Beauty without Label
Held every year at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, New Designers has become an unavoidable showcase of UK best design graduates. In its 27th edition this year, it introduces to the press, employers, curators and the general public, the degree projects of 3,500 graduates. The event is divided in two sessions. New Designers Part I took place June 27th to 30th; it focused on applied arts, including fashion, textile, jewellery, furniture, ceramics and glassware. New Designers Part II, from the 4th to the 7th of July will showcase furniture and spatial design, including interiors, architecture and innovative product design.
This report for Modeconnect focuses on fashion and textile, also my own centres of interest; I am Zeyu Wang, in London, a fresh reporter on things creative.
Most of the work showcased in the Fashion and Textile section of New Designers Part I concentrated on surface design, printed, knitted or woven. The three textile collections I chose to feature in this article all happen to be three-dimensional. I also chose a jewellery project which relied on unusual materials instead of the traditional metalwork. In other words, this report looks at how students deviated from the usual approach to their craft, achieving a unique point of view.
Students exhibiting at New Designers do not simply show finished products, they also present the development process of their final projects, displaying their sketchbooks and portfolios alongside their final work. It was thrilling to observe the attention paid by the public and professionals alike to this vast source of inspiration and experience. I was there with a purpose; amongst those countless stands I was hunting for projects to feature.
On the Loughborough University stand my attention was captured by a sculptural piece designed by Emily Wainwright. Emily majored in multi-media textiles; her main piece looks like a giant blue-centipede. She used traditional material and knitting techniques but mixed them with macramé of non-textiles material: blue cable ties. The large scale of the design, the intensity of the fringing, and the mix of different materials contributed to this piece visual impact.
The textile stands on this first floor, displayed vast quantities of printed and woven textile. Silk was a popular material; patterns often featured flowers in an extremely varied range of styles. I did intend to focus my attention on surface designs but once more I was distracted by three-dimensional textile designs, a relatively rare occurrence, especially in this section of the exhibition.
My lack of concentration could be blamed on Lynsey Hutchison’s Engineered Elegancy. Lynsey is a friendly textile designer, newly graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone Art College in Dundee. Her display included four constructed knitwear pieces, almost fully blown garments and some knitted accessories, all in a similar style using here again fringing. The beauty of movements is what I want to demonstrate in my collection she explained. Each of my pieces highlights a specific part of the human body. With her permission I touched one of her pieces; I commented on the unusual feel of the fringing material. I tried to use traditional fabric to make the fringe, but I realised its movement wasn’t as obvious as I had expected, she explained with the help of her sketchbook … so I decided to experiment with more unusual material and finally achieved the results I wanted.
Stairs on both sides of the hall led to an elevated exhibition space dedicated to jewellery, ceramic, furniture and contemporary applied art. The One Year On show was on this floor. It showcased a group of 58 designers who graduated in 2011 and who have since demonstrated entrepreneurial flair, starting their companies and launching their brands.
The curator of this section, the multi-talented, award winning designer/maker Jethro Macey, selected styles and products to appeal to a wide range of taste. All products displayed here were available for purchase or commission. With the intention of achieving sales, products were displayed with great care, especially the jewellery. A great additional feature on this floor was air conditioning, unfortunately non-existent elsewhere!
Although on a mission to discover fashion and textile designers, I was very interested by a jewellery collection entitled Kit Swing, designed by Rachel Ann Phillips from Sir John Cass School of Art.
Rachel explained to me that her pieces aimed to represent corruption; these were quite violent pieces in sharp contrast with the refined and elegant stand where it was displayed. There was also a sense of contrast within each of Rachel’s jewellery pieces. She used contrasting materials, mixed traditional jewellery material with fabric and plastic doll parts. Was this jewellery or something entirely different? The designer explained her intentions to evolve towards fashion in order to gain the freedom to explore her art further.
Quietly hung in an area which experiences a lot less traffic, I was surprised to find more interesting textile projects. It is unfortunate that Deconstruct Reconstruct the amazing collection by Adele Bowdon, a textile design graduate from the University of Leeds, could have been missed. I couldn’t keep my eyes away from these individual pieces, each combining threads of different colours and knit stiches of various types and sizes; producing knots and fringes of different thicknesses. The overall effect was quite unique; it created volume and draping. Their creator, Adele Bowdon wasn’t present at the event but her peers from Leeds University very kindly explained her approach. Adele got obsessed with street art, her degree collection resulted in Urban Textile Graphities.
New Designers is sponsored by major companies and organisations such as Hallmark, Wilkinson, Tigerprint, The Goldsmiths’ Company, Harlequin, 100% Design … joined this year by John Lewis, Made.com and Sanderson.In recognition of their hard work and to support their young talent, eleven graduating students of New Designers Part I were presented with an award. These students earned not only recognition and a cash prize, but also a chance to collaborate with some of the sponsoring organisations.
The BDC New Designers of the Year Award is the most prestigious of these prizes; the announcement of its winner caused a ripple of excitement. The judging panel was formed by six professionals, each expert in a different field. Textile designer Margo Selby was one of them.
This year top prize went to Joseph Hartley and his project The Makery, a homeware collection designed to make food. Joseph studied 3D Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. The judges commended: Joseph has a passion for functionality and innovation without compromising his craft. The connection between Joseph and his work enhances its honesty and integrity.
Four New Designers Associate Prizes were also awarded; I especially liked the work of Emma Hollins, a Glass & Ceramics BA graduates from the University of Sunderland, who won the Contemporary Glass Society Award.
Attending New Designer 2012 was not only fun and exciting but I found it was also a good learning experience. University students and tutors were friendly, keen to engage in conversations and answer questions about their work and their studies.
This event should not remain the hunting ground of companies and curators in search of new talent; it should also be visited by anyone interested design and applied arts, especially prospective students. They will obtain useful information about the different courses available across the country and gain insight into different creative practices and design processes.
Fortunately, if New Designers Part I is now over, Part II is still to come from July the 4th to July the 7th. The works exhibited in Part II will include product and industrial design, furniture design, graphical and illustration. An additional fifteen awards will be announced in the evening of the 4th of July. No matter what technics are used and the type of product designed, New Designers gives to the public an exceptional opportunity to observe inspiration and creativity at work, from the original idea to practical designs. You should really consider visiting New Designers.