Fashion Utopias: International Fashion Showcase 2016

British Council

19 - 23 February 2016 | West Wing Galleries, Somerset House, London

Fashion Utopias: IFS 2016
The British Council and the British Fashion Council presented work by 80 emerging fashion designers from 24 countries in 'Fashion Utopias' at Somerset House. The exhibition was the fifth edition of the annual International Fashion Showcase which celebrates the universal relevance of fashion in contemporary culture. In 2016 the showcase was part of Somerset House's Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility which marked the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More's inspirational text, Utopia.

Throughout history, and across cultures, people have imagined better ways of living in the hope that by imagining that another world is possible empowers us to create it. Although the practice is as old as human civilisation, Thomas More was the first to give it a name, capturing the human imagination ever since.

Exhibition concept: defining the meaning of 'Fashion Utopia'?

Throughout history, and across cultures, people have imagined better ways of living in the hope that by imagining that another world is possible empowers us to create it. Although the practice is as old as human civilisation, Thomas More was the first to give it a name, capturing the human imagination ever since.

While it means both ‘no place’ and ‘good place’ Utopia is often imagined as a physical place - an island, city or realm – happened upon by a traveller who discovers new ideas which present solutions to challenges they face in their own country. At the heart of Utopia is the understanding that we can learn from different places, peoples and cultures. In this spirit, the International Fashion Showcase 2016 will create a space of possibility, aspiration and anticipation where our audience can encounter the imagination of the world through fashion.

Next in Line
‘Next in Line’ showcases burgeoning design talent from 11 countries around the world. A platform to discover and nurture creative from countries with diverse cultures, the result is inherently Utopian. Sponsored by Bonaveri.

By placing an emphasis on the varied viewpoints of contemporary Utopias from the perspective of each designer, nations separated by thousands of miles become neighbours.

Designer Award Winner: Hala Kaiksow (Bahrain) for her impressive design showcased in the Next in Line exhibition.

The garments displayed, weaving artisanal craft with modernity, inspire the visitor to explore, compare and contrast.

Nigeria | Across the Bleed
With the designs of Lagos Fashion and Design Week's emerging talent suspended in thin-air, ‘Across the Bleed’ captures a moment in the midst of a cosmic bang, where energy transforms into a state of calmness, the moment when everything becomes still. Curated by: Yegwa Ukpo. Exhibition design by: Natasha Guinness. Organised by: Style House Files.

Here, visitors bear witness to the evolution of fashion: a utopian fashion that transcends the imagination, dynamically merges heritage and innovation, and takes its place in the veritable paradise of Africa and beyond.

'Across the Bleed' utilises readily available virtual reality technology to transform visitors back and forth between a physical, interactive installation and dreamlike, alternate world shaped by potential futures.

Reflecting upon the multitude of opportunities that the information age offers to emerging designers in Nigeria and beyond, the showcase conjures tantalising bridges between our earthly reality and the myriad utopias we envision in out perpetual search for better.

Ukraine | Fashion School Rebels
Revolution, conflict and economic crisis have only served to further drive Ukraine’s young fashion designers. Building a modern, global fashion reputation is no easy task in a country where excessive regulation, a lack of state support and outdated fashion skills’ training mean young talent has to fight to get ahead. Curation and exhibition design by: Masha Reva and Love Curly. Organised by: Ukrainian Fashion Week.

The designers selected for this exhibition bring their collective vision of Ukraine to the international stage, helping create a future for the sector and inspiring a new generation of Ukrainian talent.

Egypt | Contemporary Rebirth
For Egypt’s growing fashion industry, ‘Contemporary Rebirth’ is a chance to define the new, post-revolution Egyptian identity. Curated by: Susan Sabet. Exhibition design by: Hedayat Islam, Jamspace. Organised by: Embassy of Egypt in London and Pashion Magazine.

The Tree of Life and the lotus flower stand as metaphors for the young designers drawing upon the region’s rich past in order to look forward to the popular dream of ‘a better life, a better Egypt’.

For them, the way to overcome the Utopian dilemma – that the ideal reality is always just a bit farther away – is collective and collaborative perseverance.

Portugal | Bloom
A lasting Utopia is one that promotes sustainable growth. As such, this is the key concern for the Portuguese fashion designers comprising ‘BLOOM’. Curated by: Miguel Flor. Exhibition design by: Miguel Bento. Organised by: AICEP and Portugal Fashion – ANJE.

The installation is realised using eco-friendly cork – native to Portugal – in partnership with Amorim.

This ideal world straddles the line between natural and artificial, a reflection of the designers’ attention to the re-use of materials and development of new techniques in the hope of achieving a socially-conscious fashion ecosystem that is both individual and global in its reach.

Philippines | Utopian U-Turns
How can a country so often betrayed by the elements cling to the utopian dream? Curated  by: Marian Pastor Roces & Judy Freya Sibayan, TAO Management Corp. Exhibition design by: TAO Management Corp. Organised by: Department of Trade and Industry, Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions.

Centred on the concept of reversals, 'Utopian U-Turns' presents an uplifting insight into the ways young designers from the Philippines are combating global forces with creative endurance.

Having no firm assurance that an ideal world will one day prevail, they reverse and set out again in new and experimental directions.

Trading on cultural traditions, storytelling and family expertise – and reinterpreting them for the contemporary world – these designers know that even small triumphs will further the journey.

Lebanon | Blueprint Beirut
'Blueprint Beirut' deconstructs the architectural arcades (qanater) of the traditional Lebanese home to their blueprints. Curated by: Tala Hajjar. Exhibition design by: Elie Metni. Organised by: The Arab British Centre and Starch Foundation.

The architectural arcades admit streams of light into the home’s central room, a space where past rituals shape daily life and where eight young designers have found mutual inspiration.

Playing with the Utopian co-existence of light and the material world, the exhibition is a re-imagining of familiar space; a reflection of Lebanese fashion’s journey from convention towards a future still grounded in Mediterranean heritage.

Curation Award Winner: Tala Hajjar of Lebanon.

Indonesia | Modest Cosmopolist
‘Modest Cosmopolist’ navigates the challenging frontier between a nostalgia for humans’ earthly ties and desire for a creative, cosmopolitan future. Curation and exhibition design by: Carri Munden. Organised by: HijUp.com.

Four Indonesian designers come together in this exhibition, representing the four elements of fire, water, air, light and the ever-elusive quintessence.

The exhibition forwards the view that in order to grow, we must return to our collective and cultural roots. The result is a nourishing and sustainable harmony of modesty and the avant-garde.

Slovakia | Fashion Source Code
Four Slovak emerging designers are brought together for an inter-media adventure in which the merging of fashion and technology mark an exciting, unpredictable future. Curated by: Zuzana Šidlíková. Exhibition design by: Ján Šicko and Oliver Kleinert. Organised by: Slovak Fashion Council.

‘Fashion Source Code’ recognises the struggle for designers to balance creativity with business strategy, a fact that motivates fashion professionals to consider the ever-changing nature of their art.

The selected designers exemplify the re-adaptation of Slovak craft traditions that is shaping the country’s developing fashion ecosystem, propelling it toward a global future.

Guatemala | Rebooting Dreams
‘Guatemala – Rebooting Dreams’ invites visitors and voyagers to take rest in the dreamlike surroundings of an abstracted Guatemalan house – the ideal setting for the mixing of traditional patterns and contemporary fabrics by the country’s emerging designers. Curated by: Cecilia Santamarina de Orive. Exhibition design by: Taller Ken, Quintana & Ros. Organised by: Embassy of Guatemala UK, Foreign Affairs Ministry of Guatemala, and Ministry for Culture Guatemala.

With a focus on – and deep respect for – the promotion of artisans and artisanal traditions, they employ a magic touch to overcome the challenges of working in a country in developmental flux, bringing Guatemalan tradition into the 21st century with universal appeal.

Czech Republic | The Last Fata Morgana
This year the Czech Republic points a telescope toward a surreal oasis on the horizon. Curated by: Pavel Ivančic. Exhibition design by: Ales Kachlik. Organised by: Czech Centre London and Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague.

‘The Last Fata Morgana’ draws upon the concept of an ephemeral mirage, where garments, accessories and jewellery are suspended from a tree, like exotic fruit.

Considering ideas of taste, the role of the individual and the relevance of fashion in a global world, lights shine upon young Czech designers’ efforts to redefine their ideal world – one that no longer need be a trick of the mind.

Country Award Winner: Czech Republic for its exhibition Last Fata Morgana.

Romania | Found. Lost. Found.
‘Found. Lost. Found.’ rediscovers Romania’s cultural and storytelling heritage through an immersive installation of contemporary jewellery and video projections. Curated by: David Sandu. Exhibition design by: David Sandu and Ioana Ardelean. Organised by: Romanian Cultural Institute and Assamblage – The National Association for Contemporary Jewellery.

The exhibition reinterprets the age-old tale of lost treasure, hidden by Romania’s ancient Dacian civilization in the face of imminent Roman invasion.

The treasure and its contemporary counterparts are presented as living organisms, continuous and sedimentary, and embedded in collective memory. Here, their values transcend to one that is universal – a cultural and artistic Utopia.

Austria | Another Austria: Utopia
Austria's best young designers unite to present their vision of a digital utopian dream. They are unbound by time and space, eschewing borders and liberating themselves from traditional fashion seasons. Curated by: Claudia Rosa Lukas. Exhibition design by: Polimekanos. Organised by: Austrianfashion.net and Austrian Cultural Forum London.

With a modern, streamlined approach, they return to the essence of clothing and the body, making use of freely accessible resources

As with previous editions, ‘Another Austria’ aims to cultivate a sense of open exchange between creatives in Vienna, London and beyond.

Korea | Print Matters
Korea’s ‘Print Matters’ discovers Utopia within the pages of magazines, where aspirational narratives and exotic places combine with bleeding-edge fashion to evoke a progressive paradise. Curator and exhibition design by: Tory Turk. Art direction by​: Amy Preston and Amélie Bonhomme. Organised by: Korean Cultural Centre UK. The Korean exhibition continued at the Korean Cultural Centre.

Through an exploration of Korean designers’ relationships with magazines – often their first contact with fashion – the exhibition delves into the potential of print to inspire, captivate and promote cultural exchange.

The energy of these designers’ – high in conceptual designs – proves that, in this Utopia, print is certainly not dead.

Credits: Story

The International Fashion Showcase 2016 was directed by Anna Orsini, British Fashion Council Strategic Consultant, and Niamh Tuft, British Council Fashion Programme Manager.

Supported by: Austria: BKA – Federal Chancellery of Austria, Advantage Austria, AWS Austria Wirtschaftsservice, Vienna Business Agency, Creative Center Departure. Czech Republic: Galerie Smecky Foundation, Lasvit, Pilsner Urquell, Czech Tourism, Techo. Egypt: Mr.Farouk Younes, Living In Interiors, British Council Egypt, Mrs.Marilene Ashbaa, BP Egypt, Mrs.Nadia Abuheram, Mr.Moatasem El Antaki & the many others who donated in person and through Indiegogo. Nigeria: NEC (Nigerian Export Promotion Council), Mania Magazine, Bella Naija. Philippines: Embassy of the Philippines, London, United Kingdom, Philippine Trade and Investment Centre, London. Portugal: Portuguese Embassy UK. Romania: Unicredit Bank, Slovakia: Embassy of the Slovak Republic in London, Academy of Fine Arts and Design Bratislava, Slovak Design Center, Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, Visegrad Fund, Fond na podporu umenia. Ukraine: British Council Ukraine, Embassy of Ukraine to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Western NIS Enterprise Fund.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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