I often browse on the University of the Arts London's portfolio site Showtime.arts and wonder at the work I find. It never fails to fill me with inspiration in a way some catwalk shows fail to do.
I have a particular love for Graduate Collections, I feel the students can really go wild and express their boldest work. Naturally, I'm sure students hope their work may be seen by a brand, and see the collection as an opportunity to showcase their skills for potential employers but in a larger sense I feel Graduate Fashion is so pure in its creation. It comes without the admin and boundaries set by business' that occour behind the scenes at a brand post-catwalk.
Coming across Fotini Handra's work was a particular treat, in fact I think I took a sharp intake of breath when I saw it, clicking the mouse twice as hard to select. I adore everything, the rust and nude colour palette, the juxtaposition of the simple yet complex shapes the fabric creates. I'm a sucker for an oversized silhouette and everything is working here to compliment that, the print work, the styling of the look book, the footwear.
I love the fluidity of Fotini's garments, looking at them again brings a whole new dimention when you hear about her process of draping paper and the sculptural inspiration behind the pieces.
Fotini tells me about her work, below...
Hi Fontini! It’s so great to get to talk to you about your amazing Graduate Collection. Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in Switzerland, my family lived there until I was nine before moving back to Athens, Greece. After finishing school I studied Fine Arts in Greece and three years ago I moved to London to study Womenswear at London College of Fashion. There has been a lot of mobility in my life generally.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I hardly ever sketch, but my phone (as everyone’s is) is filled with things I find interesting!.Although I almost never look back at them, they’re archived somewhere deep in my brain and I usually manage to draw inspiration from them when it's needed. The best thing about being in London is that there is always something going on either institutionally or independently. Since graduating I finally have the time to go to all the interesting screenings, lectures and exhibitions.
Where did you begin when designing this collection? Tell me about your research and how that developed into what we see now…
Research for me happens quite organically, the spark usually comes from something I’ve read. After that in a strange way relevant things seem to present themselves to me. I don’t know if I start to pay attention to things I would otherwise ignore, or if it’s fate. I like to think it’s some sort of magic, but I am afraid it’s probably the results of the Web 3.0.
At the beginning of my final year I was given the opportunity to collaborate with my fellow classmate Jaewon Sophie Kim. We felt a strong connection with each other’s work and decided to blend our ideas and concepts. We developed a way to work together and established some initial themes, techniques and materials we wanted to use. Along the way we collaborated with LCF print student Sarah Forgie to really take the collection to the next level through the beautiful print work.
Is there a direct inspiration behind the garments?
This collection didn’t have the usual linear approach of research, design and construction. The different stages were mixed up and some themes were abandoned along the way, while others were introduced. It began with an interest in shape and volume. I was inspired by artists John Chamberlain and Nicolai Howalt (among others) who mostly work with sculpture made from crushed cars. There is something fascinating about crushed metal; it is so rigid but fragile at the same time. I wanted to translate this feeling into the collection.
Initially, toiles were draped with paper, creating abstract and geometric shapes that merged into garments by developing suitable fabrics. The results are pieces that look very bold, but are very fragile and demand a lot of caution by the wearer.
What technical skills did you learn at University and how have you used these in your work?
LCF is quite technical in its approach, which is also one of the reasons I chose it. I can still here our tutor’s mantra in my head “Know the rules, then break them”. I think the most liberating skill of all was finally understanding how to move between flat pattern cutting and draping and how one area can inform the other. Also I developed a thing for finishing, an interesting way to finish a seam always excites me.
Which fashion designers inspire you and your work?
Faustine Steinmetz, Richard Malone, Matty Bovan and many, many more.
How did you choose your final fabrics and why?
We began draping with paper just to get some initial ideas about the shape and silhouette. It turned out I loved everything about it! Paper has such amazing qualities; it’s light, holds shape and moves beautifully. I wanted to develop a fabric with similar qualities. After meticulous and painstaking bonding and fusing of different materials, I managed to achieve the desired result with silks and nylons.
Silhouette-wise what did you envision for the collection?
I really wanted to go bold and achieve the oversized silhouettes from my initial collages and drawings. I did set myself some restrictions when I started, I wanted to achieve the shape organically, through the material itself, rather than making an inner structure to support the shape.
Who would ideally wear the garments?
Someone with a lot of patience I guess, who doesn’t really like sitting down!
Did you enjoy designing your pieces or making them, or a bit of both? Was it easy or challenging to bring your designs to life?
Tough question. I guess both, as one is integral to the other. I usually start with something 3D and then design it in paper. I’m a very tactile person. Until I make the final decision it is a constant back and forth between 2D and 3D.
I think it’s always challenging to create something, to bring it to life. Especially if it’s something you’ve never done before and you have to learn and experiment along the way.
Is it hard to find the line between innovative design and wear-ability?
Yes and No I think. Innovation doesn’t exclude wear-ability nor the other way round. You can have one, both or none.
Do you hope to keep designing your own collection or perhaps gain experience at another brand?
For the time being I would love to join one of the many amazing brands I love here in London and further develop my existing skills. There is still so much knowledge to gain. As for doing something on my own, it would have to happen organically. I don’t like to rush or force things.
Pictures 1-6 feature prints by Sarah Forgi
Photography, Simonas Berukstis
Hair and Make up, So Jeong Kim
Model, Karolina M.
Follow Fotini on Instagram here