Exploration: The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
Patrick Michael Hughes Senior Fashion Editor/ Men's Fashion Writer
Copenhagen: Graduate collections in fashion design are often deeply infused with personal expression and reaction to the global conditions, social issues and current political discourse. Masters Degree collection have been in the past long line of commentaries about condition and economy seen through the lens of intensive research and collaborative design discourse leading to solutions. The top mark results of The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, MA graduates in the Fashion, Clothing and Textiles; New Landscapes for Change program, class of 2021were on hand in a sixteen collection runway show held during Copenhagen Fashion Week.
All design students had challenges during the past eighteen months of study, research and concept development. Particularly for advanced students the lack of materials, studio engagement and overall access made the exploratory creation and process deeply challenging. The intersections of isolation and pandemic lockdowns contributed an additional layer to the sensibility, form and materiality seen on the runway. The starting point and one of the distinctive features of the program are "Danish design traditions we learning from the past and the present with the aim of shaping a better and more sustainable future through artistic practice." Traditionally, Scandinavian textiles have a geometry, a subtle hue and are associated with artistic fabrication of the modernist 'Good Design' movement of the nineteen thirties and the post World War II era. They are typically in natural materials, such as linen and cottons.
Sustainably minded creation took center stage in these collections. Students had to create with dead-stock and remnant fabrications. At the core of the MA program are "sustainability principles, material resourcefulness and a deep-rooted sense of the interconnected relationships between fiber, garment, fashion and ecosystem."
The presentation of highly approachable dresses worn by male models continued and expanded dialogues around gender specific clothing, fluidity and identity. The messages of challenging the the state of masculinity were artistically edgy, easy and ready to wear for all expressions. A standout was a reveling red net dress with a deconstructed leather biker jacket torso. The looks newly constructed an repurposed materials continued the frank dialogue of creating in this time. In addition biker jackets are rich with coded messages for a number of social groups.
The constantly changing world was also a particularly visible sense in these collections. Readiness, garments incorporating life vests harness details and life vests for an unpredictable climate and an unsure environment. Readiness and utility have long been themes in fashion collections in London, Paris and New York however the cry seems to grow louder and louder in young designer collections. Imprinted in utility looks were distinctive military styling and power fists on green berets. Messages were clear Milan Fliček stated 'F* ucking Stop Burning Clothing.' A serious message of environmental accountability about the fashion industry's burning of clothing which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming.
Dystopia, other world or perhaps a world we live in was also evident in some collections. This was not a digital discussion or comment on being watched but a much deeper narrative of alienation, decay displacement and victimization. Themes, concepts and explorations which were rising at the beginning of the twenty first century in collections of Hussein Chalayan MBE a Turkish Cypriot/British fashion designer and the late Alexander McQueen for Givenchy.
Laced together, interconnected, structurally reliant and distinctive shapes such as devilishly pointed shoulders highlighted body casting reminiscent of Thierry Mugler's and Issey Miyake's explorations about body representation yet, the dialogues have advanced and are well suited to current conversations. Leather trousers seemed to cling to body with little effort the complex and creative lacing is visible an illusion of creativity.
Resourcefulness with respect to precedent is always a factor in final student collections the use of non-traditional materials and techniques is a often a no holds barred in thesis development. This design mindset was on display in designs highlighting papier-mâché to felting and experimental ways of solving knitting. Students rose to challenges with deconstructed and at times surreal results. A concert of deconstruction and challenging attitudes rang out in many of the men's looks. There were shouts of Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens to Westwood's early work for Malcolm McLaren's SEX boutique and current iterations of British fashion designer Loverboy- Charles Jeffery.
The references are appropriate research points, what is new are the contemporary discussions of validation, identity, challenging norms, immediate design experiences and global environmental concerns. Men's fashion emerging form Copenhagen has been particularly directional producing a number of noteworthy and ascending brands. Many of the collections are currently for sale in Freetown of Christiania where the graduate show was held a noted nonconformist neighborhood in Copenhagen.