On Saturday, August 27th, I attended the RMIT Emerging Designer Showcase at Melbourne Central, where the works of the University’s School of Fashion and Textiles’ top designers from its Bachelor of Fashion Design Honours program were on display, before they’d appear on the runway that following Sunday night. By attending this event and getting an up-close-and-personal look at the young designers’ works I, along with my fellow attendees, was able to acquire a better understanding of the backgrounds and design ideas and philosophies that resulted in each piece on display, and what they meant for the designers themselves, as well as the RMIT program that they’re set to handily complete.

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As this event was a showcase of up-and-coming designers that RMIT sees to be its top talent, it follows that the designers’ works and design philosophies demonstrated their interpretations of and involvements in our current cultural climate, which is an idea that, as I walked through the well-attended event, I found to be demonstrably true. Several of the designers focused on creating pieces that were not necessarily unisex but instead genderless, in that they could be incorporated easily into the functional daily wardrobes of both men and women, without looking as if they were intentionally designed to be “unisex.” This appeared to be a conscious nod by the designers toward an ongoing current cultural shift away from strict differentiation between the genders in several facets of daily life, from the workplace to social traditions like dating. As most young people strive to distinguish themselves without reference to their gender, the genderless garments on display at the Emerging Designer Showcase served to demonstrate this shift in a concrete way, as actual, artful articles of clothing.

This idea of a forward-facing look at our current culture continued into the materials that many of the young designers utilized in constructing their pieces, as there were several great examples of works that blended traditional, familiar materials with more “futuristic” and thought-provoking ones, which gave attendees of the showcase event something to admire and consider as they examined each piece throughout the open, geometrically-angled space. By blending the traditional with the new, the designers were able to transcend the shapes and silhouettes that we are accustomed to seeing in clothing, whether it be on the street or even on the runway, as they created pieces that ran the gamut from exaggerated, oversized shapes to sleeker, more form-fitting garments that wouldn’t look out of place in a high-powered business meeting somewhere in the future.

This blending also served to exemplify the careers of the designers themselves, as they worked with the traditional, necessary practices and skills that they were certainly taught in the Fashion Design Honours program, such as precision tailoring and sewing, to bring their own, innovative ideas into reality. Due to this, the mixture of the new and the traditional made itself apparent not only in the materials the designers used in their pieces, but also in the ideas behind the pieces themselves, what made them take shape in the minds of their creators as they worked through the RMIT program.

Regarding the RMIT Bachelor of Fashion Design Honours program, while this showcase event performed its intended function, to put the works of the university’s top young designers on display, it also served as a glowing endorsement of the School of Fashion and Textiles at RMIT, which I am certain was at the very least the secondary motive of the event’s planners. By exhibiting the highly skilled and creative works of the designers who had completed the program and had obviously emerged better for it, the showcase depicted RMIT as more than deserving of the prestige that is associated with it, as the university’s School of Fashion and Textiles’ Bachelor of Fashion Design program is often credited as being among the best of programs of its kind.

Furthermore, in displaying what the event described as the up-and-coming future of Australian fashion design, the Emerging Designer Showcase depicted a future where the designers on display, and possibly the fashion industry in general, serve as a strong cultural and, if the designers are to rise to prominence and produce pieces that are sought after all over the world, economic boon for Australia as a whole. To the planners of this event, and possibly some of the event’s attendees as well, these talented young designers could be the ones to usher in greater prominence for Australia in the worldwide fashion industry, as they were not only the top talent in their program at RMIT, but also the major draws for attendees of the event.

To continue in this direction, the chance to see the works of these young designers, who are at the top of an already extremely competitive program, was what led me to attend the event, which is something that I’m sure I had in common with most of my fellow attendees. The event was advertised with its own page on the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week website, as an opportunity to see these pieces before they were worn by models and emerged onto the runway that Sunday night. This concept, of the showcase as a sort of behind the scenes look at the young designers’ works, was a apparently a successful angle for marketing the event, as it was very well-attended when I showed up, despite the fact that it had already been open, and would continue to be open. The pieces themselves were displayed on tailor’s mannequins throughout the brightly lit, modern space, and these mannequins were usually surrounded by a huddle of people, eager for a closer look.

Light, upbeat music echoed throughout the space as the event went on, providing for and increasing the almost-celebrational mood of the event, which was certainly also helped by the hors d’oeuvres that the attendees could help themselves to. The event’s target audience wasn’t immediately apparent, but there was a good mix of people, young and old, dressed everywhere from very formally to very casually. However, this could have been the event’s intended purpose, as it served to expose a wide demographic to the works of these young designers who, according to the language of the showcase, would potentially be rising to greater prominence in the coming years and decades.

By displaying the creative works of young, up-and-coming designers, the Bachelor of Fashion Design Honours program at RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles created an event that exemplified an ongoing shift not only in fashion design, as the designers on display created pieces that blurred gender lines and blended traditional and current techniques and materials, but also in cultural climate, as the event served to also display current social and cultural concepts.