MA shows are visual declarations from brilliant minds, an option for the industry to tap the keg of youth and its innovative, fresh ideas. For 2017, on election day - a day filled with news, media hysteria and an abundance of stuffy suits in the public eye - the RCA presented a remedial slap of refreshingly energetic talent and style. Shown across three floors of the Old Truman Brewery, this presentation was a declaration of politics, race and gender.
First up was Zahra Sooty Hosseini, whose modern Iran-inspired pieces were entirely interchangeable. Sat centre stage in a pool of Sooty’s designs while the fashion pack took their seats, the models rose to show the versatility of the garments as a call to prayer rang overhead - dress transformed into prayer mat, prayer mat into slick hooded suit, suit into cape and back into mat for the models to pray. Particularly pertinent considering the recent attacks, Sooty’s work is a reminder about the way Islam is so often misconceived in the western world.
The gong of call to prayer became a singing fog horn as Michael Stewart’s ladies of the moor stepped out. Cut on the bias, Stewart’s designs are all about drawing the eye to the hip. Henry Moore inspired hand-made wrist and waist cuffs hugged the body and drew attention further to those sumptuous lines. One thought of sculpture, of Heathcliff and of Hans Bellmer. In a world of Kardashian silhouettes, Michael Stewart offers a beautiful alternative.
Innovative knitwear from Verity Germer challenged our comfort zones with thick and thin ribbed sleeves and oversized pinch pleat shoulder, Aubrey Wang’s fishbowl head ornaments, silver trousers and plastic bag stripes nodded to a fun future of fashion with a nineties twist, Colin Horgan’s Tekken and Gladiator inspired women came in iridescent and holographic patent strips and black oversized flares, showing the viewer his women are ready to take on the world and Jennifer Koch’s vivacious models danced and sprang about the stage in their shimmering candy coloured metallic tracksuits, throwing fortune cookies toward the audience. (Each of which cleverly had Jennifer’s contact within.) Amongst all the fantasy and frivolity these designs shone as covetable and marketable items.
Fabien Kis-Juhasz took a torch to the generic horror film female stereotypes and gave them a new club-kid lease of life. Debutante was given a boozy twist with slurred make-up and nipple accessory, Grandma (retitled as The Anarchic Mother) was given chunky extra-prominent shoulders and a soft pink headscarf and the final bride came with a stomp in her buxom breasted gown complete with waxen lingerie accessories. A wonderful deconstruction of femininity as a construct.
From female empowerment to manipulated menswear, Charlotte McDonald’s denim and parka-like visions had the front row leering over toe to get a better look at her techniques. McDonald had used radio frequency welding to create her distressed and structured jackets and trouser - each of which looked to challenge the way masculinity is represented.
When roaming through the upper and lower floors, creativity seemed to appear from each corner as if course leader Zowie Broach had created a Willy Wonka Factory for arts and fashion. Up top, viewers were entranced by Binbin Hu’s conjoined models, each attached with a white or cream lightly ribbed dress. One thought of Ernesto Neto’s sculptures as models moved and swayed creating new shapes and shadows as they nonchalantly wagged cigarettes and vapes from fingers.
Down below in the basement, Abbie Stirrup's performance saw models coated in neon slime, creating second-skin body suits in dripped neons and deep purples. Her ‘tailored gunge’ an impressive design feat.
Back on ground floor, the topical themes and designs were abound. Bianca Saunders sought to define modern black masculinity with her collection ‘Personal Politics’. Bathed in a rose glow, her models carried each other in a ceremonial manner, each wearing her already highly-praised designs - lacquered beige kick flares, grey sweatpants with coral like crimping on each hip and strapped puffer jacket and crop. Ellie Rousseau’s Manchester club-kids came in rave-coloured, checkerboard and graffiti print oversized knits and jean with some models sporting Manchester’s bee symbol on their hands - particularly poignant considering the recent attacks. Models also held up political banners that read ‘Corbyn In, Tories Out’ and ‘Save our Future’ - reminding us of the uncertain times ahead.
Each student, thanks to Broach’s tutelage, presented a truly wonderful presentation of craft and performance that emblazoned each student’s passion and awareness. Each offering was a finger on the pulse moment showing an impressive and deserved sense of confidence.