The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has launched its annual Student Fashion exhibition, running from March 27 to October 18.

The exhibition, which has been running since 1991, displays the collections of four students studying across four different Sydney-based tertiary design schools.

Having featured several notable designers in previous years, including established Australian designer, Dion Lee, Ragtrader will speak to each designer over the coming weeks.

Each student will discuss the processes, challenges and successes they experienced during the creation of their projects.

Ann Xiao - The Fashion Design Studio, Ultimo TAFE

What opportunities does this exhibit provide you as student designers?

As a student designer you are given very few opportunities to present your work to the public and the industry, especially if you have just graduated. You only have yourself, social media and your own wits to get you by. The opportunity to exhibit pieces in a museum before you have even made a name for yourself – is truly a once in a lifetime ‘pinch me’ kind of experience. As a student you visit museums to see highly regarded and recognised artists so to have this opportunity is truly humbling and has opened a whole new world for my career.

How did you approach developing the designs and final works?

During my final year at The Fashion Design Studio – Ultimo Tafe, we are given a full year to fully develop a collection that truly reflects who we want to be as designers. I wanted to present a collection that was a reflection of who I was as a person from my past experiences and how it has lead me to where I am now. I delved into my family history as well as my own Chinese background.

What have been some of the challenges throughout the process?

One of the biggest hurdles that I faced was developing the 3D printed jacket that will be exhibited. It took over 60 hours of hand work/printing to produce the final product however, it took months of prototyping and experimentation to achieve the results I desired.

What have you taken away from this experience? What have you learnt?

I have learnt how to utilise my anxiety, frustration and understood the important of patience. Not only has the experience of producing this collection made me more appreciative of the people who work in my industry but it has also allowed to me understand how I work best- finding that rhythm for myself and seeing how far I can push/challenge myself. The entirety of the degree has been known to push its students to the nth degree and coming out at the end with a completed collection has been the most satisfying experiences of my life.

Have you had any professional experience in the industry?

I have interned for many years ranging from House of Quirky which boasts brands like MinkPink, Staple the Label, Evil Twin and Somedays Lovin, I have also interned for Dion Lee and Manning Cartell. I have also worked closely under the guidance of General Manager, Courtney Miller from the Australian Fashion Chamber in my final year. However, now I have been given the opportunity of becoming a design assistant at the Upside Sport.

What did you learn?

I learnt that no matter what path you take – hard work is always key. I also learnt that there are many facets to the industry and I can potentially go into different fields that are ultimately classified as the fashion industry. However, I have found that I truly wish to be a creative as I find it provides this indescribable peace for my anxious mind.

What do you see as the biggest challenges affecting the industry?

The environment. 100% the environment and the increasingly globalised world we live in. The fashion industry contributes to so much of the pollution we see today and we are only just starting to see the detrimental consequences to our actions. More and more people are fleeing China, the world’s global factory, as it is slowly becoming uninhabitable. We are seeing diminishing resources all around us yet we are consuming at an unsustainable rate. I believe this will definitely be one of the biggest challenge the industry faces as it has been an active contributor to the destruction. However, I believe we can still make the necessary changes to ultimately change this fate.

Where do you see further opportunities?

Working overseas for artists and understanding how we can make the fashion industry coexist with the environment in a way that is sustainable whilst retaining the beauty of creating fashion. I truly believe we can create without being destructive to the world around us.

What's next for you?

What’s next for me? Currently I’ve have been chosen as one of six to present at the prestigious ‘INNOVATORS’ show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in May this year. I will also be presenting at iD Dunedin Emerging Designers in New Zealand later this month and I have also been chosen as a finalist for the Design Institute of Australia’s Graduate of the Year Award in Textile and Fashion Design. I will also be continuing my role as an assistant designer at The Upside to gain industry experience and eventually moving onto Paris.

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