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LCF23: Finding strength in 'otherness' with MA Menswear graduate Alex Neil

Garment sketches of 'Genesis' collection
  • Written byLubna Hussain
  • Published date 01 February 2023
Garment sketches of 'Genesis' collection
Garment sketches of 'Genesis' collection | by Alexander Neil - MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) graduate 2023

LCF Postgraduate Class of 2023 features work from our three world-leading design, communications and business schools to demonstrate how LCF students look beyond the traditional notions of fashion to imagine a new and exciting future. A bustling two-day exhibition will offer a unique perspective into LCF’s postgraduate work by immersing visitors in the future of fashion through displays of design, film, photography, VR and more from LCF’s boundary-breaking students at the infamous Truman Brewery in east London.

We take a closer look at Alex Neil; an emerging designer graduating from MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) who won the BFC MA Final Year Scholarship. Originally from the North-East of England, an area called Durham, Alex reflects on their final graduate collection through developing a unique design vision with a focus on traditional tailoring, leather, and corsetry.

Left: model wearing white garment suit with black backdrop. Right: close up of white corset
Left: Model wearing white garment suit with black backdrop. Right: Close up of white corset | by Alexander Neil - MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) graduate 2023

Tell us about your final collection 'Genesis'; how did your research help you to explore gender fluidity and show strength in 'otherness' in your garment pieces?

Genesis is a culmination of, not only the work undertaken during the whole master’s program, but my own experiences with gender. The collection started with a look into traditional mining banners in County Durham, and how the decorative and elaborate tapestries stand for strength, togetherness, and rebellion. This set the intention and the spirit of the collection. The dichotomy of fluid drape carved into stone and marble, seen in Ancient Greek and Baroque statues, informed the balance of structure and drape seen in the collection and the materials used. These statues also signify the abject gendered body and represent how our identity is connected to our physical being. Through fabrication, cut, structure, pressure and drape these garments make the wearer feel powerful and statuesque and create a sense of both softness and strength. Strength in otherness.

Close up of floral designed material with text 'strength in otherness'
Close up of floral designed material with text 'strength in otherness' | by Alexander Neil - MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) graduate 2023

You speak about gender fluidity and applying it in your work, what does this mean to you and how would you like others to interact with it?

My work focuses on the contrasts and contradictions of the gender binary, with a specific focus on masculinity. My work is a result of my own identity, and how my working-class background has influenced the way I see the relationship between gender and our bodies. The garments I create aims to create the wearer feel strong through fabrication, movement and form.

Can you tell us exactly which techniques or research you have used when working on your collection?

I mainly first focused on the use of fabric, looking at the relationship between that fabrication and the body, and the form I’d be able create the material. I then created a foundation, often using corsetry or other body modification techniques, and built my silhouette around this.

These gendered layers both represent and deconstruct traditional notions of gender to create a powerful queer armour. I tend to focus on menswear techniques, and the rules around creating menswear with the aim of developing new techniques that embraces fluidity and effeminacy.

Black and white garment sketch of corset, draped material on right shoulder, long sleeves
Black and white garment sketch | by Alexander Neil - MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) graduate 2023

Your [BA] final collection film was selected as a finalist at the Aesthetica Film Festival, can you please elaborate more on this.

I graduated my BA during the first lockdown, which in some ways was very difficult, but it also allowed me to connect to my project in a way I never would have before. I spent time documenting my work at home, reconnecting with my childhood and eventually shot my collection with my brother in our back garden. The film explores my own journey of queerness and how my family played a central role in the person I am today. It was really a love letter to my loved ones and heritage.

Black and white image of garment on model with back view
Black and white image of garment on model with back view | by Alexander Neil - MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) graduate 2023

Congratulations on your scholarship again and for gaining recognition from the BFC! Please expand on the process behind the application process for students wanting to apply in the future. What is your biggest take away from being selected?

Thank you! The application process is very straight-forward and really favours those who have something to say through their design. They are really looking for designers who can contribute to the British fashion industry in a positive way. The biggest thing I learnt through the process is to trust in my instincts and that if the opportunity is right for you, you already have the answers you need within.

What are your plans for your final graduate project? What more can we expect to see?

My collection takes you on a queer journey that overthrows the authority traditionally associated with masculinity, creating a powerful yet timeless vision of queerness. I see this collection as the genesis of a more inclusive and subversive identity, defining a new vision of strength, in otherness.