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How the world’s top fashion graduates are responding to the pandemic

Finishing a graduate fashion collection is never going to be anything but a huge challenge. Now imagine trying to do so in lockdown. In the second of our YOOX NET-A-PORTER for Fashion Schools three-part series, where we showcase the work emerging from some of the world’s most celebrated fashion courses, we head to the acclaimed Politecnico di Milano in Italy and discover that progress, not panic, is the name of the game. By JOE BROMLEY

Reporter
Gioiello d’Oriente

For the 80 students graduating from the Master’s fashion course at Politecnico di Milano into an industry currently winded by coronavirus, now is not the time to panic. It is time to progress. Being stuck at home without supplies has been the most pressing issue. “Everything was closed,” says student Giovanni Bartolini of the lockdown, which began in Milan on March 8, forcing students to get creative. “Those who were still designing had to make prototypes with bedsheets.”

“I am worried; everyone is worried,” says Bartolini, as he considers how to go about getting a post-graduate job with companies under so much pressure from the pandemic. But he hopes progressive ideas will be their currency. “We look at the future of fashion,” agrees Paola Bertola, coordinator of the MA Design Studio. As part of a technical college, with departments ranging from space engineering to sustainable architecture, the course is geared towards innovation and responsible design. “Our students approaching the field want to change something,” she says.

For the current cohort, making garments that have a positive effect is key – whether social or environmental. ‘Sabbato’, for example, a collective of seven MA designers, has created a collection and hypothetical business model inspired by the artisans in the southern Italian city of Benevento. The rustic-chic designs aim to involve the local community in production, and are informed by the area’s cultural heritage, using Cerreto blue and golden-yellow flourishes inspired by its 17th- and 18th-century ceramics.

The students are no strangers to the university’s science department, says student Annetta Ferreri, who makes up one quarter of another student group, ‘Blush’. “We experiment with bio-materials,” she says of their design, which has lab-grown pink discs dyed with beetroot appliquéd to a sculptural breastplate. Others have tackled wearable technology, including the five-strong group ‘Erecta’, which produced a teal-green harness that monitors its wearer’s posture, vibrating when slumped.

“The fashion industry is collapsing and it’s our job to stop it sinking,” says Bartolini of Covid-19’s catastrophic effects on the system’s structures, from supply chains to live shows. What is the class of 2020’s mantra moving forwards? “Solutions are the new creativity now.”

Joe Bromley is a fashion journalism student at Central Saint Martins in London

GIOIELLO D’ORIENTE

“With their hand-painted shades, these brooches reflect the essence of the Eastern Seas, inspired by the movements of fighting fish.”

@the_ginger_zest

BLUSH

“Blush is designed to help introverts feel more secure, calm and confident in crowded and overwhelming places – places that would normally make them suffer from the stress and pressure of the environment.”

Blush, made up of Sofia Reitano, Hananeh Sefidabi, Yuyang Zhong and Annetta Ferreri

CLOUDS ARE COOL

“The brief asked us to reuse a pattern from the Missoni archive. Through yarn, we wanted to narrate a story of a shipwreck on the clouds. The protagonists of this adventure are eccentric, colorful characters, individuals who love playing with fashion and who are always seeking new vibrations.”

Clouds Are Cool, made up of (L–R) Alessandra Catò, Elia Crippa, MariaElena DiCarlo, Annalisa Fusi and Chiara Anceschi
Clouds Are Cool

DULONG TRIBE

“The Dulong ethnic group is one of the smallest ethnic minorities in China; they worship nature and believe in animism. We wanted to bring light to this fast-disappearing culture by creating a collection of garments and accessories. Through the collection, we hope to allow people to respect and tolerate different aesthetics and values and share and inherit the beauty of this traditional culture.”

Dulong Tribe, made up of (L–R) Nuo Xin Wang, Xiaoxuan Yang, Shiwei Zhao and Yidan Wang

SABBATO

“The main focus was to design a collection and develop a brand that would support a specific territory. Benevento, a city near Naples, was the heart of our inspiration. In this area, pottery, jewelry and fabric manufacturers are the focus of tradition. According to legend, it is a city founded by witches. After that, it became a holy place.”

Sabbato, made up of Laura Morone, Francesca Galloni, Eleonora Barosi, Giovanni Bartolini, Susana Vallejo Mesa, Lara Vantini and Teresa Paterlini

ERECTA

“With this project, we aimed to design a functional and fashionable accessory to correct poor posture and to derive ‘super-ability’ from a ‘disability’ we may all encounter in daily life. The harness is made of natural leather, engraved and cut by a laser machine. The digital components used in this accessory are a gyroscope, a micro-processor, a vibrometer and a Bluetooth sensor, which together detect the spine angulation and enable the user to track their posture with real-time feedback by connecting to a smartphone through the Erecta app.”

Erecta, made up of (L–R) Iris Zhang, Silvia Birolini, Iskra Mladenovska, Sofia Reitano and Hananeh Sefidabi

SAC EMBALLÉ

“Sac Emballé applies the theme of packaged objects typical of the artist Christo’s work to the bag. By temporarily wrapping structures, the hidden subject is exalted, while revealing its importance and reminding us how much we would lose if it were not there.”

@domizianaliparoti

Sac Emballé, which is the work of Domiziana Liparoti

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