Student creativity astounds during Melbourne Fashion Week

Student creativity astounds during Melbourne Fashion Week

From striking 3D digital avatars, to burqas, bikinis and sustainable garments, RMIT fashion students have risen above COVID-19 restrictions to show their incredible talents during Melbourne Fashion Week.

Melbourne Fashion Week’s Digital Student Runway showcases 20 RMIT students, including three from the prestigious Bachelor of Fashion (Design), (Honours).

Oscar Keene embraced the virtual format, creating digital avatars wearing non-gendered garment prototypes that are on show alongside collections by Tijen Bozdemir who explored her family’s Islamic faith through generations in ‘Burqas and Bikinis’, and work by Kristine O’Loughlin created entirely from end-of life garments and scraps from Melbourne Fashion label, Arnsdorf.

Associate Dean Fashion and Textiles and Design, Ricarda Bigolin said she’s been blown away by the 2020 cohort and what they’ve achieved.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before, these students have created amazing work, taught themselves new digital skills and shown outstanding agility and resilience,” she said.


Bigolin said the graduates are well positioned to work in an industry that has fundamentally changed following the pandemic that hit the globe.

“We’re at a point in time that will change fashion design forever because materials have been scarce as global trade routes have been disrupted as well as industry production conditions that have often relied on negative and exploitative practices for fast supply,” she said.

“Some are saying there will be more localised activity again and that’s a good thing.

“These students are capitalising on that and are more active and passionate about working differently than ever before.

“The number of students thinking about these issues and about sustainable practice has skyrocketed this year.

“They are thinking about working in a much more circular way, understanding the lifecycle of products and materials and have a greater sense of what it is to be a responsible practitioner.

“Those completing studies during 2020 have this understanding because they’ve been forced to since they haven’t had the same access to materials or to make things as they normally would.

“I’m thrilled that we’ll be seeing incredibly ethical and responsible practitioners emerging who are also highly digitally literate.”

Emerging fashion and design talent

Oscar Keene created digital avatars with garments that Bigolin has described as captivating and nothing like they’ve ever seen in the school before.

Oscar says they strove to create a non-gendered space with their digital fashion garments.

“Everything I made is intended to be non-gendered and I’m trying to create a non-hierarchical relationship between the human body, the environment and the materials,” they said.

“As a designer, it’s so easy to feel like you’re the manipulator of something, but I don’t think that’s altogether true.

 “I think the fact is that the things that we interact with have an impact on us as designers and as wearers.

“During my degree one of the highlights has been experimenting with weird materials and having them well received by teachers and staff.

“For example, I worked with moss to create a self-sustaining jacket, latex and agar as a vegan alternative.

“Through all of this year and the challenges, I’m really proud of the work ethic that I’ve created.”

Tijen Bozdemir grew up in a Muslim family and describes her collection as an inquiry into the generational diminishment of religious faith within her family and an insight into her own contemporary Islamic practise.

“In this collection, the intersection of the burqa and the bikini is a way of exploring these themes,” she said.

 “I looked at family archives and photos as a source of inspiration and found it interesting that the imagery of my parents and grandparents was less modest than I’d previously imagined.

Bozdemir said although she enjoyed working from home and having her own space, she missed the face-to-face contact with fellow students.

“At RMIT, our Fashion School is all about community, and not being able to just bounce off each other was difficult.

“We were always on FaceTime with each other, showing our mannequins – the phone would ring multiple times a day as we shared our work!”

Bozdemir said she’s now excited to be showing at Melbourne Fashion Week and looking forward to starting her own business.

“The Graduate Showcase is something that I’ve wanted for six years now so for it to come to fruition, I’m really happy.

“I was so stoked when I got the email that I was selected, it means so much to me and feels quite surreal.

“My new business ‘È Tijen’ is Melbourne based and all of the products will be made to order ensuring a sustainable practise. My business partner Emma Campbell is an RMIT Business Graduate and we will be dropping both swimwear and resort-inspired garments just in time for Australian summer.”

Kristy O’Loughlin who is particularly interested in sustainable fashion and circularity and used scraps from fashion label Arnsdorf to produce her garments.

“My collection looked at restoring value to waste, I sourced used end-of-life garments from my local community and manufacturing waste from Arnsdorf, where I’d been an intern,” she said.

“I enjoyed embracing the constraints that using waste gives you and letting that inform my design.

“I had to cut differently, and I did lots of weaving, knitting and quilting scraps together to rebuild the materials to be workable again.

“RMIT has amazing facilities but we weren’t able to use those specialist machines and studios because of pandemic restrictions this year.

“I created a weaving loom out of cardboard at home, and utilised hand knitting as well as using my own sewing machine.

“We’ve all become super adaptable this year and that’s a good skill to learn for life -what a year to be graduating!

“I’m most proud that when restrictions eased, we were able to organise our own professional photoshoots and see our work in the context it was meant for, rather than our living room.

“Being able to see our own work presented professionally in these photographs after the year we had was fantastic.

“I’m now looking forward to interning and finding a pathway into sustainable innovation in the fashion industry or integrating circular design into the current system by continuing to develop what I’ve started this year.”

View the student collections at Melbourne Fashion Week online 

Kate Milkins

25 November 2020


  • Sustainability
  • fashion
  • Student experience
  • Design

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Acknowledgement of Country

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.