The next LCFMA16 Graduate Spotlight turns to MA Fashion Futures student Fiona Fung. Fiona, who was also a finalist in the 2015 Kering Award, tells us why she chose Fashion Futures, her favourite thing about London and what she enjoyed most about her course.
What did you study before your current MA?
Before my MA, I worked for a Design Development studio in New York to learn pattern cutting for luxury ready-to-wear. In the evenings I took courses to complete a Draping Certificate at Fashion Institute of Technology. After four years, I decided to take a hiatus from working and studied an intensive postgraduate course at Central Saint Martins where I was challenged to constantly improve myself as a fashion designer before coming to LCF. I guess I’ve been studying fashion all my life!
Why did you choose LCF?
LCF is the only college in London that offers a Masters fashion program as unique as Fashion Futures. In these last few years, I’ve felt in my gut that the landscape of fashion is changing. Fashion design is often purely aesthetics based, but to design for our new needs and values is a much more meaningful challenge for this future landscape. Our culture is shifting to become more knowledge-hungry, and more experimental. I think that as an industry, we have new challenges to face that require innovation, we have a responsibility to science our impacts on climate change. I also chose LCF because I wanted to study my Masters in a program where I could really dedicate the right time to explore new material contexts through good design research. MA Fashion Futures offered me a chance to formulate my own ideas on how I see fashion’s role through new codes. I was able to conceptualize how to design for these projected needs, while incorporating research and theory from other disciplines.
What was your favourite thing about studying in London?
The dry sense of humour that exists in almost everything there is in the city – people take all these really serious situations and make ironic fun-and-play out of it. Also, London is unconventionally resourceful if you look – it’s an intellectual and cultural hub for imagination. When I first came here, I thought it was a bit quiet and sleepy compared to other international cities, but then I discovered all these hidden gems and pockets of inspiration. I’ve learnt the most from the people of London!
Tell us a bit about your final project and dissertation…
My research began by looking at alternatives to petroleum-based products in fashion, which led to the development of algae as a positive resource with sustainability credentials for design. My final thesis and dissertation was divided into two parts. The first part was understanding algae’s material properties as it’s becoming an emerging focus for biofuel research. I looked at current material development in algae thermoplastics. From the science perspective, I looked at its biodiversity role, and other positive benefits it brings, such as cleaning carbon dioxide in our air, providing nutrients and becoming biodegradable biomass for us to use, all without putting pressure on our land’s resources.
The second part is a speculative story, about a fictional future world where algae’s multiple benefits has propelled it to become a dominant resource used to cope with environmental stresses. Not only is it grown and harvested everywhere as a carbon sink; we use algae in our rituals of relaxation to prolong our lives. My design proposal is that a cultural tribe of women based on this scenario begins to form, and as a result, objects or garments, made from/made for algae also form to benefit this lifestyle.
What did you like most about your course, and what did you find most challenging?
I had a lot of freedom in this course. It was a good mix of fashion design blended with innovative thinking, conceptual speculations and technology/science – it was an energetic experience! The highlight was the introduction to speculative design in fashion, specifically around our bodies. It really opened my eyes to more possibilities and ways which we can challenge accepted norms in fashion design. We identify current problems and then let our minds run wild as to what the world would look like if the problems persisted, and how we would design for the identities in such a context. The biggest challenge is the opposite – not getting distracted by all the ideas! There’s so many options so it’s about choosing the best one to focus on.
What would be your top three tips for prospective students?
I would say the most important thing to take away from any MA experience, is using this time to figure out your design philosophy. I’m always revising mine, but here are 3 curated tips I’ve logged into my head this year that have guided me:
– “First concept, then design” – says everyone
– “You’ve got to know the rules to break them” – Alexander McQueen
– “You know I’m not designed to live in your 9.5 world” – 30 Rock
What are your plans now that you’ve finished your MA?
I have a few interesting prospects that are still in the works. My hiatus was exactly what I wanted, because now I miss working! I can’t wait to get back into it again.