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Samsung invites promising graduate Aurélie Fontan to design collection using just a smartphone

By Marjorie van Elven


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Keep an eye on Aurélie Fontan. A recent graduate from the Edinburgh College of Arts, the French fashion designer was one of the biggest winners at this year’s Graduate Fashion Week, having won the M&S Best Womenswear Award, the Catwalk Textiles Award and the Dame Vivienne Westwood Ethical and Sustainable Award. The reason for so many accolades? Fontan is the first student to grow her own plant-based dress using a mixture of fermented Kombucha tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. To make the gown 100 percent biodegradable, she stitched it with soluble cable ties instead of thread.

Now, the promising graduate has caught the eye of tech giant Samsung. The South Korean company invited Fontan to design an entire collection using nothing but its latest smartphone, Samsung Note9, which features an updated version of the S Pen, allowing her to sketch designs directly on the telephone’s screen. Fontan also used an app called OnShape which allows users to create, modify, share and comment on 3D mechanical CAD models. The files were then sent directly from the app to a 3D printer. “When we saw Aurélie’s work, we knew she epitomized our Note customers”, said Cella Sin, Samsung’s Communications Manager, in an email to FashionUnited. “This collection is a complete one-off and we see it as a gold standard for showcasing what our smartphones can achieve in the hands of people with ambition and creativity”.

FashionUnited spoke to Fontan over the phone to learn more about her career trajectory until now, her work with Samsung and plans for the future.

What inspired you to grow your own dress?

I’ve always been very interested in biology, but my main inspiration for the dress was “The True Cost”, a documentary by Andrew Morgan about the social and environmental impact of fast fashion. I decided to include a bio-designed garment in my collection after watching the film. I was also very inspired by the work of Suzanne Lee, who was the first designer to grow her own fabric from Kombucha. So it’s been done before. Basically, what I wanted to do was take that 100 percent biodegradable material and push it to the max, design-wise. It took me one year to grow all the fabric, which I did in trays under my bed and at the Ascus Art & Science lab in the UK.

Do you intend to keep using 100 percent organic fabrics in the future?

I definitely want to keep the sustainable aspect in my future collections. I would also love to more research on the future of fabrics, which is why I’ve been considering pursuing a master’s degree. This collection with Samsung, for example, is 90 percent made from recycled materials.

How did this collaboration with Samsung come about?

They approached me following Graduate Fashion Week. The idea was to mix digital technology and craft, and demonstrate the level to which we can push design. The phone allowed me to reinvent my whole design process: sketching was really easy with the pen, because the pressure you apply to the phone is similar to the one you’d apply when using a marker on paper. Being able to digitize my sketches in such a quick manner saved me a lot of time. I also used an app for 3D printing prototypes which is quite advanced. I used it to make a plant-based hook for my garments.

Will these pieces be sold anywhere?

Unfortunately not. They’re still difficult to mass produce. It was really just a demonstration of how far we can go with design.

Are there any plans to continue working with Samsung in the future?

We’ll be hosting a master class for fashion designers and influencers in Paris later this month, where we’ll teach how to design handbags using the same tools I did. I will also exhibit one of the dresses at the next Elite Model Look Contest.

Any other plans for the future you’d like to share?

I’ve recently moved to London and I’ve been submitting my previous collection to different fashion competitions, awards and charity fashion shows. I’ve applied to the 2019 H&M Fashion Design Award, for example.

You said in Samsung’s promotional video that everyone will be able to be a fashion designer in the future. How do you see that happening?

It’s an utopia in a way. I think people will understand the resources better, and how difficult it is to make clothes. I think we’ll see closer collaborations between designer and customer, the more personal you can make it the better.

Photos: courtesy of Samsung

Aurelie Fontan
Graduate Fashion Week