Couture, artisanal, exquisite, sophisticated, sometimes aristocratic but always cool
Edinburgh College of Art is the only Scottish school to show at Graduate Fashion Week. The Fashion programme became involved with All Walks Beyond the Catwalk back in 2011, resulting in ECA’s students being educated in diversity within the industry. All fashion design projects now celebrate variety in age, size, and race. ECA graduate, Lauren Smith, won the highest award – the George Gold Award for Best Collection – at GFW 2013.
The collection presented by ECA at GFW 2015, lived up to the hype and long-standing reputation of the College. Each student presented a thoroughly unique collection. Should this be attributed to the quality of their training, their tutors, the small size of their cohort or to Scottish water? You decide. You may also want to consider ECA focus on diversity and interdepartmental collaboration with students sometimes collaborating with peers in jewellery, silversmithery and textile design.
All Images by Debbie Martin
The show opened on an ethereal note. Andrew Dhesi’s “The Lost Boy” was so elaborate that the collection’s run on the catwalk was not nearly enough to properly take it all in. Layers upon layers of sheer white and blue tulle were unique in their print, with stripes in every direction and latticed overlays creating volume that was fascinatingly complex. Laser cut Koi Carp embellished pieces as if they were swimming between the multitudes of material. Fragility was expressed through the clear perspex accessories so delicate that from afar they were almost invisible.
Next up was a wild 80s throwback courtesy of Kiki McKenzie and her “You do not have to be Your Mother” collection. Leather, fur and lace in vivid hot pinks, oranges and turquoise were a bold colour choice for the loose streetwear garments. And yet the jumpsuits, culottes, oversized jackets and dresses were certainly wearable – as long as you don’t mind the occasional stare. The glint of lightning bolt and circular sequins covered entire garments and added the final touches to an outrageously loud, exciting collection.
The “Outer Space, Outer my Mind” streetwear menswear collection by Kate Cockburn evoked the classic rounded sleeves and silhouettes of Comme de Garcon but with a Malibu twist – each piece was covered in bright hibiscus prints and monochrome curls. The outer space theme could be seen in the hoods that nearly obscured the models vision to create an insular aesthetic. Even though they were chunky, the silhouettes were full of grace.
Heather Dooley’s luxurious “La Vie Parisienne” gave a nod to the 1900s. The richness of velvet, corduroy and linen were finished with tassels, pom-poms and fur trim that were a light and playful touch. Finding a perfect intersection tailored and billowing waves of pistachio and musk pinks, the tones were warm, opulent. In any other hand the result could have been kitsch here it was aristocratic.
All hands were on deck in Eleanor Paulin’s “Genetic Metamorphosis” with her phalange obsession provided the basis for an incredibly intricate collection. Strips of leather were sewed together in such detail that Paulin has had to constantly correct people: “it’s not laser cut!”
With 100+ hours of work put into each piece, the young designer is determined for her hand stitched work to not be attributed to a machine. Melting pleather into silk gave another interesting layer to the bright blue, white, red and green strips that make up the floor length garments.
ECA’s show closed with Melissa Villevieille’s “Fauve, moi?” a symmetrical dream. The cleverly tailored floor length outerwear and couture gowns were beaded so heavily that they exuded regal quality. Each thick stripe wrapped around the garment to elongate, sharpen and emphasis the body’s natural curves. The thick materials were reworked into beautifully crafted interpretations of traditional trench coats, bolero jackets and lengthened, almost kimono-like garments.
Once more Edinburgh College of Art left us exhilarated and craving for more. The ECA offered a rare style of fashion design: couture, artisanal, exquisite, sophisticated, sometimes aristocratic but always cool. Graduate collections of such complexity and ambition often require editing, not here.