“It’s a landscape — and a Pina Bausch moment,” said Zowie Broach — too modest to take a bow at an inventive and powerful Royal College of Art show, but the instigator as head of fashion of a new era from London.
The forward and back fashion runway has become a cliché in our time and this majestic attempt to engage the eye and stretch the imagination of the audience was a tour de force.
With a front-row audience stretching from designers like Zandra Rhodes or David Sassoon, who created a nucleus of RCA fashion successes in the Sixties, to more recent graduates such as Erdem Moralioglu, this show was clearly designed as a new dawn of showmanship.
A large area of the college, rarely seen stripped down to its bare floor and white pillars, was the framework for the originality and craftsmanship of 36 MA students.
The models were somehow coached into choreography that had the effect of uniting the spirit of 36 very different designers. The clothes all seemed original: from Mark Glasgow’s relatively traditional menswear, but in sweet-and-sour colours like pink and green, to Une Yea’s white cut-outs of roaming architecture with mesh hats illuminated with electric bulbs.
Another aspect of this creative showmanship was seen in the balance of neutral colours that seemed to encourage architectural design, such as Rebecca Stant’s plays on tailoring and transparency, or menswear designer San Kang’s animalistic splodges of black on white.
At the other end of this spectrum of architecture — say, Jae Hyuk Lim’s white puffer jacket with strategic holes — there were the soft fabrics and colours. I picked out a woolly green coat created by knitwear designer Lucinda Popp.
Flat shoes, often sneakers, worn not as a statement, but in a natural way, added to the sense of streamlined modernity. There were high heels, for example with Fengyi Tan’s sinuous, strongly coloured dresses. But the word that sums up the pace of the show was “dynamic”.
There were also moments of emotion, as Melanie Lewiston’s helmeted, non-sexually defined figures were sometimes hidden behind a white face mask. That was the ending of the first half of the show, where the arrival of mobile tables of snacks put the audience in a merry mood.
Tugcan Dôkmen (womenswear)
Jae Hyuk Lim (menswear)
The standard was so impressive — which has always been an aspect of the RCA’s work at MA level.
But as rector Dr Paul Thompson said, referring to the presentation offered by Zowie Broach: “Change and new ideas are necessary.”
I began to have fashion fatigue as the thirtieth designer sent the models walking, crossing, running and posing in the space. But I picked up enthusiastically on Vivi Raila’s twenty-first-century floral decoration (done in conjunction with machine embroiderer Alice Timmis). And the organic straw effects of Paula Knorr were exciting and inviting.
The undulating embroidery from Ka Wa Key Chow was unexpected for menswear but the result from the pastel landscape effect was soft.
In all, a big success story at the RCA for moving its presentation forward.