs. He grew up in the environment of the restaurant- more than a decade later, that inspires his graduate collection. “The kitchen always fascinated me. It’s a place that seemed to be so busy and hectic with all these pans and pots. Things get burned. I was never allowed there as a child, so I built this fascination around it”, he says. In this collection, Ale built his muse himself- it’s a character inspired by his fascination with the kitchen, seasoned with imagination. “I was inspired by people like Anthony Bourdain. He is a writer and a chef. He is this character that he built for himself. That is what I really tried to reflect inside the collection. I referenced the dynamics of actual chef uniforms and their draping of them. I draped them around the body and created this chaotic, layered collection”, he says. Accessorised with Margiela-like spoons dangling from the clothes, he merges art with precious moments of nostalgia.

Rebecca Coad

Inspired by the rather male-dominated world of motorsport, the designer Rebecca Coad is flipping the script. “The concept is very romanticised, because of the fantasy of my parents’ relationship. They are both really into motorbikes. My dad is a massive petrol head. A lot of their relationship is based around doing sporty things. So, I took the colours and shapes from the biker jackets and motorsport garments”, she says. Pointing at her creations which are patched in her logo, she says: “A lot of it is covered in these patches that I have made from vinyl. I’ve designed all the logos and laser-cut them all. I pressed them all on individually. The logo, BTSN, is a nickname I was given when I was younger.” All of the garments feature the number 47, which is her dad’s racing number. It’s personal, she says whilst smiling. The creations are reminiscent of early Demna at Vetements, by the people, for the people. Coad’s collection is not only extremely on the pulse of time, but also a retelling of her parents’ story- the story that made her.

Esther-Toyin Izedomi

Esther- Toyin Izedomi’s collection fearless man is inspired by no other than Fela Kuti, the founder of Afrobeats founder Fela Kuti. “I looked into his life because obviously, he’s passed. But when he was alive, he was a true activist. His music was used to spread more political awareness. That’s what I would love to do if I had my own brand as a fashion designer”, she says. “I want to spread political awareness. In my collection, I look at Nigeria and emphasise the movement that happened in 2020. It was really powerful because the police would target people who dressed as themselves. So, in my collection, I am breaking down stereotypes and allowing people to just be themselves.” For her research, Esther looked into the true meaning of black punk and denim. Words that are casually thrown around like hi and goodbye, but actually have very deep meanings and connotations attached to them. To bring her vision alive, she used traditional Nigerian fabrics.

Linda Mālniece

According to Linda Malniece, her final collection ‘Untailored’ started way back in her second year at Ravensbourne, during her tailoring project. “I took apart all these men’s tailored garments. As part of the learning process, I took the lining out. I saw these nice details, canvas stitches for example. Then I wondered why something so nice is not on the outside”, the designer says. In her final year, she wanted to take this idea further and added more research to it. “I took more jackets apart and draped them into a collage. I did all sorts of things. In my head, I imagined a story of a girl that has a banker boyfriend and she ripped all of his clothes. After, I expanded on men’s shirts as well. I did look into other garments too but they were just not so interesting.” Due to the designer’s sustainable approach a lot of the garments were made out of deadstock or donated fabrics, she says. Linda’s collection is about highlighting what’s usually hidden- the beautiful details, that usually stay overlooked. It’s intimate in its very own way, starting a conversation on power, beauty and relentless search.

Paola Ramos Contrera
“La Familia” is Paola’s way to worship the culture of her homeland, Mexico. “My collection is inspired by Mexican telenovelas, and an abstract storyline of a woman having an affair with her dog”, the designer says. “It’s very tongue in cheek. It is about mocking the sexist culture in Mexico.” To envision this, Paola kept imagining the woman fantasising and losing her mind over it. Her mood board is a juxtaposition of her Mexico. Showing an image of a hairy old man, she likes to play with cliches, marrying an outsider’s view with her insider view of her homeland. In her collection, she had a lot of fun with a variety of fabrics, colours and gemstones. “I imagined a very Mexican man. Very sexist- I wanted to switch the power dynamics and make the woman have an affair with her dog”. She took a lot of inspiration from traditional crocheted garments and Catholicism in Mexico. Tying them all together, she created a never-ending storyline through the seams of a garment, just like a telenovela itself.

Lillian Clark

For her final collection I can’t ski, Lillian Clark wanted to marry her world with a world that was foreign to her. “I wanted to split it into two different things. Something I have never experienced before and something I knew. So, I decided to look into skiing and mountain climbing. I did mountain climbing as a kid, but never skiing since I was never privileged enough to do that”, she says. Over the years, skiing has become a signifier of wealth, expressed in expensive ski suits, gear and flamboyant après- ski parties in the middle of nowhere. “I don’t come from a privileged background, I grew up on a council estate”, she adds. Another point on her mood board was party imagery of the early 2000s, a period that is currently going through a whole revival in popular culture. “I looked at 2004. I am one of 10 children and I have six sisters that are older than me. I watched them growing up and partying in the early 2000s. I wanted to bring up that nostalgia and took huge inspiration from the way they used to dress.” To create her collection, the designer teamed up with the skiwear brand Salomon, who donated her a lot of deadstock- from old designs to a plethora of ski goggles. To give them a new life, Lillian laser-cut and heat pressed the remains of a former fashion era into a brand-new garment.

Weina Zheng

For her graduate collection, Weina Zheng wanted to commemorate the time she spent in her room during various lockdowns in the pandemic. “I wanted to document the intense period of Covid-19. I stayed in my room for two full years. Our degree at Ravensbourne was completely online. I communicated with everyone online, but I was longing to get back to normal life. For the first time in my life, I felt the importance of freedom. It was so depressing. I needed to get through this and document this”, she says. To express this, she experimented with bold colours, resulting in each look being in a totally different colour. Pushing her own boundaries, the designer stumbled into laser cutting during creating this collection. As she explored this approach it turned out to be a great way to reduce waste, which is very important to the designer.

Lydia Green

Starting her process, Lydia Green looked into museums. “I remember looking around some museums here in London and I was particularly stung by the nymphs in the paintings. So I ended up looking at the pleasure gardens, which were situated in Georgian London. It was a place that was a part art gallery, part fashion show. It was known to be very seedy, almost brothel-like. It was known to be a place for scandal. I ended up looking a lot at the fashion they wore back in the day”, she says. From there, she started looking at some contemporary references and bondage culture. “I looked at men’s leather chaps and some contemporary photographers. I ended up creating some quite sexy pieces, merged with jersey to give it a contemporary twist”, she says. “I was trying to picture what the pleasure gardens would be like if they happened today. I was wondering- what would people wear? What would they look like? What references would they look at today?” The clothes function as an armour, tieing in the historical reference whilst showcasing the modern relevance. Cut out meets shoulder pads accessorised with a leather buckle. Overall, the designer used over 50 buckles, she says.

Dimitar Chochev
The collection is inspired by Bulgarian protests, says Dimitar Chochev. It is the story of the Bulgarian poet and protestor Elisaveta Bagryana. “It’s telling the story of this woman that lives with a lot of dissatisfaction in the modern world. She is very dissatisfied with the things that are happening around her. Anything from social standards to expectations to modern norms creates a very miserable reality for her. The collection is based on how it would be if she designed all this just to abandon all these things to create a reality of her own she would be satisfied with”, he says. “I wanted to put this into a modern context within the industry. The collection itself is a discussion of the relationship between fashion and humanity. We have fashion built up as a form of façade that people use to portray themselves- it’s a way to control how other people perceive you when you meet them. It’s more intended to separate you from the human rather than relate back to it. The question is about being vulnerable and empathetic.” He always keeps his muse in mind- Pina Bausch, a woman whose gaze drew him in like no other. The collection is almost like a theatre play in six acts, showing the journey and the transition the woman goes through.