Homage to Heritage: Meet Katie Davidson

Liverpool John Moores University graduate Katie Davidson incorporates themes of identity and lineage in her highly personal, structured pieces. One of a strong class of 2013, she talks about her plans for her label, KMDdesigns

Feature by Alexandra Fiddes | 01 Aug 2013

The oldest school of art in England outside of London is having a moment. Liverpool's John Moores University (LJMU, established 1825, in case you were wondering) offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a variety of art and design specialisms – and their latest crop of fashion graduates has just returned from the prestigious Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) 2013, which was founded in 1991 as a way to promote new talent and bridge the gap between graduation and employment. Every June, over 20,000 guests attend; they're a mix of industry experts, journalists, editors and fashion fans from around the world, and all are dedicated to scoping out new designers destined for great things.

On day two of GFW, it was LJMU's turn to take to the stage. The students showed work of an extremely high standard, with an interesting mix of collections, some demonstrating traditional garment structure and others showing more futuristic and innovative cutting styles.

One of our favourite newly graduated designers, Katie Davidson (of KMDdesigns) – who has just recieved a first class degree from LJMU – showed a striking Scottish-inspired collection named Sapienter si Sincere (roughly translated to mean Wisely if Sincerely), which comprised avant-garde nude printed bodysuits layered underneath historical-looking dresses.

Davidson's stag, skull and text-printed catsuits gave the impression that the models were adorned with tribal tattoos from a bygone age; these were then layered underneath powerfully structured dresses made in green, red and blue 'Ancient Davidson' tartan. The traditional Scottish fabric was combined with contrasting bursts of eye-popping orange detailing and lashings of sheer black in the form of headscarves and trailing skirts. We loved the nipped-in waists, structured shoulders and the juxtaposition of fabrics.

"The inspiration for the collection was my own direct paternal lineage," Davidson explains, "as the phrase Sapienter si Sincere is the Davidson family motto."

"By the time my name came up on the projector, I was shaking so badly that I nearly fell off my seat" – Katie Davidson

This personal link to, and interest in, Scottish clan history and culture meant there was a lot of "historical referencing through the shapes," which were then "fused with modern techniques and prints." Davidson adds that she "spent time on research and playing with themes and ideas, mapping out a story and theory to base the collection on."

Davidson is full of praise for her alma mater, citing the university's support as a catalyst for her growing success as a designer. "LJMU has been really wonderful in supporting me during my time there," she says. "From the academic and support staff right down to the resources available to all students, the university has been a major stepping stone in my career path." She adds that "the Fashion course culminated in two live catwalk shows, one at the university, and then another at Graduate Fashion Week in June. The tutors were amazing with both shows, and the quality in the end spoke for itself."

Creating a collection to be shown in a traditional runway format as well as in an exhibition – both seen by hundreds of industry experts who are judging every stitch – gives new graduates an insight into the reality of the fashion industry and how daunting but also rewarding it can be.

"The catwalk show was the ultimate satisfactory moment," Davidson says. "My collection was the last to be shown on the LJMU catwalk, and thanks to the fantastic team behind the scenes, I actually got to watch the show live in the audience – by the time my name came up on the projector, I was shaking so badly that I nearly fell off my seat. It was an amazing experience to see my work up there on such a professional level, though, and it’s one I’m hoping to repeat many times over." Unlike many art colleges and creative courses, LJMU offers business advice and guidance regarding steps to take after graduating in the form of an Enterprise Fellowship Programme, run by the institution's Centre for Entrepreneurship team.

So what's next for Katie Davidson? "Right now, I am doing all the behind-the-scenes work to get my label, KMDdesigns up and running officially in time for the launch of the first collection, Sapienter si Sincere, in September," she tells us. "I will be releasing bi-annual pret-a-porter collections through our online boutique from now on."

"I think as a womenswear designer, my ultimate dream is to eventually hear a celebrity walking down the red carpet answer that old question, 'Who are you wearing?' with a simple 'KMDdesigns'. I think I would explode!" she says, sweetly explaining that "I just want to make women feel and look amazing." With an attitude like that, combined with focus, ambition and talent, we're expecting Davidson to go far.