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Earth Day: Collaborating with O'Neill on their innovative capsule collection

Model wearing sportswear outfit
  • Written byLondon College of Fashion
  • Published date 18 April 2023
Model wearing sportswear outfit

BA (Hons) Fashion Sportswear students were given the opportunity to design an innovative capsule collection for the pioneering clothing brand O’Neill. The O’Neill team challenged students to create a fresh new look informed by Gen Z insights and research. This in-curricular project was an opportunity for students to experiment with materials and fabric and reflect on the brand’s roots and past, whilst looking to the future. Students created six looks that were inclusive, diverse, and environmentally responsible - coinciding with this week's Earth Day celebration.

The final pieces were exhibited at LCF’s Mare Street campus, where students presented their concepts and looks on professional models. To celebrate the collaboration, O’Neill’s team met the students in person, reviewed their work and awarded Emilie Kristiansen as the overall winner. Emilie received a £2250 cash prize.

Three other students were also awarded runner-up prizes of £750 each for their achievement in the categories of 'Research and Concept', 'Design and Experimentation' and 'Realisation and Promotion'.

We caught up with the Head of Buying and Design Lifestyle, Swim and Accessories, Ricardo Campoa, for his thoughts on approaching the collaboration and working with LCF students. We also spoke to the competition winner, Emilie Kristiansen, and two runner-ups, for reflections on their prize-winning work.

Ricardo Campoa, Head of Buying & Design Lifestyle, Swim and Accessories at O’Neill.

Why did you initially approach LCF for this collaboration?

We approached LCF because we were looking for an innovative point of view from young designers and relevant consumers for our brand, and their vision of the future for O’Neill.

Tell me what it was like working with BA fashion sportswear students and academics on this project.

Our general impression was very strong. There were many different points of view, from different cultures and parts of the world, and they all had a different and exciting spin on the brief.

What skills/qualities did you see from our students?

It was very interesting to see the different skills shown by the students. We saw great skills in draping, and elaborate constructions mixing different materials during the prototype phase. Some students were strong in the research part, while others had a skilful approach to video and images supporting their collection. It was really varied, and we were impressed with their skills, especially considering they were only 2nd-year students.

It was lovely to host you at the showcase. What did you think about it?

It was a great experience; it was intimate, and we felt very welcomed by both the tutors and the students.

Why did you select Emilie as the overall winner of the project?

The project spoke to us from many different aspects. It was the most complete from concept to execution and aligned with the brand’s sports performance heritage. It had hero products as well as commercial takedowns. She understood us as a customer and brought a strong sustainable angle with an unexpected look and feel to her final pieces.

These students were awarded runners-up in the following categories, can you tell us why?

  • Research and concept: Junlue Chen
    Very strong concept, taking inspiration from nature and ancient Chinese history and legends. We were blown away.
  • Design and experimentation: Jianing Lu
    With the coral bleaching approach, Jianing really focused on our playground, the ocean, experimenting with colours and materials. The reversibility of the garments really elevated the concept, and the fun and playful colour usage showed a unique design point of view.
  • Realisation and Promotion: Raul Jegatheesan
    Brought different cultures to his concept in a unique way and also had a more visible understanding of our end consumer and the channels we are focused on. We loved his approach and how it all came together, including his vision of bringing it to market, including distribution
Students standing besides model wearing sportswear outfit
Emilie Kristiansen. Photographer: Kexin Han

Overall winner: Emilie Kristiansen

How does it feel to be crowned the winner?

It feels great to be crowned the winner. I have been working hard on my project, and it feels fantastic to receive recognition from O'Neill and everyone involved. The course has many talented individuals, and we have all done some fantastic projects. I am very proud of everything we achieved together in the end.

Tell us about your concept. Where did you take inspiration from?

My design inspiration always starts with defining a problem I want to solve. In this case, the concept's goal was to help reduce pollution in the sea and protect marine life. I believe that before producing new materials, we should consider the end phase or how to extend the use phase of the product. If I cannot explain how to do that, I do not think the concept is strong enough. I wanted to use alternative materials that already existed as part of O'Neill's assortment. I designed a take-back system for O'Neill where I upcycled the received kite material and trims into new styles, almost without adding any new material or trim. I created styles that can be worn before or after surfing on the beach, with oversized silhouettes that can be worn in many sizes and by all genders. The muses for the concept are the youth who surf in the Nordic region, young people who defy all kinds of weather to surf and catch the next big wave. They are free-spirited, strong, adventurous, and not afraid to jump into cold water.

What skills have you learned from the course that helped you with this project?

I have learned a lot of new skills from this course as an exchange student at LCF. With my background in sustainable fashion, sportswear was a completely new field for me to work in. People at LCF work at a very high level and have high technical skills in general. They are also very good at communicating their visual universe and sketching. It pushed me to work hard and challenge myself to do better. Luckily, the technicians at school are very helpful and kind. They have saved me many times.

What was the most exciting aspect of working with O'Neill?

The most exciting aspect of working with O'Neill was the fact that they were so open-minded. Almost anything was possible, and they made that very clear in the brief. They asked questions and listened very carefully. You could feel their honest interest in your concept and styles. They were very professional and gave great feedback. As a student, you felt seen and respected as a designer. I think that's rare to find, and I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with them.

Tell me about the showcase.

The showcase was fun and a little nerve-racking. Everything we had worked on over the last few months was now on display, and we had to perform and present everything. We created a beautiful showroom and had iPads to show any visual aspects we wanted to explain further. It was an excellent way to conclude everything, and I'm grateful that O'Neill and LCF made everything possible for us. It shows that they have great trust in their design students and believe that we deserve the best opportunities.

Students standing besides model wearing sportswear outfit
Junlue Chen

Winner of the Research and Concept category: Junlue Chen

How does it feel to win the Research and Concept category?

I feel extremely excited and grateful that my work has been endorsed and my efforts have paid off. I want to express my thanks to everyone who has supported me throughout this journey.

Tell me about your concept. Where did you take inspiration from?

My concept is based on two main inspirations: the style of Maggie, a 21-year-old woman, and a series of research that I conducted as the designer.

Maggie is a fashion-forward woman with a lively personality who loves to dress up and often attends parties and goes shopping. She is also a jewellery design student who dares to break conventional fashion norms and often serves as a model. She is often seen wearing jerseys with unique prints (e.g. KNWLS), jeans, wide-leg pants, short thick down jackets with unique silhouettes and fabrics in winter (e.g. Chen Peng), as well as trims and fabrics with feathery textures (e.g. YUEQI QI). Despite the cold weather, she still wears short skirts or jerseys if they look good. She is familiar with O'Neill but did not find their designs appealing.

Based on my initial understanding of Maggie's style, I decided to use the Chinese mythical story of 'Jingwei Fill The Sea' as a starting point for my research, extension, further development, and finally, the creation of the series using O'Neill's printing and technologically advanced fabrics. The series incorporates youthful and sporty elements, incorporating popular daily wear styles and carefully considering colours to maintain versatility while also adding a vibrant touch, making it highly suitable for the age group of 16-24-year-olds.

What skills have you learned from the course that helped you with this project?

The course has equipped me with valuable skills in stress resistance, jersey and alpha jacket construction, and how to build a comprehensive concept.

What was the most exciting aspect of working with O'Neill?

The most exciting aspect of working with O'Neill was the process of synchronising my concept with the thinking progress of the O'Neill team and finding ways to combine their expectations with my design concept.

Tell us about the showcase.

The showcase was a great experience, with a sense of immersion and active participation. The arrangements were well-organized and I am grateful for the resources provided by the college for the showcase.

Students standing besides model wearing sportswear outfit
Raul Jegatheesan

Winner of the Realisation and Promotion category: Raul Jegatheesan

How does it feel to win the Realisation and Promotion category?

It feels great to have won. A lot of hard work went into this project, and I'm glad it all paid off in the end.

Tell me about your concept. Where did you take inspiration from?

My concept revolved around reintroducing O'Neill to the urban UK demographic while taking inspiration from the brand's Californian roots with influences from the Chicano subculture/community. During my research into the Chicano subculture, I discovered a community in Tokyo that adopted the Chicano style due to the themes of community and family, which are important to the Chicano people. Due to this link to Japan, I introduced 'Sashiko Stitching' into my work, which also addressed the sustainability aspect of the brief provided by O'Neill.

What was the most exciting aspect of working with O'Neill?

My favourite part about the project was being able to not just draw from the brand's roots, but also my own, which made the whole project a lot more personal. In addition to this, the fact that we got to work on the whole branding aspect of the project made it a lot more fun.

Tell me about the showcase.

The showcase was a very rewarding experience. As mentioned earlier, a lot of hard work went into the project, so the celebration was well-deserved. It was also amazing to see everyone's project finally finished and come to life.

Students standing besides model wearing sportswear outfit
Jianing Lu