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Riding the Wave With Giorgia Galfré

From the paradoxical confines of her student flat in Antwerp, fashion graduate Giorgia Galfré defied the limitations of lockdown to create a unisex collection inspired by the freedom of surfing

Galfré’s process is raw, layered and energetic, as reflected in her painterly collages, gestural drawings, and montaged portfolio. The unprecedented digital portfolio submission did little to flatten her energy and ambition in completing her final collection. Her work vibrates from across the screen with optimism and proactivity that matches the designer’s DIY approach to getting things done, despite the disruption and difficulties faced at the time.

Check Giorgia Galfré’s portfolio on Pinterest

Giorgia Galfré, Lookbook

Resourcefulness is central to her arson, which equipped her well for the unforeseen and somewhat unfathomable challenge of completing her final collection in the midst of a global pandemic. Surfing became the natural starting point for the collection, explains the designer via Zoom. Just as it came naturally during her first solo travelling experience, where a chance encounter in a Moroccan hostel led Galfré to join a surf group for the rest of the trip.

Her designs rift on the shapes and forms of surfboards and scuba gear, combining large volume showpieces and novel accessories in bright blues, yellow and white. With a sustainable outlook, her pieces integrate found objects and plastic waste she collected first hand from beaches. With humour and wit, she re-imagines bottle caps and ephemera as buttons and embellishments. Re-energising discarded and ‘valueless’ materials is her aim, and she achieves it instinctively well.

Giorgia Galfré, Lookbook
Giorgia Galfré, Design Development

Counting herself lucky, the designer recounts that by the time lockdown was imposed, she had already amassed most of the found objects and materials she planned to work with. She was also fortunate to be living with her boyfriend, who became her ad-hoc fit model, photographer, and all-round support. The couple features prominently in her portfolio, appearing in collaged line-ups with cut-out backdrops merging their student flat with decontextualised surf waves and even ironic dolphins. Total immersion is the feeling that comes to mind as the designer reflects on the hectic months spent working from home. Improvisation and humour were central to maintaining momentum, despite the absence of professional facilities and face-to-face contact with fellow students and lecturers.

For the collection lookbook, she staged her photoshoot in the serendipitously blue-lit basement of her apartment block.

In the absence of a physical showcase, Galfré decided to create a video to present the collection. Undeterred by her lack of prior experience with Adobe, the designer undertook a crash-course in online tutorials, through which she combined her process in a high-energy, low-budget reel, meshing process and outcome to the tune of SWEET from BROCKHAMPTON. For the collection lookbook, she staged her photoshoot in the serendipitously blue-lit basement of her apartment block. The UV strip lights highlight the fluorescent textiles and trims in her collection with brilliant effect, as though meticulously planned or indeed ‘meant to be’.

But not all of the designer’s efforts and intentions were as effortlessly rewarded. Working in collaboration with a knitwear student from the Academy, Galfré explains the logistical struggle faced by the pair in calculating and communicating the design specifications in isolation. Despite their perseverance, the final panels did not come up to scale, and so Galfré simply draped them on the body indicating her design intention.

Giorgia Galfré, Lookbook
Giorgia Galfré, Design Development

With a background in applied arts, her approach to fashion is 3D-based and material driven. Prior to enrolling at the Academy she studied at an arts high school in Turin, in the north of Italy, where she focused on sculpture before later discovering fashion.

“In the end, there was no show to not be in!”

Pre-lockdown, Galfré explains how her class had completed the well-known Academy project whereby each student chooses a historical ‘costume of the world’ which they replicate from research. Giorgia chose the antiquated Taboo Goblin costumes of the Papua New Guinea tribes, as discovered and documented by explorer Frank Hurley in 1921. Her replica mirrored the tall steeple-like structure of the costume, measuring an impressive 4 metres in height and composed entirely of hand-woven straw. Despite later winning the praise of Walter Van Beirendonck, Galfré was initially advised to choose a different costume as a starting point, as the height of the piece would render it unsafe for the graduate runway show. Undeterred by the potential loss of opportunity, Galfré pursued with the costume, on reflection, she laughs, while pointing out that “In the end, there was no show to not be in!” With the traditional fashion show format in the lurch in the wake of the pandemic, Galfré experience is a powerful example of the ways in which traditional confines of the runway show can limit designers; even in the earliest and arguably most creative stage of their careers.

The highs and lows of a final year fashion student’s daily existence are often in a polar state of flux, and in the jaws of a pandemic one can only imagine the mental challenges faced by students who were suddenly forced to work from home. This bleak reality conjured chaotic images on social media over lockdown, with students pattern cutting at the kitchen table and textile dying in the bathroom. Maintaining boundaries between work and home life is rarely the forte of any fashion designer, graduate, or student, for Galfré and her classmates this prospect was near impossible.

Giorgia Galfré, Lookbook

Maintaining boundaries between work and home life is rarely the forte of any fashion designer, graduate, or student, for Galfré and her classmates this prospect was near impossible.

She explains how late nights were spent with her classmates and family members on Zoom calls in the background to keep her company, sometimes chatting and oftentimes just sharing each other’s presence in silence.

As Galfré recounts her experiences, it seems and though she overcame the confines of working from home by creating her own reality within it. From the crest of a photoshopped wave to the depths of her ‘deep-sea-esque’ basement, she persevered with wit and imagination, conjuring a surreal and ironic parallel in which her work developed and flourished.

Undeterred by the challenges faced by studying in the midst of a pandemic Galfré explains that she has already taken the plunge in continuing her studies, earning a place on the prestigious MA at the Academy, where she is already researching and developing new ideas; we can’t wait to see how she tackles the second wave.