London Design Festival x LCF with MA Fashion Artefact graduate Francesa Smith
ARTEFACT FOOTWEAR, FUTURES (#LCFAFF) showcases work from MA Fashion Artefact, Footwear and Fashion Futures grads as part of London Design Festival at The Vinyl Factory, Soho. The aim is to challenge the notion of how products change and influence the world we live in. The work being shown is a combination of traditional craft with new technologies, the exhibition presents provocative and conceptual work in response to contemporary culture and serves as a reflection of our social behaviour.
Graduates from three design courses at London College of Fashion will be showcasing their degree work at London Design Festival between 22 – 24 September. We speak to MA Fashion Artefact graduate Francesca Smith ahead of the festival.
Can you tell us about the London Design Festival showcase and how you got involved?
ARTEFACT, FOOTWEAR, FUTURES is the first showcase of its kind in which MA graduates of LCF will be exhibiting at London Design Festival. A selection of work from MA Fashion Artefact, Footwear and Fashion Futures will be exhibited in an event that explores and challenges perceptions of how modern design can influence the fashion, design and art world through social, psychological and political commentaries. These explorative commentaries are embodied through the utilisation of craft, both modern and traditional as well as newly invented, innovative processes. I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to showcase my collection The Power of Her at this event.
Did you create anything new or are you showing your final work?
Four pieces from my The Power of Her collection will be showcased alongside fellow alumni. This collection was conceived, designed and crafted by myself during my time at LCF while studying MA Fashion Artefact. This collection has been my biggest achievement to date as a designer, therefore, it felt right that it should receive the exposure it so richly deserves. It will be the first time The Power of Her has been publicly showcased so I am very excited to share it with the world.
Could you tell us about your work and techniques you used to craft the pieces?
I have always naturally gravitated as a designer towards combining traditional craft techniques with modern technologies. The Power of Her was crafted using a combination of traditional leather craft skills including upholstering, pattern cutting and hand saddle stitching in conjunction with CAD and laser cutting. I have a great love for traditional craft and feel in some cases it is somewhat of a diminishing art, so in the strive to preserve the dying techniques I love to include new age technologies and techniques to bring traditional craft into a contemporary design so as to preserve it. As part of this marriage between the new and old, I also feel it is important that the meeting of the two is seamless which I feel I have managed to achieve within this collection. I have explored this method of combining traditional craft with modern technologies in another of my collections Memento, in which I combined traditional pattern cutting and stitch with 3D printing.
How does it feel having your work shown at LDF?
I am incredibly excited to have been offered this opportunity. I remember going to my first London Design Festival in 2009 when I had just started BA (Hons) Fashion Jewellery at LCF, it was such an exciting vibrant celebration of great design and innovation. So when I was asked to showcase I couldn’t believe I was going to be a part of something I aspired to be a part of all those years ago. I’ve been on such an amazing creative journey over the past eight years and I can’t wait to see where this showcase will take me next.
What makes Artefact a good fit for LDF?
Every single exhibitor is driven by innovation and design! Undertaking my MA was the most inspiring and creative fifteen months of my life. It wasn’t just down to the amazing staff and content but also the people I was working alongside. Everyday brought inspiring and passionate conversations, experimentation and design, constantly questioning the meaning of design and how it can influence modern day society and make a change not just in aesthetics but socially and politically. Innovation and communication through design is what London Design Festival celebrates, therefore, I couldn’t think of three more perfect courses and its alumni to celebrate.
What outcomes are you hoping from having your work shown?
The message of The Power of Her was made to embody and speak to the world. This collection was made to promote conversation around the subject of gender inequality within contemporary society, so with it, I hope to provoke thought and initiate change. Gender inequality is a global and multicultural issue within modern society as well as historically, therefore this was a sizeable subject to approach. It was imperative that I honed in on a specific area of this subject as it would be difficult, if not impossible, to devise a collection of pieces, which could embody such a vast amount of information and with so many opinions and stances. Therefore, so as to have a more impactful collection I considered several different areas of gender inequality. I looked at gender inequality from a historical perspective starting with the women’s Suffrage movement, moving on to the 1968 Dagenham machinists strike and the more recent 1975 Icelandic ‘Women’s Day Off,’ and finally the present day tension that surrounds Malala Yousafzai.
After much research and consideration, I chose to focus on historical, political feminist movements that took place in striving for gender equality, events which inspired my own feminist journey. With this in mind my intention became to design and produce a six-piece collection of ‘trophies’ which commemorate, physically embody, award and recognise four political events in which individuals inspired me to evaluate my position in society as a woman. The events also empowered me to question socially conditioned gender role norms in modern culture.
Life after graduation, what you been doing since your MA?
Well, it is not something I ever saw coming to be honest. Before starting my MA, I was a jewellery designer within the industry, designing primarily for high street brands. I chose to do my MA to explore the design of other products as I have always naturally been attracted to product design across multiple types and it was something I wanted to develop to a more refined level. As you can see from The Power of Her, I designed a book, belt, pen, wallet, jacket and even dumbbells, so I think I covered a lot of product areas and achieved what I set out to do.
I was very determined to return to the industry as a multi-product designer after my MA, roles like these, however, are very far and few between and I wasn’t sure what area I wanted to do this in. It was by chance that a friend of mine recommended a job vacancy to me and I was so intrigued by the idea. I met with the company to find out more. So I am now and have been for the past eight months a children’s accessories and jewellery designer. I never saw this coming and can’t say I ever considered it but it has been really fun, to say the least. The skills I refined during my MA, especially illustrations and multi-product design, have definitely helped to inform my current role.
Anything we should keep an eye out for in the future involving you and your work?
In terms of my own work, I am still promoting The Power of Her and its message. Hopefully you will see some more publicity around these pieces. I also have a piece from my Memento collection that are currently being exhibited in Museum Cuypershuis in Roermond, Holland in their 3D Print Studio Exhibit. In terms of my work as a children’s accessories and jewellery designer, there are many of my designs on the high street which is also very exciting.
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