Fashion Arts Commission — Newgen Designers Paired with Artists

In the latest edition of the Fashion Arts Commission, the British Fashion Council paired 5 NewGen designers with Royal Academy Schools graduate artists to encourage collaboration across the arts.


Bringing together the world of fashion and art, exclusive artworks were showcased at Christie's King Street gallery for the second edition of the Fashion Arts Commission, reaffirming London’s status as a hub for creative talent.

The BFC’s Fashion Arts Foundation paired a selection of this year’s NEWGEN designers namely Liam Hodges, Paula Knorr, Sadie Williams, Richard Malone and Samuel Ross with artists from the Royal Academy Schools such as Nicky Carvell, Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom, Carla Busuttil, Marco Palmieri and Julie Born Schwartz.

“The exchange between the designer and artist of differing approaches, attitudes, material and manual knowledge and their personal processes of thinking, result in the creation of previously unimagined objects, images, installations and ideas” Eliza Bonham Carter, head of the Royal Academy School and curator of the exhibition explained.“The value of this process lies not only in these bold, surprising and intriguing works of art, but also in the process by which they are achieved, which will inform the practice of each participant long into the future.”

“I saw the project as a great way to work with someone with a different set of creative skills to my own,” multi-disciplinarity painter and artist Carla Busuttil informed ORDRE. “I hoped that working with a fashion designer would help me discover new things about my own practice and build on my creative experience. This type of supportive platform works well in that it creates an opportunity for artists to collaborate in a way that might not have been possible otherwise. It is usually difficult for cultural practitioners to find the time and resources to forge a new relationship outside of one’s own practice, so an initiative like this is really useful.”

Busuttil was paired with textile-focused fashion designer Sadie Williams and the pair bonded quickly on their mutual appreciation for colour and hands-on craft. Their installation mimics a fabric roller with eye-catching, shiny and hand-painted printed fabrics - an analogue and tactile representation of scrolling through an online retail space with its consumer hierarchies.

“Sadie and I were drawn to the idea of making our own display unit; the carpet tombola stood as an object that held our attention and was a physical representation of our ideas.” It is also interactive, and the act of flipping through prints on a fabric roller brought to mind the act of scrolling through content on social media - the pair was inspired by the advertising algorithm platform, Google Adwords.

“We also liked how it looked, neatly layering and bending the fabrics over its carousel. Although our collaboration references retail spaces (both traditional and digital), it was designed with a gallery or museum setting in mind. Conceptually, there is an element of the work that is critical of market and retail structures, but visually I think both the tombola and prints can function as an attraction or enticement,” says Buttil.

Irish fashion designer Richard Malone and Italian illustrator Marco Palmieri, also tapped into their artistic similarities for their installation; both work with colourful, linear and graphic elements. They created arch-like panels covered with geometric patterns and floral prints while cardboard stylised hands reached out from the geometrical panels referencing a female body in movement.

Palmieri’s art is often two-dimensional and digital, so using the three-dimensional physical space at Christie’s gave him a strong appreciation of the project and how it relates to physical interiors. “The gallery space and the combination of the different materials and surfaces is much stronger in person,” says Palmieri. “It will survive in an image but it’s so much nicer to be able to see it and walk around it. It’s much more interesting because it is so tactile.”

The cross-pollinating nature of the Fashion Arts Commission is a rare opportunity for both the artists and designers to explore new fields and expand their creativity. In the fashion industry particularly, there is a growing number of initiatives and schemes established by institutions such as the British Fashion Council, to source and support pools of creative talent; they provide platforms for designers to experiment and innovate beyond their practice. Newgen participant and womenswear designer, Paula Knorr says: “All these initiatives really pay out because the most interesting things are coming out of London at the moment.”

The three-day event was open to the public and all artworks (ranging in price from 500.00£ to 15,000.00£) were available to purchase at Christie’s even after the event.