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When graphics and fashion collide

Written by
Harry RM
Published date
09 December 2019

For the past 4 years, Camberwell BA Graphic Design second year students have used a graphic design methodology to design garments and accessories. The project always culminates in a fashion show organised by the students.

Mock-Up garment - Credit: Thomas Adank Caption

BA Graphic Design senior lecturer Robert Sollis and tutor Fraser Muggeridge developed this project together. We spoke with Robert about this ongoing project:

“Each year Fraser and I develop a project together to explore a variety of mediums in the process. Past projects include:

In Our Time Dot Gif - in which students distilled the In Our Time radio programme archive into hundreds of animated gifs.

Genre Mashup - students were asked to design a single record cover for 2 musical genres at the same time.

Wallpaper Graphics - where students designed repeat patterns and wallpapered their studio with them.

Fraser and I had been talking about asking students to design clothes for some time, but it wasn’t until Fraser suggested that we have a fashion show that the idea started to make sense. The show gave the project a focus and I like to find public applications for the work that we ask the students to do.”

The first graphic design fashion show was named Zip File, it included anti-consumerist statements written on a giant receipt shawl and a suit created from J-cloths.

The second iteration Mock Up, explored a diverse range of ideas and themes, with many of the students using the project as an opportunity to express deeply personal and political viewpoints.

Cmd-Stitch garment - Credit: Thomas Adank Caption

Robert Sollis: “We wanted the project to be about identity, we were interested in how individuals are in control of shaping their own identity by changing the way that they dress. Clothing is our own personal interface with society. Clothes are signs, and whilst we may not be able to choose the signs that surround us in public, we are able to choose what we wear, and we can use this as a space to comment on the world that we live in.

The most exciting thing for me was the diversity of ideas that emerged. The voices that came through in the work were so strong. From a garment that talked about the privatisation of the NHS to another which expressed how it is to live as a Muslim woman in London. The students are so confident and articulate in what they want to say.

In the past I have set projects which directly ask for a political response and we have had to work quite hard to break down what it can mean to be political as an individual, but this project really took off.”

For the third show, Cmd-Stitch, students combined elements of their practice in graphics, typography and print with textiles and fashion.

The fourth and most recent show, Zeichen, coincided with the Bauhaus Party, a centenary celebration of the Bauhaus. As part of the Our Haus Festival, the party was organised by BA Graphic Design tutors Fraser Muggeridge, Rob Sollis and Eleanor Vonne Brown.

Robert Sollis: “It was part of the week long Our Haus Festival celebrating 100 years of the Bauhaus. The theme of the Bauhaus party was signs so we used this as the theme for the fashion show.”

The brief for the fashion garment was to make a sign that was an item of wearable clothing. The sign could be an object, text, action, shape or pattern that conveyed a meaning. The garment could be a functional or abstract form, it just had to be wearable.

Zeichen garments - Credit: Camberwell Graphic Design Caption

Each graphics student designed and made their own garment. Students worked together in teams to curate the elements that would come together to create the fashion show. Eleanor Kiera Simpson, a second year BA Graphic Design student was this year’s fashion show coordinator:

“The role involved me organising each working group within the fashion show - production, set and sound design, graphic identity, promotional trailer, documentation, social media, hair and makeup.

I was proud of how well our class worked together as a whole. The project really brought us closer. I was also proud of myself for being able to fulfil my role. I normally stand behind the scenes, yet since fashion is what my work revolves around, I wanted to step up and prove myself. I really surprised myself and it has actually changed me for the better, it has made me far more ambitious. The best experience was seeing everyone’s hard work come to life on the day of the show. It was such a valuable experience.”

Find out more about BA Graphic Design at Camberwell.