Glasgow School of Art Fashion Show 2015

Feature by Leonie Wolters | 26 Feb 2015

The world is a big place, and in sartorial terms this means it offers more than one way to tastefully cover one’s bits. This must have been the exact thoughts of the Glasgow School of Art teachers when they decided to have BA Fashion and Textile students use world dress and textile traditions as a source of inspiration for the annual GSA fashion show. On the 3rd and 4th of March, the Vic will be host to a cosmopolitan clothing extravaganza, with shows happening each day at 7 and 9pm.

Second year students will show selected work from the current academic year, while third years are designing pieces that take cues from a dazzling range of global cultural expressions: Russian constructivism, 1970s Marrakech, Korean Pojagi patchwork, narco-culture as encountered in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, bark paintings of the Congolese Mbuti tribe, the thick tent rope of the Bedouin, and Armenia’s traditional fruits are only a selection of the stimulants that have been getting the students’ creative juices flowing.

“This theme requires considered and respectful research to ensure that the end results are innovative and creative enough not to rely on cheap mimicry,” says Jimmy Stephen-Cran, Head of Fashion and Textiles at the GSA. “The students have very much risen to this challenge." When considering the used materials range from sweatshirt fabrics to unspun wool and found objects, and the techniques include everything from hand printing to domestic machine knitting, one feels liable to agree with him.

Even though they’re busy completing their three outfits to be shown, embroidery students Noor-e-sehar Sajjad and Rochelle McGuinness have taken some time to discuss their design processes. Sajjad’s womenswear collection takes its cues from both East and West Africa: “The Maasai tribe has beautiful bright coloured garments and the Wodaabe tribe brilliantly accentuates neutral colours with highlighted tones in their textiles. I was particularly drawn towards an image of an African woman wearing layers of vibrant beads around her neck.” From this striking picture, Sajjad’s process has taken shape. “I managed to personalise the imagery through drawing, and translated it onto fabric by using various hand embroidery and fabric manipulation techniques.”

Rather than take inspiration directly from garments, McGuinness’ research has focused on the physical aspects of the Nunavik homeland of the Inuit. “Two key elements informed my capsule collection: the ombré effect of the magnificent skyline, and the sharp geometric angles and translucent nature of the ice that adorns the habitat of the Inuit.” Using techniques such as screen printing and the construction of three-dimensional areas, McGuinness has embodied these visual qualities into a capsule menswear collection.

“The piece that reflects all the elements from which I took my inspiration is a transparent men’s PVC jacket with ombré leather sleeves,” McGuinness says, to illustrate how ethereal ideas have translated into a specific garment. “The sleeves depict the snow-filled Nunavik skyline and the PVC represents the ice-covered landscape. I styled the garment with a lace t-shirt which I hand-printed to give a frosted effect, which complements the geometric ice-inspired jacket.”

Sajjad’s describes her favourite piece as a “black jacket with hand-stitched green fabric manipulation.” The immense work involved in making her collection becomes clear when she explains the details of the jacket’s construction. “Every little piece is bonded, cut and carefully hand stitched using different coloured embroidery threads. I feel that the use of rigid cotton on black silk organza gives it a lovely feel and movement.”

Creating outfits and organising the four shows has been a lengthy process, which has in and of itself had an effect on the nature of the work. “Initially, I intended to create a capsule collection aimed at women,” says McGuinness, “but during my fabric development process I felt that the angular monochromatic elements within my work were more suited to menswear.” When asked what project she’d like to embark upon if there were no practical limitations whatsoever, McGuinness deftly moves on to a model that is even more angular.  “I’d clothe the art school’s Macintosh building in my own three-dimensional fabric design throughout the restoration work, to be unveiled on completion.”

It is to be hoped fashion’s ability to make people look great will be extended to buildings in the not-too-distant future, and the Macintosh building seems like an appropriate candidate. Perhaps a spot of guerrilla knitting will do until then. In the meantime, the GSA fashion show promises to pay homage to a veritable plethora of cultures, as well as to the creative process of interpretation itself.

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The GSA Fashion Show 2015, GSA Student Association Building, 3 & 4 Mar, 7&9pm, £10/7