On Thursday evening, Kingston University took on the runway with a selection of 10 designers celebrating the ten year anniversary of the course. 

Tradition and cultural identity took centre stage at the catwalk show that showcased for the first time at the new Design Museum in London’s cultural quarter. The museum’s shell that was redesigned by architect John Pawson last year in November with fresh galleries under a marble-lined atrium offered a bright space for the audience that arrived.

The first graduate and designer to kick off the show was Jeonghyeon Hahn. Her designs came in a futuristic dune wanderer mix, and dark brown deconstructed silhouettes with cream white cross body bags on the back. Her final look represented through a beige trench coat was layered on the front and proved her draping skills.

Jeonghyeon Hanh, Kingston University

From a monochromatic scene, the catwalk swiftly transitioned to a sporty collection crafted by graduate Chaerin Lee. Inspiring bonbon bomber jackets walked down the runway with maxi ruffled sleeves. Bottom pieces were either flattering skirts or high waisted ruffled shorts. The repetitive signature print was a cheetah print as seen in light and beautiful pastels on pockets, zipper jackets and skirt hemlines. Her approach that was casual yet energetic was seen throughout the collection. Sweet and sporty ruffled slippers caught one’s eye immediately, making it the signature accessory.

Sweet and sporty ruffled slippers caught one’s eye immediately, making it the signature accessory. 

Chaerin Lee, Kingston University

MA student Dardana Djantio Etchike took a different approach. Each garment added to the collection, telling the story of breast ironing, young women and their suffers in Cameroon, Central Africa. ”The practice is largely used on girls aged nine to fifteen years old and justified as a way to prevent sexual assault,” Dardana explained. A tradition that compresses and restricts the body development of girls at a very young age encouraged her to craft an interesting collection. Light and airy maxi ruffles were the signature elements, seen on tops to accentuate the model’s chest. “The straps you see in many of my looks were inspired by the ones that are used during the procedure of breast ironing,” says Dardana. Her designs which are focused on the desire of these young women, speak for their long-desired freedom. From stitching to creating volume; the details add up, with each of them contributing as a significant element to the design.

Dardana Etchike, Kingston University

Japan-born Marika Fujita impressed with a double culture inspired theme. With XXL pockets on hoodie coats, she paid homage to Japan’s and China’s history of war. “The Japanese tradition of shimenawa – a ritual of rope-laying – was the inspiration for the detail on the sleeves of my garments.” The eye-catcher was a creme coloured oversize turtleneck jumper inspired by the excellent Chinese wool technique, popular in the Song dynasty era. “The heavy army-uniform style of the overcoats and vests represents my feeling that both cultures should be protected,” explained Marika. The wool technique was also seen on maxi sleeve bags and accentuated on the sides of trainers.

Colour blocking and creating volume took centre stage in Kejia Wucheng’s collection. Like a symphony, cocoon silhouettes walked down the runway with white high-neck collars and cut out shoulders. Models wore perfectly matching orange dice clutches and matching sandals to their looks.

Like a symphony, cocoon silhouettes walked down the runway.

Keija Wucheng, Kingston University

Other graduates like Joohye Emma Park took a step back from colour and focused on an all-black leather collection instead. Deconstructed tailoring was of importance to Joohye. Leather jackets sewed to the waist added length to dresses and reminded of the power dresses crafted by Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. The way they were integrated into the looks, almost invisible to the eye, couldn’t have been done better. It asked for a designer who pays a lot of attention to detail.

Joohye Emma Park, Kingston University

Yehua Fan’s collection had three elements that stood out the most; crinolines, a touch of Rococo and Marie Antoinette’s era. From oversized black suits to lovely ruffled see-through blouses and white crinolines, the collection struck with incompleteness.

Yehua Fan, Kingston University

Graduate Sanna Olsson made her debut with a black and red collection that was instead more focused on the detail than on colour. Dresses were transparent, light and romantic. The signature look, a Bordeaux empire line dress, with a ruffled bustier transitioning into a turtleneck jumper, made the highlight of the show. Ruffles were seen throughout Sanna’s design, worn across the chest or accentuating dresses on the front.

Saana Olsson, Kingston University

Caroline Perino closed the show with a collection that was all about colour blocking. Caroline secured a sponsorship for her debut collection and collaborated with Swarovski for her final look. “I spoke to them about my passion to become a designer – they loved my ideas and offered to provide the crystals for my final looks,” she explained. Besides the lovely splash of colour seen on shift dresses, her designs included a lot of 3D elements including beads, foam to create volume and ceramics.

Tradition and cultural identity have never been more important, especially when it comes to fashion design.

What can we take away from this evening at the Design Museum? Tradition and cultural identity have never been more important, especially when it comes to fashion design. Expressing experience and ethnicity through garments is the new way fashion communicates with the audience.

Caroline Perino, Kingston University

About Isabella Tombinski-Robb
Isabella Tombinski-Robb is an Austrian born, London based fashion journalist. Since Fall 2015 she has been studying Fashion Journalism at the renowned London College of Fashion. With fashion criticism at the core of her writing she reports and analyses fashion with all its mulitple facets on her own blog Wearabelle Journal – www.wearabellejournal.com. Beyond fashion, Isabella enjoys cheese and wine evenings, and creating easy-to-read stories on the latest subjects and spicing them up with the famous Viennese wit.