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'Utopia' Emerges at London Fashion Week

Fashion from all five continents explores important social issues through design.

by Catherine Chapman
24 February 2016, 7:55pm

Indonesia’s interpretation of Utopia with designer Dian Pelangi. Photographer: Dion Muharrom. Image Courtesy of The British Council

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As emerging designers create new looks for an ideal world, Thomas More’s Utopia is being reimagined through fashion. As part of London Fashion Week’s International Showcase, Fashion Utopias sees imaginative clothing and accessories curated into country-based installations, speaking volumes to global interpretations of place and future ideals. Participants from 24 countries—from Egypt to the Philippines—showcased young talent, blurring the lines between fashion and art in an inclusive platform much in line with the ideology of cultural exchange.

“London is one of the capitals of fashion,” Portuguese designer Estelita Mendonca tells The Creators Project. “This is a new platform to show my work in a different way.”

Eco-friendly cork surrounds the Portugal exhibit with clothing designs from Pedro Neto. Photographer: Agnese Sanvito. Image Courtesy of The British Council.

 

Mixing Utopia with themes of sustainability, Mendonca and four other fashion designers included in Portugal’s BLOOM installation, used recyclable materials to emphasize the wasteful makeup of today’s textile industry. As one of Europe’s biggest manufacturers of clothing, Portugal’s young fashion creatives inspire an environment-focused future where their country is recognized for more than just low-cost assembly.

“This is a great opportunity to show what the young designer scene is within each country,” says Mario Quina, project manager for Portugal’s exhibit. “It’s very interesting to see how well these designers are connected to their country’s roots.”

Shoes designed by Austrian designer Dimitrije Gojovic. Photographer: Agnese Sanvito. Image Courtesy of The British Council.

The International Fashion Showcase is an annual competition put on by the British Council and British Fashion Council to promote new talent within LFW’s public program. International designers are supported by cultural institutions from their own countries, be it the Portuguese Embassy UK or Lagos Fashion and Design Week, in order to further cultural diversity and collaboration in the often closed world of fashion.  

“I’ve learned a lot from being here,” says Lagos-based designer Gozel Green. “It’s a ground breaker for us as designers.”

Nigeria’s Across the Bleed installation at LFW’s International Showcase. Photographer: Agnese Sanvito. Image Courtesy of The British Council.

 

Green and her fellow Nigerian designers explain that not a single country had the same viewpoint on utopia. While the exhibit from Africa’s largest economy represented a rich heritage keen on digital innovation, Ukraine’s installation presented a street art concept with pieces from eight designers pushing for creativity amid the country’s economic and political uncertainty.

“Ours is all about protest and building our own utopias,” Masha Reva, Ukraine’s exhibit curator tells The Creators Project. “It’s a chaotic environment where our younger generation is raised, which can be an inspiration for creation.”  

The Ukrainian imagined Utopia. Photographer: Agnese Sanvito. Image Courtesy of The British Council.  

Running for five years, the International Fashion Showcase’s 2016’s Country Award was given to the Czech Republic for the seven designers included in The Last Fata Morgana, an exhibit considering the transitory worlds of fashion and taste. Bahrain’s Hala Kaiksow took home the Designer Award for androgynous adaptations of traditional clothing, and Tala Haijar was presented the Curation Award for the design of Lebanon’s Blueprint Beirut exhibit, exploring the development of Lebanese fashion.

A piece by Sofya Samareva from Czech Republic’s The Last Fata Morgana installation. Photographer: Agnese Sanvito. Image Courtesy of The British Council.

Fashion Utopias: the International Fashion Showcase 2016 ran at Somerset House until February 23, as part of London Fashion Week.

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FASHION WEEK
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utopia
Somerset House
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Estelita Mendonca
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Mario Quina
global fashion