Heriot-Watt University Fashion Show 2015

We speak to graduating designer Joanne Thomas for an insight into the new class of 2015

Feature by Fern Logue | 28 May 2015

The annual Heriot-Watt Graduate Fashion show sees BA Fashion and Design for Textiles and BSc Fashion Technology students present their graduate collections on the runway to family, friends and members of the press. The renowned fashion programme at Heriot-Watt explores the creative process of fashion design from the initial research stage through to collection, creation and production, while also studying and exploring the different types of market sectors (from fast fashion, high street and luxury), both within the UK and the global market. This gives the graduating students a personal fashion style, as well as a broad understanding of the worldwide fashion industry. Previous graduates of the course have gone on to create their own labels – for example, Samantha McEwan of Isolated Heroes who, among her many award nominations and prizes, has most recently won Best Scottish Independent Online Retailer 2014 at The Herald Fashion Awards – as well as those who have gone on to work with high-profile companes such as Paul Smith, Jasper Conran, Anna Sui, Oasis, Marks & Spencer, Next, Levi- Strauss, John Lewis, Berghaus and Nike.

The 2015 edition in June will include both womenswear and menswear collections, with a fashion-forward, contemporary approach and also a focus on wearability. The inspiration and themes explored by the students include the 'tactile, convertible and the recyclable,' as the show aims to celebrate the work of the graduates and the skill, expertise and innovative design that they have learned throughout their time at Heriot-Watt – the culmination of this being a small collection made within their final year. Designed for the A/W15 season, the collections include sustainable garments created in fabrics produced from waste plastic material as well as bananas (!), a decontextualisation of men’s traditional Scottish dress ('fit for the modern urban warrior’), and garments that can be converted from jackets to trousers and skirts to tops.

Ahead of the show, we catch up with Joanne Thomas, one of the graduating class of 2015 to find out more about her work, studying at Heriot-Watt and what she has planned for the future.

Thomas explains, "I wanted to create a collection which had a strong conceptual theme and create garments which are a mix between classic and contemporary." With this in mind, she has produced a collection that explores the sensation of becoming blind. Thomas’s six-piece collection delves into the the loss of vision as an experience. This is a concept inspired by conversations with her grandmother – to produce works that focus on the "journey into the dark world of blindness." The sense of the emotions and feelings of sight-loss are mimicked through fabrics, layering and knotting.

As Thomas tells us: "Using fabrics such as chiffon and raincoat plastic layered on top of other garments, I created the illusion of what was underneath being blurred and distorted." The muted pastel tones of lilac, grey and midnight blue reflect the lack of vibrancy experienced during the loss of sight, and the muted skies and landscapes experienced during the degeneration of vision. The feelings of vulnerability and being trapped are emphasised by large tied knots and the restriction of the wearer's arm movement – giving an insight into losing your independence and relying on those around you to carry out everyday tasks for you.

Using the slogan ‘All We Have is Words’ as a repeat motif within her work, Thomas reflects on the importance of description, and the reliance upon the descriptions of others to depict loved ones, landscapes and even your own reflection. Garments are embellished with this slogan written in braille, which is embossed in suede and laser-cut in crepe, creating texture and highlighting the heightening of other senses, particularly touch. Thomas has crafted a strong concept and aims to mix classic and contemporary styles in her collection.

"Works that focus on the "journey into the dark world of blindness"

After graduation, young designer Thomas is focused on finding a creative job within the fashion industry. "I recently completed an internship with Christopher Kane, one of my long-time favourite designers, and would love a job within his creative dream," she says. "I really admire his design aesthetic and I loved my time with his company." Adding that after gaining experience within a established design house she would love to start her own label eventually.

Thomas tells us that the staff at Heriot-Watt were very supportive and she found Heriot-Watt to be "a great place to study; its extensive facilities made your ambitious designs easy to create," as well as "encouraging you to use various textile techniques such as print, knit and laser cutting along with experimental sewing and pattern cutting techniques." Thomas also adds that unlike many other fashion courses, they learned to both design and create in equal measure: "We know how to fully construct every design we create, and I think this is very important when going into industry."

Joanne’s work, together with the collections of her Fashion, Design for Textiles and Fashion Technology contemporaries, are hotly anticipated and can be seen on the runway at the Graduate Fashion Show on 5 Jun. The show takes place in the historic setting of Abbotsford House, a 19th century country mansion in the Scottish Borders outside Melrose, on the south bank of the River Tweed and handily near the Heriot-Watt Galashiels campus. It was formerly the residence of novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott and makes for an impressive backdrop, where the stunning gardens will house a marquee purpose-built for the catwalk showcase event.

Graduate shows never fail to show off the cutting edge of design innovation and the future of Scottish Fashion – and this year's crop of Heriot-Watt’s graduates seem set to impress!

Friday 5 Jun, 7.30pm, Abbotsford House, Melrose Tickets £10, available from borderevents.com/event/heriot_watt_fashion_show_2015 facebook.com/hwtextiles joanneithomas.com http:// www.borderevents.com