International designers imagine Utopia at Somerset House
19 – 23 February 2016
West Wing, Somerset House
The British Council and the British Fashion Council will present work by emerging fashion designers from 24 countries in an exhibition entitled ‘Fashion Utopias’ at Somerset House. The exhibition is the fifth edition of the annual International Fashion Showcase (IFS) and forms a key part of London Fashion Week’s public-facing programme which celebrates the universal relevance of fashion in contemporary culture.
The International Fashion Showcase is a series of specially commissioned and curated fashion installations featuring work by emerging designers from all over the world. Now more than 500 of the most exciting international designers from 80 countries will have exhibited in the IFS initiative. This year it is part of Somerset House’s Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility which will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s inspirational text, Utopia.
For IFS 2016, the West Wing at Somerset House will be transformed into a Utopian terrain, designed by Hatty Ellis Coward, where an emerging generation of international designers and curators invite visitors to share their vision of the future.
The exhibition will be arranged over 14 galleries, 13 of which will represent a country. There will be one group installation, ‘Next in Line’, curated by Shonagh Marshall and sponsored by Italian mannequin manufacturer Bonaveri, which will feature designers from 11 further nations.
The countries taking part in IFS 2016 will be:
Austria, Czech Republic, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia, Lebanon, Korea, Portugal, Philippines, Nigeria, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine.
Next in Line: Argentina, Bahrain, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, United Arab Emirates.
Country installations include:
Thomas More’s vision of Utopia was singular and eccentric. In response to this the Czech Republic’s installation seeks to capture the free-spirited, and often unconventional, voices of a new generation of designers.
Guatemala will portray Utopia as an everyday action that makes a wish come true or instigates change, and each designer will create miniature versions of their designs as traditional worry dolls.
Indonesia will present a group of designers who are looking at modestwear with new eyes. Like many Utopias the installation will create its own cosmology with each designer representing an essential element – earth, fire, water and wind, – and their search for the elusive unifying fifth element quintessence.
Each designer from Lebanon will create a customised piece for IFS in the unifying shade of blue. Lighting design inspired by Lebanese architecture will enhance the silhouettes of these one-off pieces.
Lagos Fashion and Design Week in collaboration with Stranger concept store in Lagos will curate an installation of Nigerian menswear and womenswear that imagines the creative energy of designers as a cosmic bang. Inspired by optical illusions the installation will ask visitors to imagine a moment when the impossible fleetingly seems real.
Fashion, with its continual yearning for the future, is perhaps inherently utopic. Designers often hold up a mirror to collective dreams showing how they might take shape. They act as commentators and innovators as well as dreamers, taking a pivotal role in imagining and creating change. IFS provides opportunities for designers like these to engage with the UK fashion community and to build international connections, paving the way towards future creative and commercial collaborations.
A series of seminars, visits and mentoring opportunities, organised by London College of Fashion, will help designers prepare for the showcase. The Designer Support Programme will bring together a network of LCF affiliated academics and researchers, to offer mentoring opportunities and business development during IFS. A collaboration with Fashion Scout will offer designers involved in IFS the opportunity to show their work on the catwalk. Time Out London join us as event partners for a Friday Late on 19 February, an evening of fashion, music, performance and activities going behind the scenes of Fashion Utopias. Direct Drive TV & Inition will be capturing the exhibition as a Virtual Reality experience and Unmade are collaborating with 6 IFS designers to launch a collection of knitwear using their revolutionary technology.
Prize Giving Ceremony
A prize-giving ceremony on 21 February during London Fashion Week, chaired by a panel of industry experts, will announce a winning Country and Designer, as well as a Curator Award sponsored by Bonaveri. The Award is designed by Yunus and Eliza, participants in the BFC Rock Vault initiative.
The panel is headed by Sarah Mower MBE, BFC Ambassador for Emerging Talent and Chief Critic at Voguerunway.com. Sarah said: “At a time when it often seems as if we’ve plunged into a dystopian age, it’s a liberating act to think about exactly the opposite: if we could create a Utopia, how would we want it to be? The theme set for the fifth International Fashion Showcase will bring the optimistic visions of over 80 emerging designers of 24 countries to London – a capital known for holding up the ideas of aspiring fashion talent as pre-eminent. From the entries we’ve already seen, this year’s showcase will be a chance to witness a phenomenally uplifting inter-cultural compare-and-contrast. Each country’s deeply-felt exhibit is also to be framed with a national curator, a fast-developing field of collaboration on the frontiers between art and fashion. The installations, which for the first time are to be set in the beautiful surroundings of Somerset House, promise to give a flash-forward to the possibilities of multiple happier futures. Prizes will be awarded for both designers and curators, and we expect to see the beginnings of many careers starting right here, in London Fashion Week.”
Over the course of the exhibition there will be programme of events open to the public. For more information visit: design.britishcouncil.org/ifs2016
The International Fashion Showcase is directed by Anna Orsini, Strategic Consultant British Fashion Council and Niamh Tuft, Programme Manager British Council.
The British Council and the British Fashion Council would like to thank Bonaveri, sponsor of Next in Line and the IFS Curator Award, and official mannequin supplier to the International Fashion Showcase; our partners London College of Fashion and Fashion Scout for the mentoring and showcasing opportunities offered to the International Fashion Showcase designers; collaborators Direct Drive TV & Inition and Unmade for the unique opportunities offered to designers; event partners Time Out; and furniture suppliers Arper.