In many ways the fashion industry is in the strongest place it’s ever been. Fast fashion has brought the high street down to the masses; small houses are getting attention with distribution patterns and methods that didn't exist a decade ago; and the internet is spreading labels all over the world.
The UTS Bachelor of Design in Fashion and Textiles graduating class are taking advantage of this. They’re whip-smart, self-aware, can see the bigger picture and they’re daring. They’re delivering thought-provoking, concept-driven pieces.
Graduate Charmaine Salvacion will release a capsule collection and pursue her photographic dreams. Her graduate work is thrilling: orchestrated chaos; the layering of human identity; and some damn-fine culottes. It’s impossible to hear her talk about a world in which “socially-constructed expectations of gender are slowly becoming more irrelevant” without nodding in agreement. With David Bowie and drag queen Divine as influences, it’s unsurprising her premise centres on the belief that “nothing is essential and that there is no correct way of being”.
Natasha Chiew’s pleating is inspired by celestial motifs in Islamic architecture. She’s travelling to Japan for a research trip before appearing at Toronto Fashion Week. There’s a sense of playfulness to her pieces, but she’s also concerned with the state of the industry. She’s heavily invested in ethical creative practices, and sources cruelty-free silk from India. “Can you believe that’s a thing? I want to see everyone along the line looked after,” says Chiew.
But perhaps most impressive of all is Stephanie Frig, who creates handmade mesh fabric. The technical mastery of her craft at such a young age is impressive. Drawing on the influence of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, and the tradition of elderly ladies in their Sunday best, Frig has created a triumph of excess in an age of minimalism.
Despite their range of influences and future plans, they all share similar concerns regarding the pace of the industry, and the growth of fast fashion and the demand it causes. How can they compete with global giants or bring low prices and sustainability together? But there’s hope, too. ”Diversity is being celebrated,” says Salvacion, and these young creators are part of a cultural recoding.