Representing the creative future

SST FASHION 2023: Is textile innovation leading fashion?

Discover the collections and process of this year’s Swedish School of Textiles fashion class

There is no progress without innovation, and there is no innovation without creativity. That has become obvious after the BA and MA fashion courses at the Swedish School of Textiles showcased their collections at their annual show. Experimentation flooded the runway, with an extraordinarily varied selection of innovative materials and textiles shaping captivating and thought-provoking looks that take fashion design to a different realm.

Graduation often feels like an abyss. A sense of freedom mixed with the dreaded uncertainty of the next steps invades the graduates’ bodies, sometimes even leading to unprecedented insecurities. But it’s the perfect time to use that feeling to take risks and show off who they are as a designer, whether their goal is to be hired or to build their own brand. “I think that this is the time to just get out there and dare to be bold, dare to take place and dare to show who you are as a designer. I feel like it’s all about making a decision and going all in for it, and always keeping in mind that this is just the beginning, and ‘making it’ takes time and effort. Stressing too much won’t make it happen faster,” says Johanna Jarnness.

The end of this journey and the adversities faced during the past few years at fashion school – endless hours of work, stress, money struggles and a bazillion all-nighters – have created unique, long-lasting connections. “I feel excited for what is to come and a bit sentimental,” says Andrea Margretardottir. “I’ve been making sure to savour these last moments with my class who have been like my family for the past three years. The bonds that grow from going through these years together are very profound and special. I know I’ll treasure the good – and the bad – memories in my heart.” Connections that might be of use in the early stages of their careers. No matter how competitive fashion can be sometimes, it is a field that fosters collaboration, often necessary to survive as a brand.

A deeper look into the collections unveils the importance of the graduates’ family-inherited creativity, a starting point for many of them. With sustainability in mind and looking at the past for references, these young designers have explored new ways to upcycle pre-loved materials, giving them a current feel while keeping the impact of fashion design on the environment low. Others have mainly focused on exploring the limits of textiles and pushing the boundaries – but with a story that connects the dots – to create unconventional designs that serve as a glimpse of what the future of fashion looks like.

Amanda Wisselgren

As a way to spark imagination, Amanda Wisselgren experimented with forms in constant change to create ‘What are you?’. The collection takes the constantly evolving shape of clouds and the figures they turn into as inspiration, instancing people to fantasize as if they were children once again. “As a child, we are used to playing pretend. However, as we grow up, we learn what is expected from the societal culture we are raised, and we start to adapt,” she says. Throughout the process, the designer has been working with dancers back and forth to develop this idea of garments that can take more than one form, trusting materials such as spring wires from second-hand pop-up tents and thin jersey fabric. “Although there is a lot of thought behind what would work the best, a lot of the result lies in accepting and seeing the potential in what is and not what could have been,” says Wisselgren. Keeping the forms simple instead of over-designing was not an easy task, but being open to hearing everyone’s ideas helped. “One of the goals is to generate a lot of associations, so I had to keep the base form open to many things. And whenever I did an association, I didn’t know if others would too,” she adds. “There has been a lot of work in accepting that I can’t only trust my own idea of something, I also need to trust my peers, the dancers, and so on.”

Andrea Margretardottir

“It was lovely to grow up with all the beauty of nature around me but I never really appreciated it until I moved away,” says Andrea Margretardottir. Titled ‘Ritika’ as an ode to the infinite stream of creativity, the designer’s final collection serves as a study of rituals and their nature. Sacred, grounding, nature-connecting rituals reflected in a printed magazine of analog images taken during the process, and an array of hand-crafted garments aiming to ground and connect with the environment and deepen the connection to the Self. Through a ritualistic approach to the design process, Margretardottir intended to cultivate deepened clarity and the ability to act with alignment. “I tried to keep the project separate from myself in the beginning but it ended up becoming a total expression of my inner world and the way I move through life,” she explains. “These rituals are the ones I personally practice and the ones I feel nurture my creativity. They have become a part of my heart and make me strong and soft at the same time whilst charging me with all the creative juiciness.” The collection’s whiteness is a symbol of purity, becoming a clean canvas for the rituals to lead the garments’ expression. “I have loved the challenge of working with something so intangible as spirituality and translating it into tangible forms. I admire artists such as Yoko Ono, whose works the body understands even though the mind doesn’t.”

Andréas Sandor Kristof

The past constantly informs what we do. When Andréas Sandor Kristof discovered his Hungarian ancestors had been cowboys – Csikós – he knew that had to be the base for his final collection. Titled ‘La Pentalogie de D’s’, it aims to generate alternative forms by upcycling old jeans and enhancing both their surface and material, resulting in an experimental collection of denim pieces mixed with synthetic fibres such as polyester and elastane. Through divoré – a technique that gives a burn-out effect to clothing – has eased his decisions of what parts of the body should be revealed. “It has helped me meet my vision of questioning menswear, which has been one of my main topics since my first year at uni,” he says. “I also tend to use a lot of sharp-edge cuts that are often seen in womenswear.” Kristof has an unconventional background for a fashion designer – he used to be a professional hockey player and even a DJ and music producer before he finally joined fashion school – but now he’s determined to keep labouring his path in this field. “I feel very proud of my work and excited for the future,” he says. “I have started to build my own brand and showrooms from Seoul and New York have already reached out and are interested in working with me.”

Elvita Ismayilova

Surrounded by creativity ever since she was a child, Elvita Ismayilova started developing her sewing skills at a very early age, with her grandmother as a mentor. Now, with her final collection ‘Through cuts’, the Latvian designer has explored chance in art as a way to admire the lack of predictability, improvisation and the unknown. The project has also allowed her to delve into the uncertainty of pattern-making, resulting in the development of zero-waste pattern-cutting solutions and new draping techniques. “Sometimes it was difficult to trust the process without really knowing what the outcome would be”, she says. “I often did not have a predetermined garment in mind, they only came together during the process as I had to make sure I was using the full width of the fabric.” But Ismayilova’s craft went a step further – she has hand-woven some of the pieces and details with a small wood frame. These experimental techniques are what keep the designer motivated, and she would love to continue exploring new methods. “I would like to keep developing myself.”

Filippa Strand Berg

Raised in a family of hairdressers and engineers, Filippa Strand Berg found her middle-ground in fashion. “Fashion could be a mix of those two worlds,” she says. A passion – and now a career – that the designer discovered when she was only six years old after getting her hands on her grandmother’s old sewing machine. With her collection ‘Homebound, going places’, Berg aims to bend the limits and move away from the default to find alternatives to existing techniques. To translate this idea into tangible garments, she has incorporated every-day-life, pre-designed objects as the starting point for construction with the goal of giving the objects an unexpected function that intertwines with fashion. The hardest part of the project for Berg was fitting all her ideas into the collection while keeping the minimalism that characterizes her designs. “I just wanna continue creating, using my creativity. Anywhere,” she says about her future goals. “I am excited to start working, but first I am giving myself a little time to figure it out.”

Henrietta Frihammar

Most clothing is built to fit the standard, a statement Henrietta Frihammar is determined to question through ‘If It Doesn’t Fit, Force It’. Inspired by the uncanny, the collection plays with strangeness in the ordinary to challenge the pre-established rules of tailoring. “The idea is that tailoring is acting like the ordinary and tailoring techniques are used to distort the body and the garment to create a strangeness,” she says. “The collection is partly a reference to how tailoring forces both the material to act in a certain way and the body to look in a certain way. But it also refers to how people that are somehow outside of the norm are treated.” Due to the nature of the project, materials such as wool have been essential, even though the designer has combined them with silicon and latex to add a contrasting touch to the designs. The most challenging part of the process, apart from money and time, was dealing with complex fabrics such as Christoff, a semi-transparent material present in some of the looks. “I could really use a beer,” she admits. It’s clear that Frihammar wants to follow her own path. “My hope is to start my own brand in the near future and then hire my classmate Tove Pettersson.”

Johanna Jarnness

Drawing, singing, writing, designing. Ever since Johanna Jarnness was little, she has been expressing her creativity in endless forms. “I just knew that I loved to create, but I didn’t know which path to choose,” she says. With ‘Exosymmetry’, the designer has demonstrated her talent in garment-making. Through an array of mesh, denim and viscose pieces, the collection pushes the boundaries of the ideals of society to find new ways of constructing clothing that will embrace our differences. “The idea is that each piece should be wearable in multiple ways,” Jarnness explains. “Since the shapes are not connected to the body, there is no ideal way of wearing the garment, which allows each wearer to apply it to the body in their own way.” Another key element in her designs is the filling, as most pieces are filled to form dynamic shapes and increase the clothing’s volume. The design process relies on a generative method that upscales intuitively-sketched shapes that were cut out of a folded paper, an innovative technique that gives way to various symmetrical sizes in versatile pieces that can be considered hybrids between a static shape and a garment that interacts with the body. Collaboration is essential for Jarnness, who would love to build a community where creatives can connect so that job opportunities arise. “This industry feels very individual-based, but I think that young designers could come very far if we create space for collaboration and help each other out whilst striving towards a similar goal.”

Josefin Örnebrink

Squares, tufting and a colour palette of purples, yellows and greens unite to form ‘It is a square, that you can wear, that has a lot of hair’. For this collection, Josefin Örnebrink used limitations to her advantage, draping with squares only due to the size of the knitting machine and the tufting frame. “The reason why I chose to tuft was because I was intrigued by the fact that no one was doing it,” she says. “It became a challenge and a question that I was determined to solve.” This technique has given the garments a hairy look that is often rejected, but that the designer has embraced and made an essential element of the collection. Her design method is mainly based on a trial-and-error approach, allowing for free experimentation but leading to what would later be her biggest challenge. Örnebrink’s creativity is undeniable, an asset that runs in the family, with a piano teacher as a grandmother and a guitarist as a father. “They say creativity is a gene one can inherit, and I believe I inherited that creative gene from my family but used it for fashion instead of music.”

Lowe Lindblad

It’s not what it seems. Inspired by Trompe-L’oeil art and fashion, Lowe Lindblad’s final collection ‘Fakes’ plays with illusions to create a variety of textures that simulate denim, cotton and even knit. However, the garments have been constructed with fabrics made out of hemp, as well as some bioplastics developed to serve as coating for some of the pieces. “The core of the collection is to expand the visual possibilities made from hemp, and the thought behind that is to shine light on a lost resource with potential to help us towards a more sustainable industry,” says the designer. “By combining hemp fabrics with printing techniques, dyes and coatings this work intends to awaken an interest in the material and its possibilities by pushing it far from its stereotype.” Throughout the developing journey, Lindblad struggled with being consistent with recipes for combinations of dyes, prints and coatings since there were many factors involved in some of the materials, making it difficult to recreate the method especially in larger garments. “I feel proud to have finished my studies, and excited to see what’s next both for me and all the others in my class.”

Maja Grönberg

“Creativity is my strength in life,” says Maja Grönberg. “It comes naturally to me.” The designer has inherited her interest for art, sewing, ceramics, architecture and music from her family and now she’s working on making a career out of it. With ‘Attitude’, she explores the limits of streetwear and sportswear, using the archetypal garments of  the 90s hip-hop aesthetic as a base for the collection’s silhouettes. “The collection is formed by using sports gear as my main material to build volume,” she explains. “I have been in contact with different sports companies and sports associations that wanted to help me with no-longer-used sportswear.” This process had a great impact on the garments, since the result varied depending on the sourced materials, eighty percent of which were recycled. “During my draping stage, I needed to think about the construction and how the sports gear would work together with other textiles.”

Sally Northman

What is the future of fashion? Sally Northman asked herself that same question, leading to a tangible answer – ‘R-KL*DR’. A collection that explores the potential of deadstock workwear garments as the base for expressive showpieces through the manipulation of the texture, form, construction and even colour. “I’ve used techniques such as dissecting, slashing, and draping to find interesting shapes and textures,” she says. “Blåkläder provided me with deadstock material, and I started to work out the potential in everything right away. I cut shoes and caps apart to learn about the garments, find functions and qualities and try to highlight them and use them in new ways.” The collection is deeply informed by constant transformation as well as trash and the designer’s childhood environment – a farm. For Northman, upcycled fashion is the new haute couture, reinforcing the idea that sustainable clothing can be as appealing as old-school fashion. “Upcycling can be luxurious, exclusive, durable and sustainable,” she says. “I see huge potential in deadstock garments and I would love to continue with this project.”

Tanja Vidic

In her final collection ‘Formally known objects’, Slovene designer Tanja Vidic blends random metal objects into garments to expand the realm of knitwear design and push it forward. “I wanted to challenge traditional knitting methods by introducing out-of-context objects into knitwear,” she says. This idea sparked after numerous walks and visits to Swedish second-hand stores, where the options available are endless. “I noticed a lot of everyday objects such as whisks and baking pans laying around and thought ‘This could be a bag holder!’,” she adds. “It turned out to be a very fun method of generating new shapes, functions and expressions in knitwear.” Experimentation resulted in an array of futuristic garments with exaggerated shoulders and cut outs where metal hardware has been seamlessly knitted into every piece. The designer’s love for fashion is unprecedented in the family, but her grandmother’s superb collection of fabrics might have planted the seed. “She was a fabric seller in Ljubljana, dressed only in high-quality custom-made suits and never ever wore red,” Vidic says. “After her passing, she left me a fully stacked attic of the finest fabrics she collected over the years.”

Tove Pettersson

A wedding dress is more than just a dress, since it is a fashion statement and a symbol embedded into our society. With her final collection ‘Happily Ever After’, Trove Pettersson is willing to challenge traditional wedding attire to bring bridal fashion forward through transforming and incorporating symbols of a marriage to explore new ways of expression within wedding wear. But that big jump didn’t come without challenges, translating those symbols into garments being the most complex one. The result, however, is a predominantly white collection with lots of volume, lace, silk and tulle, as well as the infamous words ‘Just married’ embroidered in one of the pieces. Now that the work is done and presented, the designer feels “happy that it’s over and very happy that it happened”. But Pettersson is longing to see what the future is holding for her, especially if whatever is about to come involves working hand in hand with her classmate Henrietta Frihammar. “When Henrietta’s brand takes off, I want her to hire me.”