The spiralling high glass building of Ravensbourne College is utilised to full use to showcase its graduating students’ work. Spanning over ten floors, everything from Architecture to Photography is given its own floor, transforming the building into a gallery of a vast array of work.
With such an immense variety of projects on display, it almost feels difficult to decide where to start. However, as I sit back and reflect on the different exhibitions, the one on Fashion Accessory Design immediately comes to mind. This might be unusual perhaps, as accessorises often play the sidekick or the embellishment to the apparently star piece—the outfit. Yet the accessories crafted, dreamed up of and created at Ravensbourne are far from being mere accompaniments.
Ravensbourne describes its Fashion Accessory Design course as: ‘combin[ing] conceptual creativity and commercial awareness with future craft and digital marketing techniques’. This amalgamation of modernity and classic interfaces is certainly at the forefront of students’ work.
Imogen Alexander, The Persian Dreams
Imogen Alexander’s The Persian Dreams features gentle lavenders and lively Middle Eastern prints. Diversity is at the forefront of this exhibition, and it is gratifying to be first met with Alexander’s work which is inspired by her Persian heritage. Soft colours clash strikingly against bold patterns, my favourite being a purple and black chequered bag sitting on a bed of blushing roses. Persian prints are renowned for their intricate designs, yet Alexander scales this back with simple, daring colours. Their contrast against the flowers suggests this bag is not only for the intrepid and outspoken, but delicate and gentle wearers too.
George Crandon, As One
Moving deeper into the exhibition, the MeToo movement makes a proud and pretty appearance in George Crandon’s work. It is both bold and beautified, suggesting how Ravensbourne’s students do indeed know how to bring a commercial flair to relevant protests and trends. For instance, ‘TIMES UP’ is printed in a large vintage typeface on a cream banner, evoking the Suffragette movement in this 21st century protest. It is attached to a baby pink satchel, bringing this movement to the present. The banner arguably looks at odds with the bag, and perhaps more can be done to unify them. However, its flowing movement from the bag evokes practicality and realism. It illustrates a woman in the middle of a protest, wearing the slogan proudly and chanting its words.
Erika Urnikaite, Wanderlust
Perhaps the most striking accessories ensemble belongs to Erika Urnikaite. Her didactic label merely reads Erika Urnikaite: Wanderlust. No explanation is given. Instead, the eyes travel across chaos and cacophony. A collage of colours, art and history. Her portfolio is fronted with an assortment of various paintings that I want to tentatively and vaguely label as ‘Grecian’. Yet, the sheer number of reaching soldiers, smiling women and topless, godlike figures repels me from searching to be sure. I am willingly lost in the uncertainty, in the anarchy of melding all these figures together. The effect is quite impactful and enjoyable.
I also admire Urnikaite’s bags, featuring a glowering Grecian statue’s eyes, printed over and over. I can imagine it hanging on the rails of an Anthropology or Urban Outfitters shop. Her portfolio cover could also be found easily in a bound of places, from the bright corridors of the Tate Modern to the dingy corner of a university student’s wall, tacked above polaroids and cinema tickets. Her work is unapologetically aesthetic and current, the fun chaos of collage modernising the ancient work it features.
Megan Davis, Skin Ndadi Vandy, Bad Gyal
Moving down the steps of Ravensbourne we move onto another level I did not initially imagine would intrigue me so much: Fashion Promotion. Another aspect of design that takes place more behind the scenes than centre stage. That is not to say it is not a crucial part of the fashion landscape. Here, my favourite work are Megan Davis’ designs for ‘Skin’, deftly combining the ‘i’ and the ‘n’ into one letter, relaying ideas of minimalism and technology that is intrinsic with the skincare brand it is advertising. Other students’ work includes Ndadi Vandy’s audacious bubblegum pink ‘Bad Gyal’ slogan slotted into a plastic bag brandishing sweets and stickers. Advertising a platform empowering women, Vandy has designed a forefront that is both robust and fun.
And finally, the fashion designs themselves. I must admit that I find fashion in its primal catwalk form unequivocally daunting. The most adventurous foray I have made into clothes is entering a Monki which just about sums up how much of an expert I am.
Yet, viewing the work here, it is impossible to argue that fashion does not equate to art. Dramatic pieces including layered white cloth and flared black gothic lace looms at me in the final level this review will explore. Diversity is again heralded amidst these pieces that range from ambitious and daring to subtle and sexy. Whether it is flowing crimson or straight cut black, the pieces are crafted with flair and expertise.
A piece I have not been able to get out of my head for all sorts of reasons is the pink puffer jacket/dress hybrid pictured above. Equally bizarre and attractive in its folds and colour, I actually would not be surprised to see young women sporting this on a holiday trip in Val d’Isère in a few years’ time. It somehow just works. Don’t ask me how.
Overall, my experience at Ravensbourne was a sucker punch of high powered art and design. It is easy to see how the college features alumni such as Stella McCartney and Bruce Oldfield. Ravensbourne’s 2018 graduates are undeniably talented and full of innovative inspiration. From clothes to cards, they are clearly ready to take on the fashion world by technicolour storm.