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Graduate Spotlight: MA Fashion Design Technology Womenswear student Desirée Slabik

LCF_MA16_Desirée Slabik
LCF_MA16_Desirée Slabik
Photography by Felix Cooper and styling by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen.
Written by
Published date
16 February 2016

With the MA Fashion Design Technology Womenswear catwalk show just a few days away, the LCF News MA16 Graduate Spotlight series has turned its focus to the ten students who will be showcasing their collections at the show. We spoke to designer Desirée Slabik about her collection ‘Life after People’ which is based on a post-apocalyptic scenario where all the people on earth have vanished and all that is left are plants, animals and buildings. She also spoke to us about why she prefers to take her inspiration from objects as opposed to people and why she chose a masters at LCF.

Photography by Felix Cooper and styling by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen.

The ‘Flower Bomb’. Photography by Felix Cooper and styling by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen.

Tell us about your final collection?

My collection is called ‘Life after People’ and I took inspiration from an American documentary where scientists discuss a situation in the future when all the people on the earth have vanished. It made me wonder if there would be any vegetation, how animals would behave and how buildings would look. I started to think about how the plants would interact with the buildings, how I could incorporate that into my collection and I also wanted to emphasise the contrast between them as well as creating an organic and architectural language. It was a really dark background to begin with but I always like working with a narrative or scenario to inform my vision.

My vision also took inspiration from two architects, Louis Khan and Le Corbusier. I was inspired by their use of white, clean design and I wanted to include that into my collection as much as possible.

As the whole collection is built up from these ideas, you will see that the first piece is a strong, bold, architectural and wide and the last piece, which is this large flower bomb, is exploding. This is basically meant to signify all the pieces breaking, to expose this organic, floral piece and to create a ‘wow’ effect at the end. I would definitely say it is sort of like a story or journey.

My work is supposed to present a paradigm as it has the dark twist of the post-apocalyptic scenario, but also focuses on a peaceful, paradise where the vegetation get its territory back and you see colourful flowers and plants next to the architecture and experience the energy of a growing nature.

I am always inspired by works of fiction and I enjoy creating a setting to which I can start a design. I even like seeing myself as part of that setting – it helps me to create the fundamental mood for the narrative.

Where did you study prior to your MA at LCF?

I studied my first MA at the conceptual school ARTEZ Arnhem in the Netherlands. Iris Van Herpen, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren (Viktor & Rolf) are alumni of the school. I found it useful to go to ARTEZ because I am interested in conceptualism within fashion design.

I studied my BA in Germany, at a school where I had a lot of freedom to experiment with different textures which was great as I see myself as a textile designer as well as a fashion designer.

Based on your experience, what advise would you give to prospective students who are thinking of doing an MA at LCF?

I think it is important to have a specialism when you study. If you don’t have a strong vision and design signature then it is a good idea to go straight from doing your BA into the industry and get some experience. If you do feel like you have a great idea, something that is specialist or a great vision, you can expand and nurture that by doing an MA.

Why did you choose LCF and MA Fashion Womenswear?

Because I see myself as an artist, when I design I feel like I’m painting or creating a sculpture as opposed to dressing a woman or a man. For example, in this collection, I used colours like a painter would, focussing on graduation of shading and mixing different tones of my self-dyed silk. Creating for me, is about a narrative or a feeling that I want to express. Based on this, going to a conceptual school would fit my style but I wanted to challenge myself and to diversify my experience, so I chose LCF. Additionally, at LCF there is a focus on details such as fabrication and I knew I would get more practical experience on how to create a luxury piece.

What have you found the most enjoyable and interesting parts of your course? And what have you found the most challenging?

I like working in this environment – the location of Oxford St is really great and also London itself is fantastic because you can step out, see great galleries and be inspired.

Also, I really like my class, I learnt different design approaches from them like eastern pattern making and simple working habits in the studio. Even though I learnt a lot from my tutors, I almost feel like I learnt more from my class because we were together all the time, exchanging skills with each other. Anyone who saw the internal womenswear show would know about the quality of the students and even though everyone was so different in their approaches, the standard was high. It must have been quite hard for the judging panels to choose between us.

I also enjoyed working with my tutor, Nigel. He has so much experience and knows what looks great on the catwalk so the guidance he gave was perfect – I learnt a lot from him as he pushed me a lot. At times though, it was tough to listen to others because, I’d sometimes go into a bubble and prefer to work independently as I felt I could be more creative when less supervised. Sometimes I can be a bit stubborn when I have my vision and I don’t always trust the people around me because I know they don’t know exactly what I want or what is in my head. After the internal show, I was really thankful to Nigel and told him that he gave me the right critiques. It is good to compromise sometimes.

What was your favourite thing about studying in London?

Coming from a country background and having lived and studied in small villages, it can be a bit hectic for me at times, but I enjoy it here. I live near Broadway Market and it is such a charming place to live.

Like I said before, I really like that you can just go out and have creative input, there are so many people to collaborate with. For this collection, I collaborated with a great jewellery designer from the RCA called Sari Raethel.

Have you won any prizes?

I won a few bursaries before coming to London and here, at LCF, I received the Fashion Matters Award and the Fashion Matters Postgraduate Bursary, to cover my tuition fees and as a financial support for my final collection.

Have you been in the media?

This collection ‘Life after people’ recently featured in the publication est noir.

Have you undertaken any work experience or done a placement whilst at LCF? Where and how did you secure this work experience or placement?

I haven’t done any during my MA as I wanted to focus on my studies but after my BA, I did a paid internship for 6 months at Hugo Boss and during my BA I had several small studio internships, including the label c.neeon in Berlin (first German Hyères Festival winners). All of these were great experience.

Describe your work in five words…

Sculptural, organic, white – colourful, conceptual, tactile

Do you have a muse? who is someone that inspires you?

No, because a muse is normally a person and I am more intrigued by nature and structure so I’ll go out and look at a flower or I’ll see a cracked or broken wall at a tube station and that grabs me because I almost see a person in those objects. I also, think it is really restrictive and cliché to say ‘this is the person I designed for’. I want everyone to be able to feel something about my work and so far everyone has seen it in different ways. I see it as romantic because I am a romantic but I’m also quite sporty so I see elements of sport in it as well.

Although I don’t have a muse, I have to say I am a big fan of the Dutch fashion photographer Viviane Sassen. Her work is a big source of inspiration to me.

What are your future plans and how do you think the course will help you to realise these plans?

I would like to work for the label Marni and Victor Rolf at some point. Also, some experience in the Parisian Haute Couture would be great as my work is demi-couture. Finally, I would like to learn from the big conceptual Antwerp designers as well as starting my own brand in the future.