In Helsinki, International Talents and Sustainability Shine

01.08.2018 | Fashion | BY:

Helsinki Fashion Week, now in its third year, is comprised of local and international brands who present their collections at the annual event. This year’s guest designers hailed from Italy, the Philippines, and Sweden, amongst other nations. 

The common thread linking the brands is a sustainable approach. The event took place in a former oil silo, Öljysäiliö 468, on the outskirts of the city. The founder, Evelyn Mora told me, “the goal is to change the mindsets of people who work in the fashion industry about sustainability. We want to introduce sustainability not as a niche or a trend but as a true must, and not only in the fashion industry but in all the industries.”

The vast majority of designers that showed in Helsinki this year have yet to synergise sustainable practice with creativity. However those who placed creativity ahead of sustainability were the ones worth paying attention to.

These designers exhibited a prowess for craftsmanship, a discernible design signature and potential for future development. We hope to see much more of them in the seasons ahead. 

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Carl Jan Cruz (The Philippines)

When Carl Jan Cruz took his bow, the rapturous applause spoke for itself: it was a tremendous show.

The Filipino designer, whose work is currently sold at Maryam Nassir Zadeh in New York, conjured a distinctive mirage of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. He focused on artisanal craftsmanship, connecting it with a Manilan sensibility. It was an artful display replete with intricate embroideries, beautifully juxtaposed patterns, airy silhouettes, and patchwork. It was characterised by an uncomplicated effervescence but the cut of the fabric was distinctive, playing on asymmetry and obscure shapes.

Furthermore, Cruz’s diverse cast included models, family, and friends. The casting was celebratory of age, ethnicity, and gender. The casting felt organic, and not an attempt at baiting Instagram likes and articles centred on diversity.

Carl Jan Cruz

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Airvei (France)

Julien Goulard’s Airvei (pronounced “airway”), a streetwear brand, reminded this writer of A-COLD-WALL* for its sociological exploration and poetic aspirations. Both men also come from other disciplines—Ross’ background is in graphic design, Goulard’s is in architecture and fine art. Fashion came second.

Goulard’s gambit is an ethical approach. He toyed with upcycled airbags and collaborated with ethical footwear brand Rombaut to create a collection which married form and function.

Streetwear is stagnating which is why it takes someone like Goulard to experiment with some new shapes. Amidst the sea of Off-White and Vetements, to distinguish oneself is a difficult challenge but Goulard’s work was a welcome addition amongst the more familiar tropes. Perhaps denizens of the streetwear world should look to Airvei its eco-friendly approach instead of other labels that bastardise the archive of Helmut Lang and call it their own. It was a generally accomplished outing from the Frenchman.


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N&S Gaia (India)

“I like to push the boundaries of the feminine silhouette,” said Sidarth Sinha, the New Delhi-based designer behind N&S Gaia, whose womenswear is defined by surrealist shapes and feminine touches. Ruffles were a dominant motif throughout the show, undulating as the models strutted past. The way they were cut was rather strange but it was exciting.

He superimposed images of sculpture and architecture into digital prints on the dresses which added a necessary secondary plot point. Sinha, who traveled to Italy for a fashion prize ceremony, before Berlin and Helsinki for fashion week, will be presenting at London Fashion Week in September. One hopes he can expand his dialogue in time.

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Ellinor Brännström (Sweden)

Streetwear is rooted in masculinity but Swedish designer Ellinor Brännström is sending tremors throughout the landscape with work that deconstructs gender conformity: there were lace bicycle shorts, architectural puffer jackets, hooded lace jackets and cloak-like raincoats—it teetered between delicacy and toughness.

“It’s inspired by my interest in 70s punk, my love for Federico Fellini movies and the concept of gender fluidity which is very important to me,” Brännström explained.

Brännström paints herself as an artist more than a designer. It’s something readily apparent in her unconventional approach to tailoring and silhouettes which felt at once grounded in reality but also futuristic and inventive. And, of course, she is passionate about sustainability which contrasts with many other streetwear brands which centre themselves on mass-consumption.

“The fabrics are made from recycled plastics and a revolutionising dying technique reducing the use of water,” the show notes read. “Other parts of the collection are upcycled garments from charity shops, deadstock trims, and fabrics with materials of recycled properties.”

Ellinor Brannstrom

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Chain (Argentina)

Lucia Chain called her Spring 2019 show, ‘Los Feriantes,’ after a local daily market in Buenos Aires where her father worked. She was “inspired by the tone of the light, the smell in the air, the colours, the sound of the trees and the voice of the local producers.” It resulted in a collection that was tinged with nostalgia, the soft colour palette and the loose silhouettes were reminiscent of something light, delicate, and incredibly personal.

The fabric used was raw cotton made by an Argentinian co-operative which emphasises her interest in the circular economy and supporting local producers. It wasn’t a narcissistic personal reflection rather a positive one which is hoping to have a positive impact on the local economy and the environment.

Her colour palette was limited and perhaps she should consider expanding on it but in terms of cut and shape her show was emotional and beautiful.


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Growing up as a goth in the British Midlands: Twin meets Supriya Lele

27.06.2018 | Fashion | BY:

What does it mean to be British? This is one of the biggest questions facing British people in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. What does Britishness look like? It’s a difficult one to answer given the influx of immigrants, cultures, and customs in British society over the last forty years. It’s something Supriya Lele confronts with her work.

Supriya is a British fashion designer with Indian heritage. Her work is influenced by her British identity and Indian cultural heritage. The way she works with drapery recalls the sari. The colours she works with refer to her own background, growing up as a goth in the British Midlands. Her work is inspired by architecture and sculpture, which she believes are integral facets to fashion design. Her work caught the attention of Fashion East, Lulu Kennedy’s incubator program for emerging talents. With three seasons at London Fashion Week showing as part of Fashion East, the British Fashion Council awarded Supriya NEWGEN sponsorship. This September, she will debut her standalone show at London Fashion Week. Twin caught up with her to discuss identity, launching a brand and “growing up as a goth in the British Midlands.”

When did you know you were meant to be a fashion designer?

I wouldn’t necessarily say I always knew I was meant to be a fashion designer, I began by studying architecture, and then subsequently wanted to study sculpture before last minute changing to my undergraduate degree in fashion…I think these three areas are quite linked. I was always really interested in fashion and it has always been an important part of my life, and this has been a very natural process.

Surprise LeLe AW18 | © Chris Yates

There are also parts of your work which refer to your childhood “growing up as a goth in the British Midlands”. For you, is storytelling an integral part of your designs?

Haha, yes the “goth,” aspect or subversive aspect to my work is important. I have been exploring my cultural identity since I completed my Masters at the Royal College of Art- and that involves exploring different memories, or parts of my family history which have informed my personal viewpoint and design handwriting; I think storytelling is a big part of that.

Your work features contrast: masculinity and femininity; your Indian heritage and British cultural identity; lo-fi fabrics and the air of luxury– is your work defined by contrast or the balance between the contrasting elements?

I always enjoy the tension between high and low and I like to play with that in my work. I would probably say that the balance between the contrasting elements is what I enjoy- finding that middle space or exploring that tension is what is exciting.

Surprise LeLe AW18 | © Chris Yates

It was reported that your first presentation with Fashion East came at a time when you hadn’t yet worked out how to sell the collection. Is this true?

My first presentation with Fashion East was when I showed parts of my Masters Collection from the Royal College of Art- most of this had been created on the course without sales in mind; so it was more that the actual collection was not ready for sales. It was more an aim to present my ideas and vision in that context, and introduce myself to the industry.

You worked with Fashion East for three seasons, what was the best advice you received?

I received a lot of good advice from Fashion East so this is a tough question! I think it was not to worry too much and to be confident in my own abilities.

You’ve been afforded NEWGEN sponsorship for the upcoming season. How does it feel to join the ranks alongside your peers Matty Bovan, Bianca Saunders, as well as previous winners such as J.W. Anderson and Simone Rocha?

It feels really exciting to have my own slot on schedule at LFW, I am really looking forward to it. NEWGEN has an amazing list of alumni, but also the current designers are so strong it’s really great to be a part of it!

What is next for the brand?

To keep pushing my vision forward and to grow my business and brand organically with the support I have.


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Ireland Repeals the 8th Amendment, Analysing Fashion’s Contribution

06.06.2018 | Culture , Fashion | BY:

On May 25, 2018, the Irish people voted to end the constitutional ban on abortion. The final result was 66.4% Yes and 33.6% No. The vast majority of constituencies across the nation were in favour of removing the amendment from the constitution. In essence, it envisions a modern Ireland but the campaign wasn’t won by itself.

Fashion played an instrumental role in initiating conversations surrounding the Repeal the 8th campaign. Designers living in Ireland and abroad banded together to help shape the modern Ireland they’d like to see. Activists launched their own operations in the campaign’s nascency to voice their opinions. There were Anna Cosgrave’s Repeal Project sweaters; badges from the Abortion Rights Campaign and Together for Yes; housewares, clothing, and accessories from Repealist. Collectively, they inspired political awareness and instigated dialogues that were once left unspoken. “Don’t talk about politics,” it’s taught. Fashion turned that on its head.

“Both my apparel and jewellery were designed with the specific aim of making Repeal about celebrating the beauty and colours of autonomy,” said Shubhangi Karmakar, the founder of Repealist. “From my experience of making each piece by hand, the possibility of having customised jewellery to support Repeal fostered a sense of individuals identifying more closely and affiliating with the movement.”

The Hunreal Issues ‘Fashion is Repealing’ event was another important aspect of the campaign. Organised by Andrea Horan, founder of Dublin-based nail bar Tropical Popical, The Hunreal Issues provides information about abortion rights. The event connected with a voting population through fashion as a means of diluting the seriousness of politics in order to drive social change.

© Repealist

The event was a fundraiser-cum-fashion show in Dublin. It “added another layer to the tone of conversation around Repeal.” Horan assembled a dozen Irish designers to create one-of-a-kind pieces for the fashion show and fifty more affordable, collectible t-shirts and accessories for sale on The Hunreal Issues’ website. After the event, The Hunreal Issues made a donation of €25,000 to Together For Yes, the abortion rights campaign group.

The primary aim of Horan’s campaign was to inspire young people to participate in politics and to highlight women’s rights issues as red line issues. “Fashion allows people to engage and interact with it on their on time, in their own way and interpret the messages found within it into their own language.  For me, this is what is missing in politics – how can you get frustrated and wonder why there aren’t more young people caring about politics if nothing you do targets or engages them,” she said.

The campaign stages were pivotal. Abortions rights in Ireland has been an ongoing battle since 1983 when the country first went to the polls to debate abortion. The Catholic Church and the Irish government have long been bedfellows, but the deep-seated attitudes that once dogged the country are slowly diminishing.

It felt good to have a very small part in this momentous and long overdue change to how women are treated in Ireland. It doesn’t make up for the years and years where women have died, have felt hurt, guilt, conflict, judgement and shame but it is the start of acknowledgement and change. I am proud at how people have come together and supported and fought for this,” said Natalie B. Coleman, a designer from County Monaghan whose work blends the personal and the political with an intent on developing “a strong feministic spirit behind our collections.”

Natalie B Coleman AW17 | © Natalie B Coleman

“I think social media is what pushed young voters to get out and vote. I don’t think young voters related with the posters hanging around the city,” said Louise Kavanagh, an Irish fashion designer who participated in ‘Fashion is Repealing.’ “Social media was a great platform to see all information about the Repeal Project, which provided all factual information. It also gave the platform to promote events based on the campaign. I think these really related to young voters because at the end of the day we are the future and it’s us who the vote effects.”

May 25 was historic: The victory marks a new dawn for women’s rights, christens a more compassionate, caring, and considerate Ireland, and propels the country into modernity. There is work still to be done: implementing education, rewriting the constitution, and opening dialogues surrounding these subjects.

But in the run-up to the referendum date, many were cynical about the fashion industry’s reach, questioning its ability to galvanise a large audience into voting. Their reasoning was rooted in previous liberal failures in both the United Kingdom and the United States. In June 2016, despite the idealism, hope and slogan t-shirts, the UK voted to leave the European Union, in a shock victory. This newfound solidarity among right-wing voters strengthened in November 2016, when the US elected Donald J Trump as president. Despite the fashion industry’s best efforts, support from publications, designers, and influencers, wasn’t enough.

“I don’t think people were educated on Brexit. With the Hillary campaign, they pumped a lot of money into the merchandise but nobody was buying this stuff, they were giving it away for free,” said Margaret O’Connor, an Irish milliner. “In Ireland, people reached into their pockets and bought [Repeal merchandise]. It was a union between the people who were tired of Catholic guilt and shame. For me, I was compelled to involve myself not from a fashion standpoint but as a human rights issue. As a conceptual artist and designer, this was my way of expressing myself.”

It’s really easy to brush off fashion as an influencing factor when it’s not your world.  When your day-to-day is politics, it’s easy to see fashion as some frivolous interest or pastime.  However, as has been proven time and time again, fashion is powerful,” said Horan.

Richard Malone AW18 for Twin magazine | Amber Pinkerton

For Richard Malone, a fashion designer from County Wexford and prominent activist, the referendum was about actively involving himself in the campaign stages. He used his platform as an educator in fashion colleges, he engaged in discussions about it with “anyone that will listen about it,” and he staged an event in the window of Selfridge’s with journalist Una Mullally.  “It’s excellent news. I couldn’t have been quiet on [the referendum],” he said about the result when contacted via email. “I’m super proud of everyone involved. We mobilised and made it happen and there’s a lot to be learned from the young people in Ireland, politics matter and we need to get involved.”

It remains to be seen whether fashion designers will reflect this monumental occasion for women’s rights in their work. Malone maintains he will continue to reflect the “strong, bold, independent women” he surrounds himself with. “[The vote] is more of a celebration of them and I’ve always aimed to celebrate women in my work.”

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