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Fashion Utopias: the International Fashion Showcase 2016

International designers imagine Utopia at Somerset House

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The British Council and the British Fashion Council (BFC) will present work by emerging fashion designers from 25 countries in an exhibition entitled ‘Fashion Utopias’ at Somerset House. The exhibition is the fifth edition of the annual International Fashion Showcase (IFS) and forms a key part of London Fashion Week’s public-facing programme which celebrates the universal relevance of fashion in contemporary culture.

The International Fashion Showcase is a series of specially commissioned and curated fashion installations featuring work by emerging designers from all over the world. To date, 450 of the most exciting international designers from 60 countries have exhibited in the IFS initiative. This year it is part of Somerset House’s Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility which will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s inspirational text, Utopia.

At the heart of More’s Utopia is the understanding that we can learn from different places, peoples and cultures. Almost all Utopian narratives use travel, journeys and discovery to show that by imagining that another world is possible we are inspired to create it. For IFS 2016 the West Wing at Somerset House will be transformed into an imaginary terrain, designed by Hatty Ellis Coward, where an emerging generation of international designers and curators invite visitors to share their vision of the future.

The exhibition will be arranged over 15 galleries, 14 of which will represent a country. There will be one group installation, ‘Next in Line’, curated by Shonagh Marshall and sponsored by Italian mannequin manufacturer Bonaveri, which will feature designers from 10 further nations.

Country installations include:

– Thomas More’s vision of Utopia was singular and eccentric. In response to this the Czech Republic’s installation seeks to capture the free-spirited, and often unconventional, voices of a new generation of designers.

– Indonesia will present a group of designers who are looking at modestwear with new eyes. Like many Utopias the installation will create its own cosmology with each designer representing an essential element – earth, fire, water and wind, – and their search for the elusive unifying fifth element quintessence.

– Lebanon present a group of fashion and accessory designers who have been part of an innovative programme of mentoring organised by the Starch Foundation and Boutique. Drawing on the translation of Utopia as ‘no place’ the installation, designed by Elie Metni, will retrace Lebanese architectural forms through lighting to explore the space between the real and imagined.

– Stranger concept store in Lagos will curate an installation of Nigerian menswear and womenswear, that imagines the creative energy of designers as a cosmic bang. Inspired by optical illusions the installation will ask visitors to imagine a moment when the impossible fleetingly seems real.

Fashion, with its continual yearning for the future, is perhaps inherently utopic. Designers often hold up a mirror to collective dreams showing how they might take shape. They act as commentators and innovators as well as dreamers, taking a pivotal role in imagining and creating change. IFS provides opportunities for designers like these to engage with the UK fashion community and to build international connections, paving the way towards future creative and commercial collaborations.

A series of seminars, visits and mentoring opportunities, organised by London College of Fashion, will help designers prepare for the showcase. The Designer Support Programme will bring together a network of LCF affiliated academics and researchers, to offer mentoring opportunities and business development during IFS. A collaboration with Fashion Scout will offer designers involved in IFS the opportunity to show their work on the catwalk.

A prize-giving ceremony scheduled for London Fashion Week February 2016, chaired by a panel of industry experts will announce a winning Country and Designer, as well as a Curator Award sponsored by Bonaveri. The panel is headed by Sarah Mower MBE, BFC Ambassador for Emerging Talent and European Editor-at-Large of Vogue.com.

Over the course of the exhibition there will be programme of events open to the public. For more information visit: http://design.britishcouncil.org/ifs2016

The International Fashion Showcase is directed by Anna Orsini, Strategic Consultant British Fashion Council and Niamh Tuft, Programme Manager British Council.

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