IFM’s Bachelors Students Put Surrealism on the Runway

OPENING THE SHOW: Now something of a tradition, final year students on the bachelor of arts in fashion design program at the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) put their graduate collections on the runway Monday afternoon.

Hailing from a dozen different countries, 31 students from a class of 70 were selected by a jury of professionals to show their designs on the runway. Despite the heterogeny of their design inspirations, there appeared to be common themes.

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The opening looks by Noah Almonte, from Switzerland, featured ball-shaped gloves by way of hands. South Korean Stella Minkyung Cho’s outfits had realistic hair and curlers crafted into skirts, while Katherine Zhi Wen Chen, from the U.S., explored American icons like waitress and mechanics’ uniforms with surrealistic flair. Several designers either enclosed the body, trapping the arms inside structured sleeves, or adorned their creations with mannequin-like prosthetic limbs or sculptured details evoking animals. Anthony Lacones, from France, molded leather into sporty silhouettes and offered a striking cape of silver feathers. Everyday objects also found their way into the collections, from French student Joachim Dumas’ creations evoking leather sofas to velvet rug-like bombers from Franck Wandji, who hails from Côte d’Ivoire. Lara Kustosz, from France, molded wine glasses and picture frames into her very fabrics.

“There seemed to be two obsessions permeating their collections,” summed up Hervé Yvrenogeau, codirector of the program. “Many of them are questioning the notion of the body, with elements like extra limbs and trompe l’oeil effects, and then there was something quite animalistic. I see that as exploring the notion of tribes, with an instinctive approach to an ideal world.”

Creations from the graduate collections of the students on the IFM’s Bachelors course in fashion design. / Photo by Guillaume Roujas
Creations from the graduate collections of the students on the IFM’s Bachelors course in fashion design. / Photo by Guillaume Roujas

Yet an ideal world is not what awaits the students as they graduate this summer in what is an extremely tough climate for young designers, pinched by the disappearance of multibrand retailers and online marketplaces, which had been the biggest buyers for many a fashion start-up, and a global slowdown for luxury goods purveyors. Just last week, Paris-based duo Victoria / Tomas said it was shuttering operations in part due to the demise of wholesale since the pandemic.

“They won’t all end up as fashion designers or creative directors,” said Yvrenogeau. “It would be deceptive to sell them that dream.” Nevertheless, he said, one thing that most of the students on the program — which is seeing its third cohort of bachelor degree students graduating this year — have in common is an overriding desire for creative independence. “They don’t necessarily want to make it big as a brand immediately, but there is a common desire for independence, to create something unique,” he said. “They are not driven by financial gain, but by a desire for self-realization.”

There was another message the fledgling designers sought to express in unison for their moment in the limelight; for the show finale, each of them sported a T-shirt emblazoned with the message “Ceasefire Now.”

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