Passion and talent on show at fashion graduate showcase

Passion and talent on show at fashion graduate showcase

Inflatable clothing, suits embedded with a secret code, and a luxury aesthetic from plastic bags were some of the innovative creations showcased at the opening of MPavilion.

The Master of Fashion (Design) runway show is always a sell-out and this year was no exception, with graduates displaying their mastery of advanced fashion practice at an event to celebrate the official unveiling of MPavilion 2019.

The stunning new pavilion is the first public building ever designed by Glen Murcutt, one of the world’s leading architects and most respected practitioners and educators.

His city-shaping design, sitting lightly in the Queen Victoria Gardens and framing the city skyline and overlooking the Yarra River, provided the perfect backdrop for the End of Year Graduate presentation.

It was the sixth year that RMIT University has collaborated with MPavilion, an initiative of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation in partnership with City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government.

Dean of the School of Fashion and Textiles Robyn Healey said the 11 Masters students from India, China, Vietnam and Australia brought diverse perspectives and themes to their practice and work.

“This experience allows them to gain access to, and work with, a range of industry professionals – creating valuable experiences and connections that they will take with them into their professional lives,” Healey said.

“Tonight, is an opportunity for student to grow their design presence and profile; showcase their work direct to both industry and the public and launch their future careers.”

While one graduate set out to challenge perceptions of the everyday plastic bag, another drew on outer space and aliens, and a third focused on the sartorial practices of the queer community during the last century. 

Syna Chen design. Photo by Kate Meakin Syna Chen design. Photo by Kate Meakin

For graduate Syna Chen, the show was an opportunity for the audience to see the garments not just as fashion, but also as art.

Her collection Operation Europa has a humorous, sculptural quality. Each of the eight garments has an inflatable component including skirts, jackets and accessories.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the very formal clothing worn by politicians and heads of state in photos of official events,” Chen said.

Instead of parodying the formal outfits, she chose to capture the unnatural, alien aspect of such fashion ensembles by imagining an alien society’s response to this dress style - hence the collection's title, referring to the planet Europa.

“To express my idea of how an alien would respond to this style, I introduced the dimension of inflation because in outer space inflatable suits are worn.”

Chen said she hoped audience members would try on her creations so they can experience self-inflating clothing for themselves.

Prior to commencing the Masters of Fashion (Design), Chen had no background in fashion design.

“I found the first six months challenging particularly needing to learn for myself and figuring out how to take images, hire models and meet deadlines.”

While it’s been a huge and at times challenging journey, Chen is contemplating a future in research at RMIT, building on her critical thinking skills learned while undertaking the Master of Fashion course. 

Kurt van Velzen's graduate collection Kurt van Velzen's graduate collection

Graduate Kurt van Velzen said he drew on his knowledge of gay fashion at time when homosexuality was stigmatised.

“My work looks into the nuanced world of gay semiotics such as the strategic wearing of a hanky to signal one’s sexuality,” he said.

“It’s shown as a very wardrobe-esque collection, really delving into how this nuanced way of communication can be shown for those in the know.” 

Van Velzen said one of the things he really loved loved about the course was getting to know his teachers, their practice and what they excelled at, which they brought into the course itself.

“It’s taught me how to set yourself up and hopefully succeed one day as well,” he said.

Design by Yueqi Meng. Photo by Kate Meakin Design by Yueqi Meng. Photo by Kate Meakin

For graduate Yueqi Meng, the show was an opportunity to challenge people’s perspective of everyday object: the plastic bag.

“My work has combined the plastic bag with raw materials to make them more valuable in the eyes of the consumer,” Meng said.  

“I want to challenge consumers to break the stereotype of the plastic bag as a waste material and enhance its aesthetic value by showing its uniqueness through fashion.

“My focus is on the contemporary social issue of over-consuming, which is an issue in China and globally. The plastic bag is a symbol of this, especially in China.”


Story: Diana Robertson

15 November 2019


  • Arts and culture
  • fashion
  • Student experience

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.