I love colour. A lot. My wardrobe is a veritable rainbow. But without good design, colour means nothing, and this was the premise behind The Black Project, recently undertaken by the class of 2015 MA Menswear students at London College of Fashion (LCF).
This particular group of students have decided that it's not enough to simply be studying, even on a prestigious MA course. Using The Black Project as a starting point, the students have collaboratively produced a lookbook to showcase the outcome, entitled MA-MAN15. It features each look from each student and has been distributed throughout members of the industry in an effort to 'promote their work as individuals and the course as a whole'. It acts as part of a larger project entitled MA-n which serves as a platform from which the students can communicate their work to the industry they're working to become a part of.
Austin Perry (all round lovely person and incredible designer) spearheaded the idea:
"The Black Project was used as a unit for our tutor to understand how we each worked as a designer, understanding the different techniques people utilised. We could use any fabric we wanted but it had to be relevant to our design methodologies. So mine, for example, is about removing the sexualised connotations behind the idea of wearing latex, and who wears latex.
"Each designer's outfit tells a different story, underpinning their design methodology. The lookbook itself was part of an idea I came up with about creating a sort of brand within the course. It's become more of a platform for promotion and the whole class is behind the idea. We're hopeful to think that people in the industry will look at this so we're currently sending it out to different editors and publications because, of course, we would all love to have a job waiting for us after we graduate. It's really about the bigger picture, and creating an online legacy that future year groups at LCF MA Menswear can adopt; almost like beginning a new history book."
The lookbook explains that the ‘fabric first’ method was the direction for this work to explore silhouette and volume in the absence of colour. The students have taken notably diverse approaches. Xuefei Wang, Xue Feng, Shimo Zhou, and Yu Ding, are amongst those who have taken the opportunity to play with form and precision; perfecting their tailoring and working with more traditional silhouettes, tweaking and working into those staples that are synonymous with menswear - the suit jacket and trousers. Others, such as Neale Duncan and Xiaoli Su, have redefined the silhouettes with bold shapes and creative pattern cutting.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who have experimented with fabric and texture - lace, laser cutting, PVC, fur, and latex all feature. All still in the uniform black or white but all with their own identity. Whilst Austin Perry's offering references the traditional tuxedo, the use of latex, the flared legline, chain detailing, and luxurious fur far remove it from the realms of the norm.
Jamie Elwood has eschewed any ties to the traditional with his sheer, laser cut faux leather dress, and Kitty Ng has taken texture to the max with her huge 'Organic Raincoat'. David Cabra and Thientrang Bui have both approached transparency from very different angles. Cabra's sportswear inspired look utilises PVC, whereas Bui makes use of lace and chiffon - a more traditional fabric choice in general perhaps, but not so in terms of menswear.
Some might wonder how any restrictions in design can be freeing, but against the uniformity of the black and white, ideas, form, and innovation can take centre stage. MA-MAN15 is just the beginning of what we'll see from this group of students, they're letting us in to watch them develop and hone their skills and visions as designers. Many students wait until their final show for that huge wave of appreciation and exposure but this lot are taking no chances, striking whilst the iron is hot, and carving out their own inimitable path.