The International Fashion Showcase (IFS) has been pushing the boundaries of fashion curation and experimentation since 2012. Opening this week, the event is held in the grand, neoclassical surroundings of Somerset House - the former venue of London Fashion Week - here transformed into a festival hub of creativity and internationalism. Given its timing, prime location, and ambitious project to showcase global fashion ingenuity the IFS is a must-see event in the biennial calendar for an industry scouting out the future of fashion.
Endorsed by retailers such as Dover Street Market, Liberty and Machine A, this year it unveils a new format entitled Brave New Worlds to present solo installations from 16 designers originating from countries such as Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Georgia, Brazil, South Africa and Columbia. The much-debated issue of designer sustainability runs through a number of this year’s collections: designers have prioritised zero-waste pattern cutting techniques and recycled or offcut fabrics, reinforcing the industry’s global attempts to address the problem.
“For industry and retailers IFS is a weather vane of what is to come,” explains Niamh Tuft, Fashion Programme Manager at the British Council. “It gives a sense of what this generation of designers are going to do and change in their industries.” Tuft says that as well as the cultural and creative engagements on show there are also market insights to be gained: “What does a consumer in Colombia or Lebanon look for? How is retail changing in these places? Both are extremely valuable for industry understanding and knowledge.”
“For industry and retailers IFS is a weather vane of what is to come”
Highlights to look out for include womenswear and costume designer Morta Nakaite from Vilnius who works with memory and identity; she presented an installation inviting visitors to experience a personal, poetic version of her city. Similarly, Môi Diên, founded by Tom Trandt, a graduate from Parsons, takes inspiration from his Vietnamese history and contemporary culture. Trandt’s installation references recent demonstrations and protest across his native country where clothing was used as a voice for the wearer.
Rwanda’s Cedric Mizero’s unique approach to fashion - driven by a desire to address social issues and effect change - culminates in his project Fashion for All. In his installation, he invites the viewer to harness the transformative power of imagination. Finally, representing Bangladesh is Central Saint Martin’s graduate Rahemur Raham who works with local fair trade organisation Aranya; its network of accomplished artisans have developed Raham’s collection on display here.
Despite the looming shadow of Brexit and the complications this might bring for the industry, this showcase further cements London’s efforts to hold its position as fashion’s creative capital by continuing to foster innovative talent and host events that inspire the thousands visiting during LFW. Indeed, according to Tuft, the city’s strength in mentoring talent is a valuable commodity: “While we have offered professional talks and workshops in the past this year the support has been expanded to a 10 month tailored business and creative development programme. We wanted to share London's expertise in nurturing talent with international designers.”