Westminster BA Fashion Show 2020: Full line-up
From CJ Tuke‘s schoolgirl take on the twins from The Shining, to Marina Patalano‘s inflatable accessories, the Westminster BA Fashion show served plenty of Instagram-worthy moments. But there were also more understated highlights, including Steven Stokey-Daley‘s romantic interpretation of English public school culture, which featured donated archival fabrics from Alexander McQueen. In a time when sustainable practice is playing on every fashion designer’s mind, it’s nice to see an established house proudly sharing their resources with young designers, simultaneously easing the financial burden of producing a final collection on the students and easing the strain of new material production on the planet.
As well as forging links with established houses, this year, Westminster are taking steps to support students beyond graduation. AW20 marks their third time showing as part of the London Fashion Week schedule and their first time occupying a showroom space in Paris. “This will allow those that wish to build their own brands to develop early relationships with international buyers and stockists prior to their graduation in June,” explained Professor Andrew Groves.
While course leaders are contemplating their students’ futures, the designers themselves were trawling the past for inspiration. Hannah Sosna presented a refined and playful take on menswear, accentuating her tailored collection with the faded geometric colour blocks of 1960s TV test cards. Meanwhile, Fennuala Butterfield explored 1970s kitsch and Karolina Brown went back even further. Her embellished and embroidered garments sung with the opulence of 19th Century masquerade balls.
Meet the Westminster BA Fashion class of 2020.
“The process is equally as valid as the outcome,” says Brandon Choi. Using vintage linen in tailored silhouettes and calico drapery, Brandon is referencing a romantic past in the hopes of reminding people of the beauty of the human touch, practise and sensibilities: “The process of working with fabric on the mannequin feels freeing and encourages outcomes with silhouettes and volumes – perhaps by reminding people of the process behind the clothes, fashion could be slowed down,” he says. Describing his collection as “a romantic exploration of process, memory and craft,” Brandon explores the creative process behind fashion. Having interned at Aganovich, Viktor&Rolf Haute Couture, Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Brandon has experienced multiple artisanal processes. “I was influenced by watching and learning from skilled artisans and designers during my internships,” he adds. “I became obsessed with the way they worked, draped and created.”
“It’s exciting to share my ideas from the last few years, so they no longer have to live in my phone notes!” says British designer CJ Tuke. His collection is an exploration of childhood obsessions and youthful naivety, centered around his admiration for older sister, Amber. “I wanted each garment/look to be a specific memory or time frame, spanning years, from when we were young up until leaving secondary school,” he explains. Sentimental items from his childhood root the garments in real events: a beach towel from family holidays to Cyprus is turned into a dress, while a denim jacket is reworded into a skirt with his sister’s name embroidered on it. Having interned at Maison Margiela, his clothes have an experimental nature, not unlike the process of getting dressed as a child. “It provides an atmosphere for the clothes to exist in, rather than being the inspiration for the garments themselves,” he says.
“If I wouldn’t want my boyfriend, my friends, or myself to wear it, I struggle to justify why I’m making something.” So says menswear designer Dominic Huckbody, whose BA collection for the Westminster show was inspired by the friction between intimacy and autonomy. “It’s essential for me to feel an affinity to the boy I’m designing for,” the former Wales Bonner intern adds. “I explored this by looking at references to naturalistic and idealistic classical sculpture while taking an indulgent view on estranged images of intimacy.” Juxtaposing distressed materials, soft draping and hazy tones, the collection reflects the personal intimacy Dominic has with his designs: “The collection grew to become an investigation into each garment and how it could reflect the warmth, familiarity or ideas of longing.”
“It’s a playful take on purity and innocence versus deviant sexuality,” says BA designer Fennuala Butterfield. Inspired by 1970s kitsch, she looked to religious Christian garments, B-movies and adult films as her references. Her collection combines the silhouettes of traditional nun habits with the lively palette of 1970s makeup ads. The designer plays with sexual duality in her textiles by combining “sex shop” PVC and virgin cotton. Her message speaks to female sexuality, exploring the intensity of the Madonna-whore complex, but ultimately focusing on the contemporary woman’s ability to choose her own sexual freedom. Having explored contrasting takes on femininity during internships at Simone Rocha, Balmain and H&M, Fennuala is ecstatic to be presenting her own vision at London Fashion Week. “It has been my dream ever since I applied for the course, and I can’t believe it has come true,” she says.
“I would like my clothes to be received as playful and fun for quite an uptight menswear market,” says Hannah Sosna. Inspired by the innovation of the Swinging Sixties, Hannah looked at television’s transformation from black and white to colour, using the geometric shapes of TV testcards as her starting point. With colour, proportion, softness and volume in mind, she aims to revolutionise how men approach style. Originally from Ayrshire, Scotland, she has completed design internships at JordanLuca and NorseProjects. Sosna describes her working style as very “physical,” creating prints manually instead of digitally. She finds this persistent attention to detail more fulfilling. “The Fashion Week show is a chance to showcase myself in every way,” she adds. “I’m going to make the most of that opportunity.”
“I’m a little bit of a punk, so I decided that working for other people isn’t for me,” says Jakub Nowacki. For the Polish designer, gut feelings are everything. When creating his BA collection, he let his primal instincts guide his designs. Jakub starts every look by draping, creating a shape and experimenting with the silhouette repetitively until his intuition stops him. His work and his approach go beyond fashion and more abstractly, into art. After working for Nasir Mazhar during his 2nd year, he declined to take on an internship year to conserve his unique design process. “I love the fact that the way I create is so different,” he says. “It blurs the boundaries between art and fashion and I didn’t want to lose that and have someone else’s design aesthetic rub off on me.” As for the graduate show, he admits he’s excited, but isn’t impressed by the hype. “It’s just clothing at the end of the day so I’m trying to stay calm.”
Jonty K. Mellmann
What do you get when you cross a group of English country gentlemen with a bunch of acid techno ravers? Jonty K. Mellmann has an idea. For his graduate collection, the designer envisions a new way to dress for the rave: ‘Crusty Countryside Partywear’. “It’s argyle meets acid techno, tweed for terrorcore fans and neon everything,” he says. Winner of the 2019 Student Excellence award for his first year work, Jonty has experience from Cottweiler, Hanger Inc, Nasir Mazhar and Walter Van Beirendonck. His BA collection is awash with classic staples of rave-wear – puffa jackets, acid house smiley faces – mish-mashed with tweeds and Wellington boots by Ruth Angel Edwards. While paying homage to rave culture and style, this collection also holds a very personal connection for Jonty – a jacket painted by his mum, the artist Susan Douglass. It’s a feast for the eyes, putting forward the designer’s own idea of rave clothing with “deadstock fabrics mixed with hi-vis and a patchwork fetish.”
The wild opulence of 19th Century masquerade balls was the starting point for Karolina Brown when designing her graduate collection. Inspired by the extravagantly embroidered and meticulously detailed ball gowns worn to these parties, the Polish-born, Liverpool-raised designer uses a “hectic and excessive combination of colour, fabrication and embellishment,” to convey a sense of fantasy, romance and whimsy. Karolina has experience from Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs and Roberta Einer, and these designers’ influence is seen in her garments and storytelling. Detail and craft are key aspects of her work: “I have found a passion for manipulating and embellishing, creating something that conveys detail, time and care.” This is articulated throughout the collection, not least in a satin and lace jacket, beautifully embroidered and finished with a shocking pink tassel. With lace sponsored by Sophie Hallette and Solstiss for the show, Karolina has been able to elevate her work further through this element and her embellishment. “It gives my work an identity which conveys this chaotic and vibrant world of fantasy and romanticism,” she says.
“Welcome to a universe that glorifies supernatural beings and those downtrodden by their social surroundings,” says British-Italian designer Marina Patalano. Hoping to represent historically marginalised communities, Marina has taken inspiration from the ritualism of native folk dress to envision a radical heroine who “conquers her fate of damsel in distress.” This collection – entitled ‘The Complete Tales of Various Women and Others as Subaltern Natives’ – can be described easily in a word: whimsical. Although she is taking on fairly serious subject matter, the clothes are bright and wildly patterned, with curious proportions and silhouettes. Having interned at Walter Van Beirendonck, Trois Quarts Atelier, Peter Pilotto, Richard Malone and Mimi Wade, Marina has peppered their influences throughout her collection. Textures and prints clash haphazardly, fighting for attention. Peaches, stars and floral motifs provide a playful element across shirts, and shoes. Nothing about this collection is boring.
“Joyful and spontaneous, multi-faceted, discordant” – this is how Polly Henderson describes her final collection. Based on one photograph – taken in New York in 1993 by Philip-Lorca di Corcia – and the vastly different reactions it garners, Polly has envisioned “an ode to the messy, sometimes senseless, colourful diversity of life.” The collection features sportswear layered with duffle coats that are made to look old, workwear and tailoring complemented by silver and pink piping. In Polly’s own words, it “makes no sense at all,” but gives her garments a magic touch.“I work at break-neck speed, change direction, and throw the kitchen sink at my work,” she says. “I have decided that is what makes it vibrant, so I embrace it.” Her menswear collection is reflective of the varied interpretations we all have of reality, and that there is joy to be found in the unique experiences we share with each other and the world around us. With a CV including internships at Matthew Miller, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, Markus Lupfer and Tom Ford, and a place at the Women at Dior conference in 2018, it’s fair to say that Polly Henderson knows where she’s going.
Only three weeks before the deadline, BA designer Steven Stokey-Daley repurposed his work to create the final garments for the upcoming BA show. “I had been working on an entirely different collection for four months and had a last-minute panic in January,” says the Liverpool-born designer. Inspired by the traditions and ritualism of British boarding schools Harrow and Eton, his collection is “a romantic exploration of British public-school culture through queer eccentricity, frivolity and fanciful excess.” Through the lens of Brideshead Revisited, Steven depicts a 2020 update to elitist education. Building on his experiences working at Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford, he creates “considered and substantial menswear products” by referencing historical imagery, vintage garments and contemporary details. Regatta flower-adorned hats, white wool tennis coats and hypermasculine outerwear combine to “emulate the confusion of a systematically ‘homosocial’ culture.”
“When does a girl become a woman?” This is the question Tumisola Ladega is exploring in the Westminster BA show. Juxtaposing 1990s youth pop culture with more mature and conservative 1980s outerwear, Tumisola has created a “contemporary, functional and striking” collection. “My clothes play around with a contrast of the two through fabric, details and silhouettes,” explains the London-born designer. Her aim is to “make people think and spark a personal question in their mind” by creating a “timeless collection that is not bound to a specific season.” With David Koma, Ralph & Russo and Burberry already on her CV, Tumisola won the Anne Tyrell Award in 2018, using the sponsorship to fund her graduate collection. “I really want to make the most of the experience,” she says. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”
“The future is female and full of fierce bitches.” The message from Westminster BA student Vanessa Bon is loud and clear. Inspired by heroines in retrofuturistic films such as The Fifth Element and Metropolis, the Mexican designer explores fetish through modern sportswear. In doing so, she is comparing past visions of future females. “I create a garment and then put it through a filter as if it’s ‘on acid’,” she says. Combining graphic panelling with more sensual fabrics like velvet, tulle and organza, she creates armour-like pieces which exaggerate the female form. Her reference images are stuck on her bedroom wall, and at times have been saved as her phone background and her laptop screensaver. By constantly referring back to her moodboards, Vanessa feels that her work becomes “becomes both conscious and subconscious – more authentic.”