Whether they go on to work at Viktor & Rolf and Louis Vuitton or scrape together the crazy amount of money it takes to launch a solo line, nearly all clothing-design talents make their first identifiable mark of genius on the fashion world during end-of-the-year graduation shows. Sure, after a year of monomaniacal focus — at least double what any designer ever gets in the real world — the concepts are usually completely overthunk and overwrought, as student work in every discipline tends to be. But without the constraints of the market or a demanding boss, in some ways there can be no purer expression of creative perspective than when designers send that first exaggeratedly proportioned dress or gender-bending jacket down the runway. With that in mind, Sight Unseen made it a point to be there when Generation 12 of the ArtEZ Fashion Masters program opened the doors to their final presentation last week, during the Arnhem Mode Biennale. Consisting of Hanna Siwecki, ZhengZheng Li, Nick Rosenboom, Yona van Mansfeld, and Jonathan Christopher, the class kicked things off with a specially commissioned video lookbook of sorts by the amazing Dutch photographer/stylist duo Freudenthal/Verhagen, who were handed the students’ clothes and told to go wild (they did). Check out excerpts from the collections themselves in the slideshow at right, including backstories and inspirational images, then be sure to click here to watch the video.
Photo credits: Allard Honigh (Siwecki), Louise te Pouele (Rosenboom), Jasper Abels (van Mansfeld)
If you travel all the way from New York to Arnhem just to attend the fashion biennial in this relatively obscure Dutch city, half the size of Pittsburgh, you can expect people to notice. Your waiter will witness your accent — and the fact that you’re not drinking a huge glass of milk with lunch like everyone else — and ask if you came just for the show, and well, did you like it? Your jolly white-haired cab driver will crack a few embarrassing jokes about the Big Apple before waxing poetic about how lovely it is when the festival’s on. And despite Vogue calling the $2.5-million production the “Greatest Fashion Event You’ve Never Heard Of,” it will seem, when you’re there, like Arnhem's gravitational pull has shifted in some small but significant way.
Christian Wijnants attended the fashion program at Antwerp’s prestigious Royal Academy, and upon graduating, won the Hyéres prize, the Dries Van Noten prize, and a coveted assistant spot in Van Noten’s atelier. Then, two years after starting his own line in 2003, he banked 100,000 euros as the winner of the Swiss Textile Award, beating out Giles Deacon and Charles Anastase. “I never thought I would even be nominated,” Wijnants told i-D magazine at the time, before proceeding to watch his collection trickle into all of the world’s most respected boutiques and department stores. He was just being modest, of course — the man has unmistakable talent, especially when it comes to his imaginative textiles and knits — but there is something surprising about his success, when you think about it: In a country whose fashion scene skews towards all things experimental, nonconformist, androgynous, and/or dark, the cherub-faced designer is known for both his colorful, feminine aesthetic and his charming geniality. He’s almost too perfect to be cool.
Since graduating from London’s Royal College of Art in 2006 with a master’s degree in womenswear, Eudon Choi has had his graduate collection picked up by the fanatically worshipped Dover Street Market, been a senior designer for Savannah and Sienna Miller's label Twenty8Twelve, and been called a “fabulous individual” by our favorite throwback men’s fashion mag Fantastic Man. All of which makes his decision to move to London in 2003 — after having already completed a master’s in menswear at Yonsei University in his hometown of Seoul — seem like a pretty good move. “London, and womenswear in particular, just felt like a place where I could be more experimental,” says Choi.