Every January, the Royal College of Art gives a preview of the postgraduates ‘work in progress.’ We saw innovative and creative projects from students across the MA Knitwear and Knitted Textiles pathways. ‘Ones to watch’ Beth Ranson, Katharina Dubbick, Archie Dickens and Shuying Wang, talked to us about their design practice and what we can expect to see from them at the highly-anticipated graduate shows in the summer..
Truely fibre-focused and British wool advocate, Beth Ranson, explores fully closed-loop and traceable methods in using self-sourced British wool, including rare Hebridean fleece from Northern England where she grew up. Beth seeks to create a narrative, through having full visibility and traceability from her raw material source, through her colouring processes, where she used natural dyes from food waste and plants.
Self-confessed materials researcher Beth talks about her views on wool as a fibre and how she sees it alongside an increasingly ‘smart textiles’ environment. ‘It’s frustrating that wool isn’t seen as a smart fibre. It is breathable, temperature-regulating and water-repellant.’ In her efforts, Beth is also exploring ways in which she can reduce or even eliminate waste and unnecessary processes such as seaming. Beth is keeping her lips fairly tightly-sealed on a certain process in which she believes she has developed a way of shaping knitted fabric without traditional shaping and seaming, which we hope will be revealed when she showcases her final collection in the summer.
The championing of British Wool has been bubbling away by designers from within the UK and further afield for sometime. However, Beth’s true dedication to innovation with this honest fibre promises projects to watch.
Following her graduation from ArtEZ University of the Arts in the Netherlands, and design internships at Alexander Wang in New York and the SIBLING studio in London, Katharina explores technical sculptured knitwear inspired by real body lines and movement.
Katharina’s mimics and emphasises the linear body in structured knitwear through a clever combining of inlaying puff-up fibres and sonic welding, resulting in statement protective pieces. She compliments these with fluid viscose under layers in vibrant colours, given textural and tonal interest through engineered plated ribs.
Whilst driven by technical and body-focused knits, Katharina emphasises that she does not seek to create an active-led collection. Though inspired by the moving body and the innovation and application of technical knit used in activewear, she seeks to create an elevated technical fashion collection through highly engineered knits and statement stand-alone pieces.
Chelsea School of Art graduate, Archie Dickens, continues his journey through improvised manual knitting in his MA collection, where he explores the concepts of the emerging male. Archie’s starting point began with the finding of a dried out ray egg found on the beach, which he keeps prominently in his workspace.
Whilst in water, the ray egg is strong and supple, whereas out of water, it becomes dry and brittle. Archie explores this delicate balance through fluid linear knits, created through labour-intensive hand-transferred stitches, which Archie finds inspiring in itself as a process.
Womenswear fashion graduate Shuying Wang, travelled from her native China to the RCA to continue exploring her fascination with fabric behaviour. True to her concept, Shuying has chosen to take the knitted textiles pathway to give her the freedom to fully explore fabric construction and allow any garments and products to emerge organically from this.
Shuying explores concepts of human environmental connection, reflecting upon places that play upon the paradox of familiarity and a sense of unbelonging. She combines knitted and woven structures, in natural superfine cashmere with synthetic monofilament and celluloid fibres. Through her exploration of structure and combining opposing fibres, Shuying seeks to ingrain human identity into her fabrics. The outcome is a dishevelled elegance in a refreshing colour palette that both comforts and unsettles.
The RCA School of Design show dates for summer 2018 are yet to be announced. More information on the school and its programmes and events can be found on the RCA website.