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Migration, dystopia and memories: London College of Fashion presents 2023 undergraduates

By Rachel Douglass


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(From left) Grace Fu, Akina Tsutsumi and Yein Park. LCF Graduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.

As graduate season comes to a head, London College of Fashion (LCF), a faculty of University of the Arts London (UAL) has hosted its annual undergraduate catwalk show for the class of 2023.

Participants descended from the institute’s bachelors in Fashion Design Technology for both menswear and womenswear. The event kicked off LCF’s five-day period of events, through which it will be hosting a programme that spans design, film, photography, virtual reality (VR) and more.

In terms of the runway show, Andrew Teverson, pro vice-chancellor and head of LCF, said the themes of sustainability and inclusivity dictated the collections, mirroring the drive to diversify and adapt the industry.

FashionUnited has highlighted some of the standout trends throughout the graduate collections.

Menswear: migration, sports in space and new masculinity

Like many graduates, LCF designers challenged the concept of masculinity, some encouraging wearers to reconsider their authentic selves, as addressed by Cheer Zhu, while others drew on personal experiences to form tongue-in-cheek statements, as seen with Alexander Hayes’ collection.

(From left) Luke Neil, Yucheng Jia and Yuzi Zhang. LCF Undergraduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.

Luke Neil, on the other hand, took the topic of gender to new heights, imagining a future world where queer identities can break off into a new environment through his own collection. Neil took cues from dystopian and apocalyptic worlds to form a non-conforming line of both masculine and feminine shapes, often with fluid structures that extended human features. In contrast, Yucheng Jia’s collection, ‘A Softy Man’, centred around the current world, combining “rigid” masculinity with soft craftsmanship to achieve a sense of harmony through gender.

Some designers combined this idea of fluidity with their own perspective of culture. Minxin Xu, for example, focused on male actors playing female roles, known as ‘Hua Dan’ in Chinese opera, particularly centering on their use of bondage which distorted their sense of gender and the perception of themselves. Meanwhile, Yuzi Zhang tackled the businessman stereotype using the theory of Chinese flower arrangement to develop boundary-breaking silhouettes.

(From left) Kuan Chien Chen, Yujing Zhan and Shizhu Chen. LCF Undergraduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.

Culture was also presented through the perspective of migration by graduates, many of which particularly focused on its clash of identity. While Kuan Chien Chen looked to his past and hometown to inform his collection of adaptable clothing, Yujing Zhou touched on the landscapes of Mongolia and the intertwining of cultures as a result of migration. For Sizhu Chen, the reflection of space and identity came in the form of a seasonless collection that referenced the notion of global citizenship through avant-garde pieces.

Innovative sportswear was another defining factor in menswear, with those tackling the theme keeping in mind the need for sustainable alternatives and technical advancements. While Samuel Wesson-Quibell’s skate-infused line combined 90s streetwear culture with well-thought out dying techniques and experimental surfaces, George Zverko questioned the scale of extreme sports and its impact on the environment in pieces that looked to transform this sector into an eco-friendly leader. For her own collection, Leah Zunino looked into the future, combining the engineering of a space suit with modern sportswear as a response to the growing demand for tech-forward athleisure.

(From left) Samuel Wesson-Quibell, George Zverko and Leah Zunino. LCF Undergraduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.

Womenswear: Dystopia, imperfection and the concept of memories

Likely as a response to the crises of the past few years, some womenswear designers took a particular interest in exploring possible dystopian futures. Alesia Cîdă’s take on this concept imagined the world in 2100, where resourceful measures are needed to create clothing, as seen in her use of peer-donated materials that formed her garments.

(From left) Alesia Cida, Yan Meng and Danny Birchell. LCF Undergraduate Class of 2023. Credits: UAL. (Left and right: Roger Dean, centre: Yan Meng)

Yan Meng also predicted an extreme take on the world, generating her ideas around the use of Cryonics technology and the resulting resurrection of people. Her layered clothing and combination of organza and silicone looked to reflect the perception of floating on water. Similarly, Danny Birchnall also predicted a future in which a species preceding humanity exists, offering up a line that imagines how such individuals would utilise what has been left behind.

(From left) Siyan Li, Mingxin Luo and Marius Veerag. LCF Undergraduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.

In a stark contrast, many graduates looked to the past for inspiration, offering up collections rooted in nostalgia and memories. The period of childhood was a central pillar for this theme, adopted by the likes of Siyan Li, who referenced games and play through versatile garments. Cultural links could also be seen in the lines of Grace Fu, who renewed historical garments via the memories of her late grandma, and Ningxin Luo, who intertwined Nushu culture and the Comb sister culture with feminist literature that defined her past.

Others were a little more abstract in their approach, with the likes of Yuju Lee and Yein Park both speaking on their childhood fears; the former of being trapped, the latter of the dark. Marius Veerag, on the other hand, took old objects of memory and reinvigorated them in a bid to transform the contemporary perspective of beauty. This was translated through architectural silhouettes,3D printed elements and the juxtaposition of textures.

(From left) Edie Rose Flanagan, Shuhan Wu and Yiting Wei. LCF Undergraduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.

Challenging society’s preconceived notions was also present in the work of designers that took on the task of adopting imperfection as their own. Edie Rose Flanagan looked towards a genetically modified blue rose to tackle the subject of maintaining natural beauty, using the flower as a base for exploring how to reduce pressure on consumers and deconstruct perfection. Shuhan Wu, on the other hand, tapped into reworking garments that are integrated without flaws, while Yiting Wei explored the theme of collectivism and how it defines one’s identity.

Graduates take on accessible clothing

Accessible and functional clothing were an underlying trend for the graduate presentation, defined by designers through a range of variations. For some, this was present in clothing for the disabled or neurodivergent communities. This idea could be seen in the collection of Lauren Brady, whose line was designed to address the needs of the latter. Brady’s pieces looked to tackle the lack of stylish, sensory-aware clothing, with details that were sensory sensitive and prioritised user experience and garment functionality. Similarly, Hanan Tantush offered up a collection of functional adaptive clothing for wheelchair users, with pieces that aimed to enable independence in the form of modern sportswear and adaptive fashion.

(From left) Lauren Brady, Hanan Tantush and Dayoung Jang. LCF Undergraduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.

Other designers were more focused on the need for versatility when it comes to movement, travel and sports. Dayoung Jang’s line, for example, took inspiration from Korean trade merchants and the feeling of encumberment that comes with regular travel. Jang’s solution was that of transformable garments that offered functional finishings. A similar approach was seen in Akina Tsutsumi’s collection, where the idea of kite surfing inspired modular clothing that could be disassembled and assembled depending on the wearer’s needs.

Different takes on durability were also present. Lucie Buisman explored the theme through dimensional shapes that could be viewed as contemporary armour, in what she called a rewriting of protection. Buisman’s line brought forward a revision on outerwear and skiwear, with tactile and hybrid layering. Qianyu Deng offered a contrasting take for the project ‘Suprice’. For Deng’s line, the designer presented shirts, shorts and coats that required assembly by the wearer, a concept made to involve the audience in the creation of products.

(From left) Lucie Buisman, Qianyu Deng and Akina Tsutsumi. LCF Graduate Class of 2023. Credits: Roger Dean, UAL.
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