London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery has opened the exhibition ‘Leather: Second Skin’ to coincide with and celebrate the 125th anniversary of Cordwainers at London College of Fashion. The exhibition provides visitors with the opportunity to see new and commissioned work by students and alumni of Cordwainers at London College of Fashion, alongside footwear, accessories and artefact practitioners and designers. The pieces exhibited (including new pieces commissioned by curators Leanne Wierzba and Gemma Williams) are displayed in a format that intends to provide a meditative and contemplative environment complemented by the sensory experience of leather, with its distinctive textures and smell.
Featured commissions include new work by Dai Rees (Senior Research Fellow and MA Fashion Footwear and MA Fashion Artefact Director at London College of Fashion) whose work has been featured in numerous publications and has been exhibited internationally, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Oliver Ruuger, a 2011 MA Fashion Artefact graduate, was also commissioned to create new work for the show. Ruuger has already presented his work at both London Fashion Week and London Collections: Men and has recently been featured in the Crafts Council’s ‘Added Value’ exhibition. His work highlights a new technique of surface engraving and modification, transforming the leather to replicate snake, crocodile and lizard skins in order to inform the shape of an abstract ‘creature’. The final commission is from Rob Goodwin, a 2010 MA Fashion Footwear graduate. Goodwin’s footwear and headwear have been featured in numerous magazines including Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Schön!.
Also on display is the most recent collection by 2012 MA Fashion Footwear graduate Volker Koch, whose passion lies in designing one-off leather objects with a strong focus on craftsmanship and respect for the natural environment. Other works on display are presented under the concept of a ‘Future Archive’. When Cordwainers merged with London College of Fashion in 2000, the stewardship of its vast archive of over 650 shoes passed to the college. While the archive serves as an incredible resource for students and researchers, it has never been displayed in public – for the first time during this exhibition the ‘Future Archive’ will bring together a selection of historical pieces with the innovative work of current students and graduates, including Ross Barbour, Pauline Courtois, Jay Rosenberg, Min Song, Gabrielle Dazzo, Bora Kim and Young Won Kim.
Alumni of Cordwainers at London College of Fashion include renowned personalities in the footwear and accessories industry, namely Jimmy Choo, Patrick Cox, Linda Bennett, Emma Hope, Rupert Sanderson, Charlotte Dellal, Una Burke and Nicholas Kirkwood. Throughout the course of the exhibition a studio workshop inspired by Golden Lane, the East End heart of Cordwainers at London College of Fashion, is recreated in the front entrance hall of the college.