• Julian Louie: One of the few international designers using neoprene in the collections.
    Julian Louie: One of the few international designers using neoprene in the collections.

Rosemount Australian Fashion Week is an opportunity for designers to flaunt their ready-to-wear collections. But some players are aiming to cast a spotlight on fabrics too, as Ragtrader discovers.

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) plans to capitalise on the throng of domestic and international visitors headed down for the spring/summer 2009/10 instalment next week. Fashion academics from the CBD-headquartered university are putting the final touches on a fabrics exhibition timed to coincide with the week-long trade event. Dubbed Fashion Craft: Fashion Technology and staged inside the UTS tower foyer space, the exhibition will showcase several collaborations undertaken between students, academics and fashion firms.

Ragtrader gets an exclusive look at what visitors to the university can expect.

Fashion Technology: The Ripcurl Project

When Professor of Advanced Textiles and Fashion Marie O'Mahony joined the university board late last year, she had two goals in mind.

"To bring together the idea of innovation and technology with traditional craftsmanship," she begins. "And to get our students working more closely with local industry."

Early into her tenure O'Mahoney caught wind of an eco-friendly initiative launched by surfwear giant Rip Curl called 'Project Resurrection'. The project aims to recycle disused wetsuits - and the neoprene used to make them - through a range of commercial and charitable ventures, including a line of specially branded espadrilles and as a filler option for beanbags.

But O'Mahoney had other ideas.

"I wanted to introduce our fashion students to high-tech textiles and innovation while also promoting sustainability. Along with the neoprene available in [disused] wetsuits, there's also a lot of offcuts during the pattern cutting process. I got on the phone to Ripcurl about the possibility of a collaboration and met with them the next day at their head office in Torquay (Victoria)."

The result was an eight-week design project involving 60 fashion students and "several" deliveries worth of neoprene. O'Mahoney says students were challenged to create garments around the theme of an exoskeleton, with final pieces referencing everything from sci-fi to suits of armour. In line with the sustainability aspect, students also visited garages and reverse garbage centres to source additional trims and embellishments.

"By the second week, you could already feel everything coming together," O'Mahoney says. "The students were solving some real challenges like how to navigate around pre-printed wetsuits, existing seams, logos, zips. All of them were very strong on drape and cut and some even printed other colours onto the fabric."

Most garments are predominately black or grey with slashes of bright red colour. Although each student was required to submit a garment, 17 of the best will be on show.

Fashion Craft: Drawn Threads

When all is said and done, this exhibition aims to turn the idea of embroidery as an age-old pastime on its head.

UTS fashion academic Alison Gwilt has another way of putting it: "The exhibition aims to highlight the creative potential of contemporary embroidery and the traditional techniques of the embroiderer."

The works on show are the result of a collaborative project between UTS fashion and textile designers and members of the Embroiderers Guild of NSW. Gwilt, along with UTS design academics Cecilia Heffer (textile design) and Todd Robinson (menswear design) worked with the guild on a range of contemporary embroidery samples which reflected specific themes and ideas.

These include Sustainability and Couture, Lace and New Technologies and The Gentleman's Wardrobe.

  • Gwilt on Sustainability and Couture: "The embroidery samples created for this theme explore the method of upcycling using textile waste in order to develop sustainable textiles that would be applied within the luxury ready-to-wear fashion market."
  • Heffer on Lace and New Technologies: "This aims to investigate pattern and imagery through contemporary lace interpretations. The intention behind this collaboration is to create pieces that explore an intersection between emerging and traditional embroidery."
  • Robinson on The Gentleman's Wardrobe: "This series explores the realm of men's accessories and contemporary masculine identity - with the use of hand embroidery techniques. Embroidery as a practice has traditionally been gendered feminine while the monogrammed men's handkerchief once served an essential place in a gentleman's wardrobe. In the series of handkerchiefs', this series examines notions of success, certitude and accomplishment celebrated within the competitive cultural domains of sporting and business worlds.

    A brief issued by guild member Mary Brown also saw second year fashion and textile students get in on the action. Students studying the subject 'couture techniques' each developed a contemporary embroidery sample which, for exhibition visitors, will be integrated into a larger embroidery installation. The samples explore fashion trends for the spring/summer 2009/10 season, embroidery textile techniques applied in couture today and their creative potential in high fashion.

    The project was conducted over a seven-week period with 60 students reportedly exposed to the techniques of traditional and contemporary embroidery for the first time.

    Fashion Craft:Fashion Technology will launch with a private event on April 28, with the general public invited to view collections from April 27 to May 19.

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