A Look from Korea’s ‘Print Matters’ Utopia. Designer: Han Kim Photographer: Muka Lee

Fashion Utopias
Somerset House, London
February 19-23 2016

The British Council and the British Fashion Council (BFC) 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 program 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.

Looks from Austria, Ukraine, and Slovakia Utopias
Looks from Austria, Ukraine, and Slovakia Utopias

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 Nigerianmenswear 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.

Looks from Indonesia Fashion Utopia
Looks from Indonesia Fashion Utopia

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.

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.

Over the course of the exhibition there will be programof events open to the public. The International Fashion Showcase is directed by Anna Orsini, Strategic Consultant British Fashion Council and Niamh Tuft, Program Manager British Council.

Find more information here.

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