The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival is underway and this year’s lineup of graduate designers looks very promising.
These designers are the crème de la crème of the country’s top tertiary institutions, all brought together as part of the National Graduate Showcase.
Presented by AMP Capital and supported by Fashion Journal, the National Graduate Showcase will take place at the Royal Exhibition Building on March 19. You can pick up a ticket here.
Ahead of Sunday's showcase, we thought you’d like to get to know the designers for yourself. Meet William Thi from RMIT.
Why did you decide to become a designer and what motivates you to stick with it?
My mum’s a seamstress, I grew up watching her sew and I learnt from watching her. She didn’t want me to sew or to follow this career path, she knew how difficult it would be.
Despite sounding cliché, I'm motivated to work in this industry because I have a passion for fashion. Having worked at a desk job, for five years, I couldn’t see myself continuing that line of work. I guess in that way I am motivated by my past. I also just needed something creative in my life and was feeling creatively suppressed working at a desk.
What kind of brand do you want to establish?
I want to get into a bit of everything, I love doing evening wear but I also want to do things that will be easily accessible. I would like to think I have expensive taste, but I don’t want my brand to be inaccessible. I want to offer high-end fashion for a decent price.
Tell us about your timeline since leaving high school.
My timeline is very long. When I graduated high school, I did a year of engineering, then I moved to multi-media systems which is a combination of graphics design, IT and business. I then started working in the insurance industry. That is when I started making clothes for people. I then decided to pursue my creative dream and completed a Bachelor of Fashion Design (Technology) at RMIT.
Do you find that those past experiences helped you when you were studying and will help with your design career?
Yes, I think it has helped me in the way that I design. It gives me a maturity level that I think students fresh out of high school don't have. I feel equipped to start my own business, especially because I completed the Fashion Technology degree which focuses on the business side of fashion.
Talk us through your graduate collection.
END takes you through the events of a toxic relationship. It’s a journey of realising the situation you’ve been put in and going through the processes of grief and acceptance. The collection is made from wool suiting, silk crepe de chine, and nylon webbing made for dog leashes. The wool is heavily interfaced giving it structure to represent restriction.
The nylon webbing is hand-sewn into feather-like shapes that also resemble spikes. It’s heavy, weighing the wearer down. Imagine a bird that’s been weighed down and can’t fly anymore. The material of the dog leash expresses the feeling of being tied down. One of the skirts that flares out was inspired by the shape of a birdcage, playing on the feeling of being trapped.
The final pieces represent the evolution of the relationship, with a silk crepe de chine to represent freedom – letting go of the baggage that once held you down.
You’ve used your skills in design to work with several charities. Tell us about this.
I was approached by the charity One Girl who raise funds to send girls in Africa to school. I made outfits for a runway show and used school uniform fabric to make the garments. The proceeds from the auction went to girls in Sierra Leone. I also worked with Melbourne City Mission on a charity runway show. That charity provides assistance and funds for those disadvantaged individuals in our society. We had Madeline Stuart, the first woman with Down Syndrome to become a model, partake in the runway. She was the star of the event and I made a dress for her.
How do you feel to be a National Graduate Showcase finalist?
It's a huge honour, I never thought I would be in this position. When I first got the call I was speechless. It is such a big opportunity and I feel very blessed but at the same time, there is so much work involved in the production of the garments. I’m quite a control freak so leaving things to other people is difficult. It’s stressful but exciting.