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Graduate to Watch: Jessica Bachmann, Manchester School of Art

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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INTERVIEW Graduate Fashion Week showcases the very best fashion students from the most influential and inspiring universities around the world, and it has become known as a platform for the promotion of new talent to watch, one of which was Jessica Bachmann from the Manchester School of Art.

Bachmann’s attention to detail, use of texture and her ability to team couture-like tailoring with streetwear made her graduate collection, inspired by childhood memories standout. FashionUnited caught up with her to discuss what made her want to work in fashion, her inspiration and Graduate Fashion Week experience, and what makes Manchester a great place to study fashion.

Why did you want to be a fashion designer?

“I have always wanted to be an artist. It just happens to be fashion I can express myself the most with and tell my stories. I was studying restoration and conservation of fine art and design objects in Germany before I came to do fashion design. Surrounded by paintings and artists that express their emotions and visions in such a beautiful way I wanted to be one of them.”

What was the inspiration for your graduate collection?

“The inspiration for my graduate collection is melancholy and childhood memories. I was collecting ideas and developed everything within my sketchbook. Doing lots of illustrations and layouts, I wanted my designs to have the same mood and look of rawness and originality as my sketchbook.

“The original shape ideas come from school pinafores and hospital gowns. The collection is about remembering the childishness you never wanted to give up even as an adult and being proud of being just you, and so it has a lot of my own character in it.

“My designs are tailored and have a touch of couture mixed with streetwear. The print on my garments (which are actually embroidered) is inspired by a spray painter of my hometown in Germany (Harald Naegeli). There is a huge art scene in Düsseldorf. It is almost impossible not to be influenced by it as a creative person.”

What fabrics/techniques did you use?

“Most of the fabrics I used are made by me. The techniques I used resemble the illustrations I created. Because I used lots of white fabric I wanted to give the material a new surface structure and feel to the body. A few of the textiles are created with the princess pleater. This machine creates pleats by running threads through the fabric which are attached onto curved needles.

“Even plain white cotton in my collection has a beautiful-kitschy glitter effect when you get close enough. I found this one unique machine which was saved from an old fabric factory. It made a beautiful cross stitch and created a gap in-between two fabric pieces I was joining together. It reminded me of hospital stitching.”

Why was it important for your brand/collection to be sustainable?

“Within my collection I also recycled fabrics. I joined rest fabrics to create a new textile for my designs. All my trousers and skirts are made out of this up-cycled fabric. You nee to think about how much waste you make and how you can reduce this to a minimum. My generation takes very much into account what damage they do by buying products. Maybe for many this has to do with a feel of loss of identity and what you stand for in today’s society. Buying sustainable products is easily given to you today and the buyer doesn’t have to dedicate much of his own effort and time into it.”

What are the signature piece/pieces?

“My collection has six looks in total which I showed at GFW this year. Seeing the dresses during the show, especially combined with the headpieces presented truly the effortless beauty and fun I was going for.”

Did you enjoy your Graduate Fashion Week experience?

“During GFW I was nominated for the textile award and it was good to speak to the industry. I think everyone just enjoyed going to the different design shows and seeing and connecting again with people you once worked with during an internship.”

Why did you choose to study at Manchester School of Art?

“Being from Germany and growing up bilingual (German, English) I definitely wanted to go abroad. Fashion design in the UK is supported very different compared to Germany. The British system values your freedom of creativity in fashion far more. Manchester School of Art is a very well equipped University. You can truly figure out which way you want to go as designer.”

What was the most valuable thing you learned on your course?

“Being a mature and self-driven student really helped me get successfully through these three years. It also helped me to connect with my tutors and understand their views on things. You should listen to them and value them sharing their experiences with you.”

What do you wish you had been told before you started your degree?

“I have to smile thinking about this question. My twin sister studied fashion design as well, I in Manchester and she in Edinburgh. She started her degree two years before me so I kind of knew what I was getting into.”

What are your plans now that you've graduated?

“I recently won the 14-18 Now Fashion and Freedom design competition. One of my designs is showcased at Manchester Art Gallery next to designs from Vivienne Westwood and Holly Fulton. The exhibition will move to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London next year, which I am looking forward to.

“The thing right now I am doing is to get a design job and work experience. Finishing an MA study would be a great thing to do as well in the future because you can really experiment while studying.”

What advice would you give someone considering studying fashion?

“I would say the greatest advance is being you, trusting yourself, your ideas, and interests and staying mentally strong. In the end, you are trying to sell your character, which is making most of your projects successful. Studying fashion is an emotionally hardcore challenge, because you will continuously be judged and criticised, which is honestly a great luxury and helps you out whilst studying. But it’s hard.

“You also should know studying fashion is expensive. You really need to be smart with your money and calculate not to run out of it near the end. I saw a lot of my classmates with great talent dropping out because of this.

“But in the end, I feel if you are having success with your designs, fashion is one of the most rewarding fields of study you can do.”

What designers/labels do you most admire?

“I desire designers who can tell stories. I see fashion as a form of art because it is very emotional to me and it makes you connect with your surroundings. I like garments which look effortless, not overcomplicated, but have a lot of labor and beauty put into them.”

Did you undergo any design placements?

“Back in Düsseldorf I used to work for Kaethe Maerz a young eco-friendly, very sustainable and transparent women’s wear label. Being a part of Katrin’s design process and being taught “making skills” directly from her and her team and their trust in me and my work made me feel confident. I experienced how lovely it can be when people take care of each other within a team and put much value into the production of their individual garments.”

Images: courtesy of Jessica Bachmann

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