Count yourselves lucky if you’re not a part of the Class of COVID-19.

You didn’t have your bittersweet final year disrupted by a pandemic. Nor did you have to face the horrors of online exams and group meetings on Zoom. And if you were a fashion student, even better: you got to see your graduate collection materialise on the runway, with a wide-eyed audience to boot. That’s not the case for the graduating cohort of Lasalle College of the Arts’ School of Fashion.

Instead, they held their showcase on The Lasalle Show in its first online incarnation. Going digital, like making masks, is a trend that has permeated the fashion industry in 2020. But it was also what Lasalle had been planning all along, according to Dinu Bodiciu, lecturer-in-charge of the school’s Fashion Design and Textiles Programme.

“The digital enables us to organise and better curate the perspective for the viewer, which in essence is the same angle as the maker,” says Bodiciu. “What the audience ends up watching is something through the director’s eyes.”

But what if the audience wanted to meet the makers? Here’s their chance: we asked six of Lasalle’s BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Textiles graduating students to tell us more about their final collections, their creative process, as well as what it’s like to be graduating in the time of coronavirus.

Felicia Agatha

What was the inspiration behind your collection?

The collection is deeply rooted in my feeling of insecurity about the future. I am worried about our way of life in a possibly hotter climate. The collection is therefore an attempt to create a more optimistic mood; it was designed for the future by integrating science and technology. Biomimicry was used as a way to rethink fashion and create garments with temperature-regulating function. Through biomimicry, clothing is likened to our “second skin”, hence the perspiration mechanism present in the textiles.

Tell us more about the textiles you created.

I experimented with unconventional and interactive materials. I also tested fluidity mixed with rigidness and a range of translucency in my designs. As biomimicry is used to seek a solution for cooling the skin, I created some textiles from my experimentation with PVC material and Hydrogel, resulting in the creation of these cooling textiles: Hydropuff, Hydro Textile, and Hydro Tubes. Hydropuff is a new material, featuring hydrogels as a material to replicate the perspiration mechanism. Both Hydro Tubes and Hydro Textile were created because of the fact that cooling with water is far more efficient than cooling with air.

How do you feel about showcasing your graduating collection online?

Initially, I was quite disappointed as I have always wanted to view my collection on a runway. It would definitely be a highlight, a moment of feeling accomplished that signified my graduation as a fashion design student. But most people in the world have access to the Internet, which means there is a vast audience on the platform. A virtual fashion show thus increases the accessibility of an exhibition even further, allowing everyone from around the world to watch.

Kristen Cheah

What was the inspiration behind your collection?

My collection is based on the Malaysian traditional kite called “wau”. While studying in Singapore, I started to miss home and sought familiarity by going back to my Malaysian roots. With my collection, I also want viewers to realise that Southeast Asian art is of equal standing to those produced by first-world countries, and should be similarly admired. There are so many untold stories in our Southeast Asian culture that I believe would appeal to an international audience.

What special techniques did you use in creating your designs?

Zero-waste pattern cutting was the foundation of the entire project. I took the literal shape of the wau and placed it onto the fabric in order to make cut outs. The leftover scraps of fabric were then draped onto garments to create shapes. To continue the sustainability thread, I worked with an Indonesian company that specialises in eco-production to digitally print motifs onto the cotton fabric. I think the collection draws a nice parallel in that both zero-waste pattern cutting and the wau are considered traditional techniques, but are now revived into contemporary fashion.

How do you feel about showcasing your graduating collection online?

While this collection is bright enough to catch your attention on a digital platform, it is a bit of a shame that the techniques used cannot be effectively communicated through two-dimensional photographs. On the other hand, when I consider how the pandemic is increasing accessibility for those who aren’t able to attend a fashion show or exhibition, I think it is a step in the right direction. In any case, most of us view things online today anyway, so it really isn’t a heavy loss to not have a physical runway.

Kwok Minh Yen

What was the inspiration behind your collection?

“1.5oC” is a project that draws attention to how close we are to a global disaster. It was inspired by the effects of coral bleaching, which occurs due to global warming and rising ocean temperatures. I decided to research the issue deeper after a vacation, when I came across an isolated beach entirely covered with dead corals. I hope my collection highlights our dire need to act now in order to slow down or reverse the devastating destruction.

How did you create your collection to reflect this?

The designs are based on the structure and texture of corals, and its many stages of death. With white as the dominant colour, I used advanced textile applications to combine Solar/UV reactive pigments to depict a signal for help. This biomimicry process enabled the garments to transform their colours into intense blue, purple and yellow shades under natural or UV light. I also manipulated fabric with techniques like crochet, macramé, knitting and embroidery to mimic the structure of coral skeletons. Swarovski crystals, as kindly sponsored by them, were added to create textures and dimension to the textiles.

How do you feel about showcasing your graduating collection online?

To me, a digital showcase is much more accessible as it allows more people to view my collection. The only difference is that one wouldn’t be able to touch or feel the garments but as we are living in a digital era, where online shopping is no longer a novelty, I guess it really doesn’t matter if there is a physical aspect or not.

Latika Balachander

What was the inspiration behind your collection?

“Blurred Bodies” is inspired by my personal relationship with my grandmother. I observed the beauty of her morphed form and her direct interactions with the natural human process of ageing. My concept also drew from the sweet stories and memories engraved within all her skin folds, wrinkles and veins. My prints are interpretations of skin forms and lines that are rendered in an abstract manner, with colours derived from our bodies. We often disregard the fact that beneath our differences, we are first and foremost humans – all composed of identical cell structures, organelles and organs. Perhaps if we could remember that, we could finally unite and face larger obstacles?

How does your collection reflect this?

The collection is largely based on surface prints and textural layering. The surface prints were developed using images of magnified skin cells. Of the four prints in the collection, two were digitally printed through heat ink transfer. I chose to use neoprene for its flexibility, ability to hold structural shapes and ability to endure textural applications, like quilting-based embroidery and heat-bonding. I also used several techniques of creative pattern cutting. I first created bumps that challenged the natural body form over the basic mannequin structure. I then draped fabric over the modified structure and drew organic seam lines to produce engineered pattern pieces.

How has the pandemic affected your creative process in designing your collection?

I was unable to receive material deliveries on time, unable to execute a fashion shoot and generally disorientated by the uncertainty of the future. With that said, this period of isolation was a great time for reflection. It taught me the importance of conversations, my dependence on tactility, and to confront change and adapt to situations that I have little control of. It was essentially what my collection aimed to achieve – an understanding that no matter what differences we, as humans, hold amongst each other, we are (in this instance) battling the same enemy (the coronavirus).

Mazri Bin Ismail

What was the inspiration behind your collection?

“Palpitate” was based on my health diagnosis of Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, a heart complication which causes the heart to have palpitation episodes at any point of time. It’s definitely very personal. I did not want to make it superficial and just on the surface, in a way that “I have a heart problem, so I’ll use the obvious heart and ECG scans for my collection”. I focused on my feelings and emotions, which are things that are not tangible, and translated them into design.

How did you do that?

In order to remember how each episode occurs, I will write each one down in a journal. This helped me to visualise and recall my emotions in that moment. I then took the keywords and turned them into tangible imagery to start my design process. These moments of reliving the attacks often translated into scribbles onto paper as I imagine how my body reacts and jerks during an episode. The two main techniques I used in my collection were ruching and laser cutting. Ruching is a representation of the scribbles that I developed. As for the laser cuts, these were made from my ECG scans, resulting in laser-cut organza strips which I then manipulated via sewing so as to represent the feeling of chaos when I get an attack.

How do you feel about showcasing your graduating collection online?

It is definitely sad that we do not have a physical showcase. A digital showcase doesn’t really allow one to experience the full effect of a collection. With that being said, I am still grateful that LASALLE was able to give us a platform to showcase our works.

Samuel Chua

What was the inspiration behind your collection?

It started with this vintage-looking balloon sculpting manual for kids that I found whilst clearing out my house. I just instinctively thought, “Oh, these would make fab sculptural pieces.” I also knew I had to be careful with choosing a theme – it was a yearlong project and I wanted something that meant a great deal to me. Looking at recurring tropes in my past works and with more research, the collection became more of a commentary on queerness in Singapore. My references were split into three categories: Artifice (in fashion), Femsexuality (of the gay man), and Aestheticism (as a creative sensibility). “Fembuoyant” represents an unsaid feeling, something more visual than verbal.

How did you create your collection?

I played to my strengths – creative pattern cutting and collage. The creative pattern cutting led to some pretty interesting things like my four-piece balloon dog suit, which took almost 2 full weeks of experimentation to perfect. My preference for collage also led me to experiment with more unusual materials like packaging from parcels, actual balloons and an array of plastics. The finished textiles incorporated characteristics of what makes a good collage – contrasts and stacking textures.

How do you feel about showcasing your graduating collection online?

There is a lot of potential with digital, which is an opinion I’ve recently come into. But in the words of Valentina, this wasn’t [exactly] part of my fantasy. However, I adapt and make the best of the situation. Like before, I now harbour the mentality that I should just trust the process.

 

The Lasalle Show is now open the school’s website. All images courtesy of Lasalle College of the Arts.

Pameyla Cambe
Senior Writer
Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.