Representing the creative future

Swedish School of Textiles 2024: Designing through research, not hype

What is fashion and for how much longer can it stay the way it is?

“There is an expectation to be fresh and new, yet there is a lingering guilt about the environment. I ask myself, ‘What is fashion nowadays?’ and for how much longer can it stay the way it is?  My answer always differs from the previous one as I constantly develop as a designer and a person.”   –   Sylwia Macheta, 2024 SST graduate

Borås is a relatively small town, with about 100,000 inhabitants. On paper, it is very far away from the European fashion capitals: Paris, London, and Milan, but in theory, the creations of the Swedish School of Textiles (SST) students propose a vision beyond centralisation. Being able to create and grow away from the centres of the fashion system though, is what allows the students to figure out who they are before they dedicate their lives to working in this industry. By breathing fresh air, they are becoming fresh air – the breeze of change that is needed. This year’s students challenge many of the themes the industry is facing, from climate change to small budgets. Nevertheless, they all infuse their DNA and design signatures into it.

The BA programme is encouraging its students to test the boundaries of textile innovation by researching new techniques to make their creations and ideas more durable and sustainable. The MA programme champions creative research in textile production. The industry-inspired facilities allow students to manufacture at the same pace and level of quality as in the real world and, as Borås is a textile region, the designers are pushed to integrate their surroundings into their process. SST’s research programme for fibre development “Smart Textiles” is creating a foundation of designing through research and not hype, something fashion seems to be in desperate need of.

Meet this year’s BA and MA graduates and discover their collections, skethcbooks, and textile development.

 

Pia Erdt

Pia Erdt’s final collection was inspired by the concept of the modern nomad. They live globally, moving oftentimes, carrying all of their possessions in a small suitcase. “The nomad as a persona is symbolic of a minimalistic and reduced lifestyle. This work presents a conceptual framework for minimalistic living without compromising on style or self-expression,” she says. Pia’s collection can be read in layers. Starting with the “homewear” layer, which is expressed through maximalist print design. Suddenly, decorative home elements, like sculptures, lamps, and tableware become portable and wearable. The essence of the home feeling, the warm fuzziness of belonging is therefore with the nomad wherever they go. “The “outerlayer” consists of transformable garments and accessories ensuring that nothing is carried out without purpose. A neck pillow can be transformed into a blazer, allowing delicate garments to be packed effortlessly,” Pia says. “This interpretation of functional clothing aims to accompany the modern nomad, providing both practicality and elegance throughout their continuous journey.” In fact, Pia herself has lived the modern nomad lifestyle for the past few years. Having reflected on this lifestyle, she mastered the elements needed in a suitcase. “This minimalistic approach can offer a lot of freedom and new experiences, but it can also lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection dur to impersonal surroundings. Nomadism has probably been around for as long as humanity and has adapted to society and time, but its essence remains: carrying one’s home to various different places,” she states. By designing garments inspired by homewear, Pia aims to transport this feeling of having a home, wherever you may go.

Sylwia Macheta

“Between the layers” is the name of Sylwia Macheta’s graduate collection. Described as a textile-driven project, the designer explored opacity as a core property of 1×1 rib. “By investigating fundamental knitting factors and using layering as a tool, silhouettes present a simple knitting technique taken to unexpected limits,” she says. Most garments of the collection were knitted on a domestic knitting machine, so every stick is decided whilst working on it. “The process revolved around experimenting and producing various samples, draping them on the mannequin and analysing results for further development,” she adds. “Since all pieces are knitted in a fully fashioned manner, the final garments had to be carefully planned.” During the process – Sylwia had one big challenge – time. Producing knitted garments on a domestic machine requires a lot of physical labour. “I planned my day and expected results ahead, so whenever a technical obstacle like thread breaking occurred, I pushed myself to keep up with my schedule,” she says. For Sylwia, when it comes to fashion nowadays, sustainability is the most crucial aspect. “Entering the fashion industry comes with a responsibility and consciousness about fashion’s environmental impact,” she adds. There is an expectation to be fresh and new, yet there is a lingering guilt about the environment. “I ask myself, “what is fashion nowadays?” and for how much longer can it stay the way it is?  My answer always differs from the previous one as I constantly develop as a designer and a person.”

Luzia Bachofer

Initially, Luiza Bachover wanted to explore the connection between medievalism and contemporaneity in her collection. “Not as a way to recall idealised aspects of the past, but more as an modern adaptation of aspects belonging to the history and the tales of the middle ages in conversation with the anxieties of our contemporary culture,” she clarifies. Throughout culture, medievalism is constantly referenced. “Since the early 70s, theorists and scholars have linked the current socio-political landscape to a resurgence of feudalism. But unlike previous eras that we encounter, the middle ages aren’t connotated to any particular nostalgic feelings. There is a disconnect between what we understand as medieval today and the Middle Ages,” she adds. In her final collection, Luzia wanted to return to the beginning of it all. She wanted to find a way to relate modern discourse, personas and ideals to medieval ones. “As a queer person growing up in Spain, the politics, the cultural heritage, the beliefs and the structures of our country have always felt very medieval. But at the same time, I saw such forward-thinking boldness in the way my friends expressed themselves that always challenged that. In a way this collection is a fantasy of my early teenage years finding my place in the world, hanging out at eternal malls in the outskirts of the capital where all temporalities collide.” The collection is set in a small makeshift kingdom. Via entering the kingdom, you will meet some characters, including The Witch, The Knight, The Maiden and the Monk. Dialogues between characters manifest in material and form hybrids, blending objects with and crafted items. “We live an era of peak nostalgia where fashion can’t forget its history. We see this constantly with the cyclical way eras return to the mainstream in insidious ways. And what is historical referencing if not the most extreme form of nostalgia?” she wonders. She began making her collection by crafting the characters – she did this by people watching, observing shoppers in the mall and connecting their behaviours to medieval-ness. This results in a marriage of the old and the new, manifested through clothing. Her characters wear interlinked jewellery chains symbolising chainmail or armoured trousers made out of black skinny jeans.

Yeruul Ariunsansar 

“Sculpted Space is an experimental project that explores the intersection of fashion and art by creating wearable knitted sculptures,” says the designer Yeruul Ariunsansar. Contrary to traditional design, this project is focused without referencing the human body – it is about sculpting with knitted work inside scaffolding. “The goal is to create a body, form and silhouette simultaneously. Once the silhouette is developed, the human body is considered in the process of making it wearable,” Yeruul says. When they started making the collection, they started by investigating knitting techniques from the ground up. It is about textile manipulation, transfer and partial knitting. After that, they sculpted them inside an empty scaffolding space. “The process of making this collection was quite intense and challenging in terms of knowledge of different techniques that this collection needed in order to reach the desired result.” For example, the development process is built on 6-7 different steps. To fully finish, you need to knit, sculpt, drape and construct. “I feel like I learnt a lot more from this process compared to the previous collections and projects that I have done in school. I had to experiment with all of the mentioned techniques, improve my skills and find the best way of working with them,” Yeruul finishes.

Sonja Sandin

“My collection is called ‘Blow Me’ and is inspired by the feeling of being objectified and the experience I have with my body as a trans woman,” says the designer Sonja Sandin. To express this, she used technology as an integral design tool, helping her explore body dysmorphia and external perspective by portraying how trans-feminine individuals are portrayed, consumed and perceived by society – particularly through the medium of pornography. “I aimed to make a bold statement by creating a collection that contrasts hyper feminine and hyper-sexualised bodies with more intimidating and morphed figures,” she adds. This is a very personal collection to Sonja, and therefore, the process was equally as personal and intimate. “I began by 3D-scanning my own body to use as a foundation for three-dimensional sculpting in Blender. It was quite intrusive (intuitive?) to work with my own body as a material and it changed my perspective of my body,” she says. Of course, a highly personal project like Sonja’s comes with a lot of challenges. She was challenged constantly, but confronting her mental perspective of her body was the most challenging part – apart from making the garments. Working with Latex for the first time had its own difficulties, but she created a beautiful collection in the end. During the process, her supervisor told her to not be afraid to be proactive. It stuck with her. “Initially, it was a bit of a challenge for me to lean fully into the pornographic aspect of this work and slightly resist my usual way of designing. But this comment was really important to execute this collection overall, I think.”

Abbas Mandegar

Abbas Mandegar’s collection is called “Made in Pakistan” and it reflects his own experiences with child labour. “I began working in production factories in Pakistan at the age of ten. This collection is a portrayal of the pain, anxiety, and trauma that were constant companions during my early years,” he says. “Instead of toys, my childhood was filled with sewing tools, which are now symbols of my struggle and survival.” This collection helped him express those intense emotions whilst telling one of the most impressive stories – his own journey from being a child labourer to a designer. Naturally, the process was intense and deeply personal. “It was a challenging journey because each piece in the collection is a direct reflection of my inner emotions, specifically the anger and anxiety that I have experienced for a long time,” he adds. He transformed these complex and intense emotions into a truly unique harsh yet bold aesthetic, which came with a lot of creative as well as emotional demands. “Despite the challenges, the result is a raw, honest, and robust collection that truly embodies the emotions I sought to express.” Abba’s collection is very detailed, and connecting the sewing tools, reminiscent of his past as ornaments was very technically challenging – he knew from the beginning that these details would be a core element of his design, but the execution was far more complex than he thought in the first place. “Shaping and linking the metal pieces was a time-consuming process. It required precision and a careful hand to ensure that each element was securely and aesthetically incorporated into the fabric,” he explains. Despite all the challenges this process brought, Abbas is more than glad that he was able to embrace the discomfort and trust his vision. “This piece of advice came from a mentor who encouraged me to push beyond boundaries and use my personal experiences and emotions as a powerful driving force in my work. They reminded me that true artistry often emerges from vulnerability and that the creation process can be as transformative as the final product,” he finishes.

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Thuy Hong Bui

Thuy Hong Bui’s final collection “LUMINESCENCE MOMENTUM” is a reflection of her passion for fashion and photography. “When we are discussing photography within fashion, we are used to portray photography as a useful tool for designers to document their design process or present the outcomes, but that made me wonder what would happen if we used photography as a design tool instead?” she wonders. Being a vast subject in itself, photography is often overlooked as a “tool” rather than an ”art”. So, with her final collection, Thuy wanted to explore how photography could be a part of her design, rather than just observing it – she wanted to adapt it to her design process, the transformation, the adaptation, the translation and the final interpretation. “I wanted to expand and cancel the border between photography and fashion, and it might be the beginning of how to adapt different aspects from dissimilar areas into fashion, because, after all – fashion should be limitless,” she says. When it came to making the collection, Thuy describes the process as a sweet nightmare: “first you were excited about the idea, and then you realized it was much more difficult than you thought it should be, it was up and down, many try-outs and depressions, but in the end, you had to stay true to yourself and your original idea.”

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Albin Söderberg

“My collection is fundamentally about reinterpreting deconstruction,” says the designer Albin Söderberg. “It challenges the norms of dress and dressing, strating with the shirt as a foundational element,” he continues. Furthermore, the collection explores diverse perspectives of its concept, meaning each piece dissects and re-imagines traditional elements of dressing creatively. One thing is for sure – Albin’s collection is here to challenge conventional design thinking, disrupt and re-imagine what we know. “During the process, I created numerous designs to discover new expressions of the shirt, deliberately avoiding traditional appearances,” he says. Indeed, he created so many that he was able to figure out a formula to evaluate the design’s success. Later, the collection became a selection of shirts, where the dressing decided what would end up in the collection. “This collection stems from three favourite shits of my wardrobe, which I photographed or traced for later manipulations. Throughout, I have reflected deeply on the various ways these shirts were dissected,” he finishes.

Hilma Wittmoss

Childhood nostalgia – we all have it, yet it feels so individual. And coincidentally, the designer Hilma Wittmoss based her graduate collection on this specific, yet broad emotion. “I made prints inspired by stories that I liked as a child and still feel a connection to. The prints were then used as a starting point for garments,” she says. Growing up, watching movies was very important for Hilma and her family. “I loved delving into a new world and would then rewatch the same films hundreds of times. For this project, I wanted to honour these nostalgic worlds and characters by bringing them into reality through everyday garments,” she adds. A big aim for this collection was to dissect hierarchies – specifically those between print and garment. “Therefore, my process included a strong focus on print design and sketching. Sometimes, the transfer print itself did not give enough vibrancy, which is why I also used paint on top to give the print more depth.” Hilma loves the worlds she builds in her had. Beautiful mindcastles with intricate details define her inner world, but sometimes, she tends to get in her head too much, leading her to be reluctant to trust in her own choices. “The pressure of doing a degree collection is so high. And when you’re in the middle of it, it’s almost impossible not to think about it as the most important project you’ll ever do. I’ve really tried to focus on having fun even though it’s been challenging,” she finishes.

Sofie Kruse Demitz-Helin

When Sofie Kruse Demitz-Helin first thought about her graduate collection, she wanted to capture and visualise the intangible and unseen through the interplay of digital technology and handicrafts. “I also wanted to explore digital craft in juxtaposition to physical crafts – in this case symbolised through the use of reused lace as a symbol of something familiar, tangible, and repurposed as a contrast to the digital aesthetic expectancy,” she adds. Her final collection rotates around the role of space and the body within a fashion context. “Our being is often reused in our bodies; however, bodies (and space) hold different values in digital environments as they are malleable like any other object. This project delves into body-space as a design material, exploring how it can reshape our perception of spatial bodies,” she says. Usually, space is seen as a void, but Sofie’s collection aims to explore how one’s surrounding space can become tangible in form of a wearable construction, made from material interactions thriving off an immersive digital technology ad reused textile lace. “The use of reused lace serves to evoke a sense of nostalgia and familiarity while also exploring the paradox between digital forms and physical crafts,” she states. Striving to challenge conventions whilst investigating alternative design methods, Sofie created a vast body of work that truly speaks for itself.

Ellen Kowa

“When I was young, I was very shy and daydreamed a lot – to the extent that my teachers were worried about me and visited my parents to check if my home environment was safe,” says the designer, Ellen Kowa. Turns out, everything was fine, Ellen just loved getting lost in her own world. “I guess reality was too repetitive. One day, I thought I was a dolphin. I truly believed it, so I decided to dive headfirst from a sofa into the floor. I started bleeding and woke up from the dream, which left me with a big scar on my forehead,” she says. Now, she still dreams – just a lot more safely. She tries to dream as much as she can within her work, by being guided through her intuition and her gut. “The most important thing for me was to have fun and surprise myself during this project. I went through a breakup while creating my collection, so I really need a fantasy world to escape into,” she adds. That is why she started working with balloons – they are perceived as joyful, yet she finds they have a scary element to them. This dichotomy intrigued her. This collection is the happiest one I’ve ever done, yet there is so much sadness underneath, which makes it even darker. It’s like some metaphor for clowns – full of playfulness on the surface, but with an underlying eeriness,” she confesses. Of course, the starting point was Ellen’s love and need to dream, but in reality, once she started the collection, she also started collecting leftover hair from hairdressers. “I’ve always been drawn to hair as a material because it carries so much symbolism,” she says. Once the hair was introduced, she had this itch to add a contrasting element to it, and she went for the most obvious yet extraordinary choice: balloons. “Human hair and balloons create this static electricity; they’re either drawn to each other or want to stay apart, like a love-hate relationship. Somehow along the way, I fell in love with them,” Ellen confesses. The result is a beautiful and playful manifesto, so unique, it could have come straight out of a dream.

Liesl de Ridder 

Liesl de Ridder’s final collection, called Motion Echoes, explores the transience of a garment. “The project began with a profound interest in the float stitch in knitted textiles translated into cuts representing floats in readymade garments. It investigates the potential of dynamic textures in post-consumer waste garments through the utilisation of laser cutting and knitting,” she says. To make the collection, she repurposed second-hand garments – she searched for archetypical menswear and used their known features and characteristics as a guidance in the design process. Within her approach, she wanted to respect the identity of the garment while elevating the discarded material to a new, luxurious aesthetic. By using special techniques, she completely transforms the texture of the garment – almost like when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The result is a new visual outlook, made from something that already existed. “The underlying belief driving this approach is that embracing this simultaneous exploration of a harmonious interplay between float, garment and body will unlock new expressions and shapes in the realm of dress,” she adds. The overall process of making the collection was challenging for her, she says. It was all about adaptation in the end. “I had a specific list that I searched for at the ‘trash’ – not as in trashcans, but as in garments that didn’t sell and therefore would be thrown away – in the secondhand stores in Borås and the sorting centre of Björkåfrihet in Göteborg. I had sent them this list, so they sourced the materials for me,” she said. The list included archetypes of menswear from button-up shirts, blazers, suits, trousers, trench coats, jeans and knitwear. These distinctive features helped her in the design process to make a womenswear collection that plays with attributes that are usually associated with men’s clothing.

Adrianne Philip Möri

Adrianne Philip Möri grew up near the Swiss Alps, so naturally, she has a very profound connection to the outdoors. “The beauty of the majestic mountains, the natural surroundings, and the scenery never failed to enthral me. Yet, there has also always been a feeling of not quite belonging – of not fitting with the expectations and the stereotypes typically portrayed in outdoor settings,” she says. Outdoor fashion, or sportwear is usually full of male archetypes. “Deviations of masculinity are not taken as seriously, neither are they seen as an equally valid part of the outdoors,” she adds. Therefore, her final collection, Sculpting the Outdoors, is a way to reclaim these spaces. The collection looks into the genre of outdoor clothing, through fashion with an artistic lens, incorporating sculptural knitting and draping methods. Typical outdoor garments are the base, mid and outer layers are the inspiration for form, shape and techniques. The process of making the collection was very much based on learning by doing. Since fashion wasn’t Adrianne’s usual educational background, she has many firsts during this time. “My approach was therefore rather intuitive and one discovery led to another. I also relied on previous methods used in artistic contexts like used in artistic contexts like sculptural and spatial working methods,” she states. Normally, she tends to work in many different directions, and tries out anything that might even be unrelated to one another. But so far, as proven with this collection, it all comes together towards the end.

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Alicja Kamaj 

Let me set the scene: It’s an interaction between the body, the garment and space, expressed in the context of nature. This might sound cryptic at first, but it makes perfect sense in the context of Alicja Kamaj’s graduate collection. “I’ve decided to play with a cross-species idea (garment-animal) which ends up grotesque and visceral. On one note, it’s about identity within clothing, which I feel the world starts to detach from dilute so we begin to lack respect for garments, which I believe causes overconsumption and on-surface treatment,” she says. Louise Bourgeois carried her wounds within her clothing, that made Alicja feel connected. Long story short, the collection is about the bareness of being a human. “I have never experienced this feeling before, so my work overtook itself. I felt the work had something to perform, and I needed to trust it and be brave enough to be a partner in that,” she adds. The making of some pieces was a true emotional experience. It paid off in the end – it was a really meditative process, despite all those very physical tasks.

Alice Andrade

For Alice Andrade’s graduate collection, it’s all about disrupting post-consumer garments and expressions by deconstructing their form and function by questioning how we dress. “I wanted to challenge established dress conventions by manipulating these garments and proposing new ways of layering them, while also generating new interactions and connections between our body and our clothes,” she says. She has always been interested in experimenting with new ways of dissecting the perception of the body. “In this collection I used a blend of digital and physical unconventional pattern making methods to generate new silhouettes, that have post-consumer materials at its core to reduce the waste produced in the process,” she says. Initially, she started off my questioning how viable it would be to stop producing new materials and garments – how would fashion look like if we only used discarded materials? “How can we re-design these garments into something new and intriguing once more?” she wonders. All her processes are meticulously developed, based on collapsing and re-arranging, disrupting shape and function. “The disruption of expression allowed the garments to be positioned in several different ways on the body, and created new bodily interactions that can be controlled by the wearer,” she states. All in all, Alice wanted to create a holistic approach that manages to work with the entirety of a piece, dislocating its elements without dismantling the garment sections that lead to material waste. By merging the digital with the physical she managed to do that, and created a concept we should all take note of.