The annual New Designers exhibition of recent graduate work from across the UK was dominated this year by a demographic whose outlook is a fusion of the youngest of the Millennials (born circa 1980), and the elders of Generation Z (born circa 1995). Your reviewer’s conversations with Part 1 ND graduates (notably Luna Belle Samuels, Royal School of Needlework), bears out the findings of a recent Sparks & Honey white paper on the attributes of Gen Z. The take-away message of the report and the visual evidence at New Designers reveal the future is in the safe hands of Gen Z who look to be one of the best generations since the resiliency and inventiveness of the World War II generation.
Sparks & Honey report Gen Z have adopted the best attributes of previous generations, and said “no thanks” to what some deem the “me, me me” ethos of the generation that precedes them. Gen Z’ers want to work for their success, not wait to be “discovered”. They are future focused realists with a yen for what I call “positive nostalgia” – the “make do and mend” philosophy of older generations which may explain, for example, Gen Z’s interest in reinvigorating the Women’s Institute. The following highlights from ND Part 1 reflect a mixed generational demographic, but a common theme of resilient pragmatism mixed with future forward “nostalgia”.
You may look at Anna Chilton’s symbol laden Simian, sword and crown dress and think homage to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (and that would be no bad thing) but no, Chilton’s references are more significant. The symbols honour the Guerrilla Girls, feminism, anti-consumerism activist groups, and environmental concerns.
Personal references include lilies for mother, oak for strength and dove for peace. annachilton.tumblr.com
Royal School of Needlework graduate Will Ovenden’s work centres on revealing and celebrating hidden details through hand embroidery, surface embellishment and surface pattern. His latest work centres on family history and the heritage of his ancestors in the tailoring side of the textiles industry. Similar to an analogue version of Geographic Information System (GIS), Will’s jacket reveals the hidden layers of meticulous hand stitching beneath the surface sheath of bespoke tailoring.
Sadé Okayla Roache
Embracing the mannerisms and quirks of the female form are the core of Sadé’s debut collection Synergy. Additional inspiration comes from Comme Des Garçons and artists Jenny Saville and Egon Schiele. Traditional leather techniques and an understanding of constructed textiles are offset by her rope and rope macrame handles.
Boyle’s Lichen collection was inspired by her love of forests from a childhood spent visiting her maternal family in northern Sweden. The colours and “map” migration trail in her wall hanging reference traditional Sámi reindeer herding from summer grazing in the mountains to the forest lichens they need to live on through the winter. firstname.lastname@example.org www.mariaboyle.co.uk
The drape of Affleck’s Surreal furnishing fabric echoes the rolling hills near Bath, England. Her country house architecture and palette of greens and purples exude Rex Whistler while remaining fresh and contemporary. Dani-Affleck@hotmail.com
A graduate of the Royal School of Needlework, Pearl beads her entry for the Absolut Vodka design-a-bottle contest. A detail of her wall hanging embellished with hand stitched beaded embroidery on a grey felt ground in motifs inspired by Moroccan tiles follows beneath.
Lewis’s Childhood Nostalgia collection of knitted lambswool throws, mini-throws with pom-poms, and cushions were inspired by her childhood memories of toys, games and sweets.
Graduate of Glasgow School of Art, Francesca Stride’s stand was one of the best in terms of visually marketing her constituent knitwear samples on striking Biba-esque hanger mannequins.
RugWrapRug from Roberts’ Woolly Doodles Collection features recycled not-new knitwear, and by “not new” she means the bobbled nylon jumpers even pro recyclers reject as beyond the pale. Roberts’ unique method involves gun tufting rescued nylon fibres onto both sides of her textile base with a narrow channel separating each row. The gun pops air into the sad, rejected fibers and expands their volume to achieve a “new” and refreshed look. Think of it as the fiber equivalent of Cocoon but without the aliens.
Another Royal School of Needlework standout is the structural, geometric origami-like detailing on a sheath dress by Shauna White.
Perennial favourites maps – in this case, Glasgow – were digitally printed on wool and linen by Hughes.