Since its inception in 2011, Manuscript has always supported emerging designers, whether through mentorship or editorial promotion. Creativity is a precious element in fashion – and often a rare one in a fast-paced commercial industry – and so it’s important to offer a platform to those with bold new ideas. Those can be found in abundance at the end-of-year graduate showcases of Australia’s various universities, TAFEs and private colleges, each year propelling hundreds, often thousands, of budding young designers into the fraught and challenging industry.
Is the sheer number of graduates a good thing? Certainly there’s some debate around it in terms of the number of jobs available (read: few), particularly locally. But while we believe each individual graduate should follow their own path – whether that’s beginning their own label (admittedly a challenge, but evidently possible with talent and hard work), seeking work at a more established house, or moving into a different area of the creative industries – secondary education is a time to be innovative. As Toni Maticevski, arguably Australia’s leading fashion talent, has said in interviews before, university is one of the few times in your career you are not only free to be creative, but challenged to do so, without commercial restraint.
That seems to be the case in this week’s presentation of the University of Technology Sydney’s [UTS] honours graduate students. Unlike some of the courses offered by private schools, the UTS bachelors degree in fashion design is a rigorous three-year program, arming its students with the technical ability and conceptual imagination necessary for a successful career in the industry, and so students that choose to stick around for an additional year (following an interview and portfolio assessment) should be commended. And the results speak for themselves.
The 2015 cohort of students were, for the most part, rather outstanding, with capsule collections that were well-formed, well-made and well-presented. It’s rare to see a combination of all three in students that are young and without much real-life industry experience. What was most interesting in this year’s presentation, however, was the seismic shift in aesthetic evidently at play. Just a year or two ago, most every student was influenced by the surf-meets-sports style of Alexander Wang et al or, alternatively, the hard-edged, futuristic look of Dion Lee and Nicolas Ghesquiere.
Now, students seem to be interested in the inherent architectural properties of cloth and the ways in which it can be manipulated – voluminous and feathered, layered and bulky, or folded, pleated and wrapped – to thwart the traditional form. It’s of course something at play at the industry at large (we’re all plugged into the same cultural feed, after all) with the likes of Alessandro Michele’s new reign at Gucci and the enduring appeal of young London designer Craig Green and his adoption of traditional uniforms. But in the hands of these young talents, we see new ways of dressing that challenge our pre-existing notions of fashion, and that’s something to be really excited about.