Ones to Watch – Royal College of Art, London


In June, we were fortunate to attend the highly-anticipated annual Royal College of Art MA degree shows in London. The RCA fashion show was as always, against the conceptual catwalk and based around theatre and contextual ways of showing the work. We feature four emerging designers who excited and inspired us with their innovative approaches and striking aesthetics.

Shuying Wang

Shuying Wang knit

Knitted textile designer and womenswear graduate Shuying Wang, travelled from her native China to the RCA to continue exploring her fascination with fabric behaviour. We previously featured Shuying in our article on the RCA’s Work-in-Progress exhibition in February where she caught our eye with her beautiful balance of colour and fascinating use of materials.

For her final project, Comforts and Unsettles, Shuying explores two directions of the concepts of human environmental connection, reflecting upon places that play upon the paradox of familiarity and a sense of unbelonging. She has a raw and natural message experimenting with texture as well as exploring the unusual fabric behaviour of her knitted textiles.

Shuying Wang knit
Shuying Wang

Combining knitted and woven structures, playing with tension and yarn combinations, Shuying captures the movement of the body and the behaviour of her fabric. Shuying has worked with Shima Seiki technology and subtraction cutting, exploring the contrast between hard and soft and the stretching ability of natural yarns and synthetic fibres. True to her concept, Shuying creates a calming yet subtly unsettling colour palette, with a surface contrast between matt and metallic sheen.

Shuying Wang knit
Shuying Wang

With extraordinary structures, organic shapes are her symbolic language. The outcome is a dishevelled elegance in a refreshing colour palette that both comforts and unsettles.

Shuying was sponsored by Italian fine yarn mill Zegna Baruffa.

Photo credits:
Photography by Sono Zhao
Model – Ronja Anki
Make-up artist – Qiuyi He

Cavan McPherson

Cavan McPherson knit RCA
Cavan McPherson

Womenswear knitwear designer Cavan McPherson came to the RCA having graduated in 2016 from Manchester School of Art. Cavan’s softly sculptural and draped womenswear collection was a refreshing break-pause amongst tense and frantic collections during the RCA show. Calm yet striking. Cavan talked to us about her inspirations and concept.

‘Climate, weather and non-material forces are the core of my current practice. Growing up on the Scottish coast whilst reading about climate change and the anthroposcene led me to a deep understanding of how precious and constantly fluctuating our environment is. I wanted to materialise this constant flow through infinite lines and dynamic form around the body. By using all natural fibres and colour pigment from various types of wood and plant, my pieces are natural in every sense of the word to manifest the beauty straight from nature.’

‘The elements around us are consistently fluctuating and harmonising in infinite flow. As the air, light and rain collide, colours and form refract and expose the beauty nature creates. Capturing flow through engineered knit, natural pigment and a fusion of material form wearable stratas that run around the body and move with it.’

‘The climate is in real danger, as we continue to drive the anthroposcene. Design ethics and principles are at the heart of design practice and using only natural fibres wihtin every step of my process is integral. From peace silk cultivated and woven in the uk, to organic cotton and natural dyes, every part of the process is as crafted and considered as the final aesthetic. Structure is created with wood and metal strips integrated into the structure of the knit, while easy wrapping layers are built below for comfort and flexibilty.’

Cavan is soon moving into her new studio in London and plans to pursue freelance projects that she has lined up following her graduation, and long term would like to start her own label.

Cavan was sponsored by a range of prestigious organisations including the British Fashion Council, the Dewar Arts Award Scotland, the Society Of Dyers And Colourists and Italian fine and sustainable cotton mill Filmar. She was also awarded scholarships from the British Fashion Council for both her BA at Manchester School of Art and MA at the RCA, as well as being awarded winner of the Levi X Artsthread Design Challenge and Manchester Fashion Alumni Prize 2016.

Cavan is certainly a freshly exciting designer to watch, and we look forward to seeing what she does next.

Photo credits:
Model Jamila Aubad at @modelteam
Photography : @alexandramphoto
Model : Jamila Aubad at @modelteam
Make-up : @shaun.lavender
Stying : Charlotte Beardow

Beth Ranson

Another designer that we featured in our RCA Work-in-Progress article, materials researcher and designer Beth Ranson continued her deep exploration and materials engineering using the properties of natural fibres. Her final project, Shaping without shaping: Nature as a smart material, explores the creation of mono-fibre fabrics that can shape their own trims, necklines and details without any traditional shaping methods or elastic.
At the WIP show, her work had focused on wool and fibre research. This project follows on from that, based on fibre research within design contexts. Within this context, Beth found that wool did not solve the problem she needed it to, so she explored and experimented with a variety of different yarns and fibres to achieve the desired outcome.
Using dubied and Shima Seiki methods, complimenting and informing one another, craft and technology are combined in harmony.

Beth used the show as an opportunity to reveal her process. Her ethos diagram shows the sustainable parameters within which she works, adapting to a variety of contexts. The fabrics developed included an adaptable mock chevron, which can be pulled into different shapes, and proportioned zig-zigs, steamed and set into shape. It is 100% natural and biodegradable, and requires no traditional needle bed set ups or shaping methods. This fabric is adaptable and transformational through research into stitch structures and fibre and yarn properties. It illustrates that elastic and petrochemical-based materials are not the only way to create ‘smart’ materials.

Beth’s ethos illustrated by Manon Franklin-Fraiture

Beth is an innovative researcher of fibre, yarn and stitch structures. Her work is a culmination of her explorations into the origins of each method and material. By removing elastic and petro-chemical-based materials from her process, all Beth’s fabrics are biodegradable and functional through unique stitch structures and yarn combinations rather than synthetic stretch. She experiments with adaptable knitted forms using ‘zero waste’ methods. Motivated by problem solving in sustainable design contexts, Beth occupies the space between knit technician and textiles designer: certainly an interesting space to be.

Beth desires to gain industry experience, specialising in yarn, knit methods, and material research. Beth explained, ‘logical and creative problem-solving are my forte, so roles that allow me to utilise this skill-set are what I am hoping to find.’

For her MA project, Beth was sponsored by both the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters and the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers. She was also sponsored by luxury Italian wool mill Loro Piana.

Beth will be speaking about her process at the ‘In The Loop’ knitting conference at the Winchester School of Art later this month and we look forward to catching up with her about this experience.

Photo credit: Illustration by Manon Franklin-Fraiture. Photography by Beth Ranson.

Yuan-Lung Kao

Yuan-Lung Kao RCA knit
Yuan-Lung Kao

Taiwanese designer Yuan-Lung Kao presented his striking and empowering collection of womens knitwear at the RCA show, in a theatrical in-the-round show space. Yuan-Lung, who dedicates his creativity to the innovation of knitting techniques, achieves comprehensive detail combining craft and mechanical techniques.

In his collection, Yuan-Lung conveys the idea of a conversation between humans and the environment. He uses a mixture of natural and synthetic yarns to create his pieces, such as as wool, linen, polypropylene and viscose. By combining fibres with differing melting temperature, and finishing with heat-pressing, Yuan-Lung creates a unique method of knitting circular shape.

Yuan-Lung Kao RCA knit
Yuan-Lung Kao

Essentialy, Yuan-Lung eliminates the direction of knitting, meanwhile creating an innovative fully-fashioned shape. He challenges himself to form a more structural shape by which traditional knitting fabrics do not achieve.

Yuan-lung talked to us about his design perspective and ethos. ‘For me, I’ve always been the person who likes to observe the society behind the screen. For my creative process, I tried to translate my viewpoint on the surroundings through a hole into the language of fashion. While I am trying to translate my perspective of viewing the society into the language of knitting, I tried to define the screen as holes in my silhouette. A human, who is wearing my knitted pieces, could observe the society with the perspective that I provide.’

Yuan-Lung has a great desire to continue to develop and research his innovative knitting practice, with an aim to collaborate in his process with other designers, whilst working towards creating his own brand.

For his MA collection, Yuan-Lung was sponsored by Italian creative yarn mill, Manifattura Igea S.p.a.

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