The annual graduate show of the Department of Fashion Design at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design was held last week. The excited graduates were joined by their families and friends, as well as leading figures in Israel's fashion industry, journalists, designers, fashion enthusiasts, and an array of celebrities who came to get a glimpse of the next generation of fashion designers and try to guess whose name will be on everybody's lips in the future.
One of the criticisms constantly heard after every graduate show in recent years is that the graduating students "didn't show anything new". The cuts are familiar, the avant garde has become hackneyed, the ideas are recycled, and the inspiration from the collections of super-designers is perhaps too strong. But is this the correct discourse for the present time? Is the discourse on cuts and silhouettes still relevant?
Judging by the recent Shenkar graduate show, is seems that the answer is no. It seems that the debate surrounding the graduate collections changed course and focused intriguingly on the search for new materiality, new color palettes, refreshing prints, and especially on examining garments more from the perspective of textile than image. Alongside the collections that stood out in their engagement in material, there were those that possessed a great deal of humor. These collections, which raised smiles on the entire audience's faces even if they weren't the most successful ones, remained etched in memory.
Karin Leikovich opened the show with a collection of tailored felt, the most interesting aspect of which was the layers of material she created by means of a computerized process. The effect of the thick and colorful layers Leikovich chose created an illusion that the garment was made of layers upon layers of felted wood. The contrast between the ostensibly rigid appearance of the layers and the round lines in which the material was cut created a collection of interesting outfits that were somewhat reminiscent of the graduate project by Sivan Royz, who graduated from the Department of Textile Design in 2011.
Karin Leikovich, Control Freak | Department of Fashion Design, Shenkar, Graduates 2012 | Photograph: Ron Kedmi
The use of and interest in layers of material, and the incorporation of materials not necessarily from the traditional world of fabric and fashion were striking in Dafna Pilossof's exciting and well-rounded collection, for which she also won the Finy Leitersdorf Prize. The source of Pilossof's inspiration was the porcelain tableware by Japanese artist Makiko Nakamura. Pilossof went even further and in her designs she incorporated porcelain with leather, canvas, and strips of lace originating in curtains. Pilossof remained faithful to Nakamura's color palette, and designed the entire collection solely in the pale color range between white and cream with touches of gold. This palette, which is usually associated with the bridal gown sector, was given interesting, sensitive, and sophisticated interpretation in this collection and managed to completely detach it from associations of ‘the big day'.
Dafna Pilossof, Noble Material | Department of Fashion Design, Shenkar, Graduates 2012 | Photograph: Ron Kedmi
Another collection that engaged in materials not associated with the tradition of tailoring and traditional clothing is Keren Yaar's. Yaar incorporated metal chains in her garments and created patterns that at first glance had the appearance of tribal prints. She also incorporated chains in soft fabrics to create an interesting contrast, as well as in items made from leather. This is the point where it should be stated that if there was one material that featured throughout the whole Shenkar graduate show - leather was the material of the hour. At least half of the collections shown by the graduates, including Yaar, boasted at least one item made from leather.
Keren Yaar, Tranquil Consciousness | Department of Fashion Design, Shenkar, Graduates 2012 | Photograph: Rafi Deloya
Noa Gur drew the inspiration for her graduate project from German artist Gerhard Richter, and created a collection of satin dresses. Gur's choice of conventional evening gown materials alongside cuts that are relatively common in this genre could have resulted in her project being a collection of conventional dresses, but Gur managed to surprise by using an interesting and unconventional color palette of smoky hues alongside primary colors draped one next to the other.
Noa Gur, Open Secret | Department of Fashion Design, Shenkar, Graduates 2012 | Photograph: Ron Kedmi
An unusual color palette could also be seen in the project by Shiri Brant who created an illogical combination of colors and textures of square patterns that against all odds clash in a harmony of deliberate chaos. Brant's choice to devote each clashing outfit to one hue was clever, and although it created a sense of outfit overload, it also created a harmonious collection that calmed the eyes in the overall view and at the same time maintained unflagging interest.
Shiri Brant, Stand Stills | Department of Fashion Design, Shenkar, Graduates 2012 | Photograph: Rafi Deloya
Use of all over prints (printing on sheets of material from which the different parts of the garment are cut, as opposed to focused printing on an item, such as a logo or slogan on a T-shirt) was prevalent in the graduates' collections, almost as prevalent as the use of leather, and peaked in Shira Galon's collection. Galon created beautiful, Japan-inspired prints in shades of blue with touches of orange. She managed to avoid falling into the ‘cherry blossom' trap, and created a collection that does not possess features that the West labels patently Japanese, but rather an admixture that creates and conveys elegance, softness, depth, and restraint that are familiar to us from Japan.
Shira Galon, Flat Nature | Department of Fashion Design, Shenkar, Graduates 2012 | Photograph: Ron Kedmi
Knitted skullcaps that under Eliran Nargassi's hand turned into peaked caps filled the ‘smile' slot this year, a collection that at first glance appears amusing and lighthearted but is gradually revealed as serious and multilayered. This is manifested in an interplay with layers, stitching, replications, and various details originating from his religious past. In the collection he created and by means of these motifs, Nargassi managed to incorporate and create an inner tension between his past in the religious world and his present secular, homosexual world.
Eliran Nargassi, Dear G-d | Department of Fashion Design, Shenkar, Graduates 2012 | Photograph: Rafi Deloya
To continue the direction of the question that opened this piece of where is the innovation in recent years that young, energetic students should bring to the world of design, it seems that a question should also be asked regarding the relevance of the traditional fashion show. If the power of garments is not in silhouettes but in the small details, in quality sewing, and in the development of textiles and prints, would it not be preferable to provide a show format that gives the observer the option of examining them? Does one minute on the runway do sufficient justice to the students' work, to the efforts invested in details, materials, and thinking?
Nowadays, after the show the garments find themselves on hangers, and in most cases this does not do them justice since they are based on the volume of the body inside them and on the dialogue between body and garment. It would be interesting to let the students also design the way the garments are shown, rather than only the garments themselves, in a way that emphasizes the thinking and inspiration from which their projects emerged, or that supports them in any other way the students deem fit.