Royal College of Art 2012 Menswear Fashion Graduates

After watching the runway show put together by London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) on 31 May 2012 to showcase the work of the college’s new Fashion graduates, the audience of fashion journalists and key industry contacts agreed that the college deserves its reputation as a well-structured and demanding creative institution that provides students with highly-regarded professional skills. With four shows organised in the space of two days, students and staff surely showed no signs of concern or exhaustion. On the one hand, this would be almost expected as these are already accomplished and talented graduates who have completed undergraduate courses from fashion schools all over the world and, in most cases, have spent years honing their skills with established designers. On the other hand, even with the highest expectations from the audience, these young graduates rose to the occasion with outstanding collections that confirmed, once more, that the RCA is a major player in the global fashion industry.

The college’s fashion programme, founded in 1948 by former Vogue editor Madge Garland and now led by Professor Wendy Dagworthy, has provided postgraduate education to many designers who have gone on to set up their own labels and win numerous industry awards, such as Astrid Andersen, Christopher Bailey, Neil Barrett, Eudon Choi, Lou Dalton, Katie Eary, Erdem, Holly Fulton, James Long, Julien Macdonald, Matthew Miller, Christopher Raeburn, Heikki Salonen, and Philip Treacy.

An emphasis on individual creativity and originality married with impeccable technical expertise, as well as generous studio spaces and resources means that RCA graduates tend to develop or gain skills needed to thrive in a very competitive profession. What also makes the programmes at RCA highly coveted by applicants and admired by the industry is the number of high-profile collaborations with sponsors. In 2012 alone, Asos, Brioni, Esprit, MAC, Monsoon, Next, and Wallpaper* magazine were some of the partners who supported the runway show or a number of other initiatives.

The RCA’s Fashion Menswear programme is renowned for producing some of the most exciting and highly specialised menswear designers and this year was no exception. The Style Examiner observed the collections produced by the 10 menswear graduates from the front row and was very impressed with all of them. However, the following stood out for their incredible creative expression and skilled technique.

With a First Class BA Hons degree in Fashion Design and Technology from Manchester Metropolitan University prior to enrolling in the RCA, and having worked for Mr Start and Biba, Alexander Lamb managed to control, in an extremely successful way, outdoor and sportswear looks and materials and imbue his garments with elegantly detailed and sophisticated qualities. Clothes made of waxed cotton, plastic fabrics, and leather in earth shades of brown, burgundy, and olive green were masterfully pleated or cinched in strategic places to enhance the male silhouette. 

Benedicte Holmboe held a BA in Fashion from the Kolding School of Design in Denmark before joining the RCA Menswear programme with the intention to focus on knitwear, one of the fashion disciplines that has garnered the college its excellent reputation. Although the denim trousers he selected for his runway presentation could not get many words of praise, his knitted coats and jumpers with geometric and patchwork effects and occasional applications of fur really stood out in a strong way.

Peter Bailey completed a BA Hons in Fashion: Print from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design and honed his skills with designers such as John Galliano, Diane von Furstenberg, and Owens & Kim. His collection included vivid colours, bejewelled fabrics and bold patterns inspired by psychedelic art, design and fashion of the late 1960s and 1970s. Circles and swirls in bright blue, pink and orange were used to enliven traditional menswear staples such as bomber jackets, blazers, polo tops and blousons that alternated with tight shorts and cropped trousers.

Before studying at the RCA, Ichiro Suzuki completed a BA Hons in Fashion Design Technology from London College of Fashion. He has worked for five years as cutter at Savile Row tailors Henry Poole & Co and there is little doubt that his professional experience has contributed to developing one of the most technically skilful and sophisticated menswear collections at the RCA this year. Traditional checked patterns alternated with pixilated designs, embroidery, and playfully distressed pinstripes to successfully develop a new language for classic tailoring.

If the entire RCA Menswear class of 2012 should be congratulated for their talent and hard work, The Style Examiner felt that Hiroaki Kanai clearly stood out from his colleagues owing to his outstandingly beautiful and flawless designs. With a BA degree in Fashion Design from the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, The Netherlands, and with work experience developed alongside professionals such as Haider Ackermann in Paris, for his final collection at the RCA Kanai created elegant sculptural forms by mastering thick fabrics and leather in admirable ways. The use of wide pleats in the back of a pink wool t-shirt, pressed pleats in grey trousers, and sleeves that ballooned below the elbows in a cape-like bright blue overcoat reminded the audience of bell-shaped silhouettes favoured by couture designers for women during the 1950s and evoked the creative genius of Balenciaga and Oscar de la Renta.