LASALLE College of the Arts fashion graduates incorporate sustainability theme in their collections

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Fashion graduate Melissa Lim takes home the Converse Award as well as Best Fashion Collection of the night. (PHOTO: Reta Lee/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

SINGAPORE — In a fashion show entitled ‘Simulation’, LASALLE College of the Arts showcased a few collections from their selected pool of graduates from the fashion and textiles programme. Based on a concept by philosopher Jean Baudrillard, the 2019 BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Textiles students incorporated the theme of sustainability in their works, while imagining a realm where the digital and analog intertwine.

That’s not all; the 14 students were judged by their lecturers as well as participating brands like Swarovski and Converse. Fashion lecturer Dinu Bodiciu, shared about the process: “The Graduation Project consists of two phases. The first phase is the conceptualisation and design of the final collection, which involves research experimentation in support of the design process, and the second phase is the realisation of the collection, from the actual making of the garments to styling, portfolio development, design and preparation, a self-directed photoshoot and industry sponsorships and collaborations.

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Melissa Lim's 'Obscurities' collection. (PHOTO: LASALLE College of Arts)

Fashion graduate Melissa Lim picked up overall award, Best Fashion Collection of the night with her considerable ingenuity of incorporating works from two different artists. Melissa shares: “The concepts (societal imposition, human insecurities etc.) behind the works of artist Jannis Kounellis, and the haunting aesthetics of photographer Samuel Zeller, were the main inspiration behind my collection.”

Her menswear collection, Obscurities, aims to embody an inner conflict of trying to conform with common, acceptable standards of society, and yet struggling with the concealment of our true inner selves and emotions.

We noticed the use of semi-opaque materials and plastics for a layering detail, weaved in with digital prints to create a contemporary silhouette. The challenge to create this look though, was to translate the concepts that Melissa observed, such as societal imposition and human struggle into visual designs. She also adds, “sourcing interesting fabrics from local shops was also a challenge.”

As for her win, Melissa was over the moon when it was announced. In an email interview, she tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “The win took me by surprise; it was totally unexpected. Perhaps authenticity and an interesting narrative helped the judges to understand my point of view as a designer,” she explains. But you won’t find her resting on her laurels; Melissa is already planning her brand on Instagram, @outlier_official, as well as ironing out several plans, which include a possible focus on customisations and bespoke orders to reduce mass consumerism.

Fashion graduate Rena Kok wins the Swarovski Award. (PHOTO: Reta Lee/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Fashion graduate Rena Kok won a Swarovski prize for her imaginative use of the crystals in her collection, TO BE CONTINUED. Her inspiration of her collection was an observation of commuters who are constantly glued to their digital devices: “I have never underestimated the extent to which we rely on technology, but this really hit when one day on my regular commute home, I noticed the intent gazes of commuters to their digital devices. There and then, it seemed to me we have lost the need for materiality, for direct human interaction, for sensing actual reality.”

Her winning collection made use of silicones, but as a material alone, it is difficult to revise it. “Getting the textiles right was the main challenge as they included unconventional materials such as silicon. The 3D casted silicon had to be vacuumed in order to have the bubbles extracted, followed by meticulous molding and printing. Any error in the aforementioned variables could alter the results and therefore jeopardise the design. Another challenge was also the creation of the Augmented Reality feature. It took numerous trial and error to create a digitally recognisable motif that doubled up as a QR code,” Rena shares.

Rena Kok's 'To Be Continued...?' collection. (PHOTO: LASALLE College of Arts)

As part of her win, Rena will travel to Swarovski’s headquarters in Vienna, where she will learn how the crystals are made: “I would like to broaden my knowledge about the textile and fashion industry while I am over there, and to feel inspired. It is an amazing opportunity and I cannot wait to see how other young designers from around the world incorporate crystals into their collection.”

Did she think she would have wowed the judges with her collection? Rena believes it was her ‘thinking out of the box’ mindset that spurred her on: “I believe it is because the crystals in my collection serve more than just being embellishments. They function as core elements. For instance, the crystals are a necessary component for a digital device to recognise the motif and activate the augmented reality feature in one of my garments.

Silvia Sanusi's 'Rumpang' collection. (PHOTO: LASALLE College of Arts)

Other notable fashion works

The other graduates whose outstanding works deserve a shoutout are Silvia Sanusi, Ruby Chairani, and Sandy Ong.

What is your inspiration in creating your collection?

Silvia: ‘Rumpang’ was inspired by the fire accident that happened in Gili Lawa, a part of Komodo Island in Indonesia. Due to reckless human actions, specifically the littering of lighted cigarette butts; 10 hectares of savannah vegetation in Gili Lawa was lost, forever changing the landscape of the island.

The word ‘Rumpang’ can be interpreted as something that is lost or incomplete, and therefore is a collection that aims to shed light on the importance of environmental protection. As a further tribute to Indonesian culture, the collection also maintains a focus on traditional weaving, dyeing and draping techniques unique to Indonesia.

Ruby Chairani's 'Puspa Pesona' collection. (PHOTO: LASALLE College of Arts)

Ruby: ‘Puspa Pesona’ was created in a bid to reconnect with nature; to evoke remembrance, mindfulness and appreciation to the environment. This came about after I recognised the importance of slowing down in today’s digitalised and rapidly growing world. ‘Puspa Pesona’ translates to Moon Orchid from Indonesian and this flower became an essential part of collection, highlighting the two countries that are significant in my life.

Sandy Ong's 'Square Conversation' collection. (PHOTO: LASALLE College of Arts)

Sandy: “It started out with a realisation that as a fashion student, I was wasting a lot of fabric during the production process, specifically the drafting and cutting stage. If as an individual I am already discarding so much unused fabric away, what more than from the fashion industry is being thrown away?

This thought led me to venture into zero waste cutting techniques and researching more about sustainable fashion, and that was when I realised there was a significant gap in the – in that while consumers are more conscious about the environment, many are unable to attain or own sustainable fashion clothing because eco brands are pricing their items at very high price points.

On top of that, brands that are sustainable mainly focus on their textiles (i.e. use of ethically-sourced cotton, hemp etc.) and not on the design, drafting or cutting stages. These revelations thus inspired me to create a zero-waste collection.