GFW 2015: Hannah Wallace, Manchester School of Art

Wednesday, 10 June 2015
INTERVIEW Graduate Fashion Week may have come to a close for another year, but here at FashionUnited we scoured the catwalk showcases and through thousand of portfolios to bring you some of the next generation of fashion designers you need to watch out for.

First up in our graduate fashion designer series is menswear designer Hannah Wallace from Manchester School of Art, who scooped the prestigious Gold Award and Creative Catwalk Collection Award for her innovative ‘Pluto’ menswear collection of futuristic black and silver sportswear, including extreme puffer styles that appeared to have been inflated.

After her win, FashionUnited chatted to the talented designer to find out more about the inspiration behind her collection, her plans for the future, as well as her advice for aspiring fashion designers.

Hannah – what made you decided to study fashion design, and why menswear?

“It wasn’t until the age of 19 that I decided to study Fashion Design, I had previously enrolled at sixth form college to study Philosophy, Sociology and Health and Social Care. I realised that I wanted to undertake a Fashion design course as I found the practical and creative teaching methods much more intriguing. I’ve always been into drawing, illustrating and sewing and would often alter my own clothes, so I went for it!

“I then went on to study a 2 year BTEC in Fashion and Clothing at Leicester College, another 2 year foundation degree in Fashion at New College Nottingham and finally onto a BA HONS Fashion Degree at The Manchester school of art.

“I find the many practicalities of men’s garments intriguing, as there are many functional attributes that can be developed and manipulated in their clothing. My garments have become almost characterised as each garment is diverse in fabric, scale, colour and technique. There are discrete similarities throughout my collection that display my imaginative and innovative style of work.”

How do you feel after your Graduate Fashion Week wins?

“It’s been an inspiring and knowledgeable few years with the most amazing result. Winning the George Gold Award and Creative Catwalk Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2015 has brought forward an array of opportunities and I am thrilled to be part of it all.

Tell us about your graduating collection – what was the inspiration behind it?

“The uprising of rioters against the government and astronauts have inspired my collection, especially the protective layers that are necessary to both individuals as they are thought of as second skins. I have used a vast variation of research to develop a collection that is interactive and insulated as well as breathable fabrics that enable flexibility and capacity in construction. My research is individually translated through design methods such as digital prints, scale and construction. The ability to combine subculture, science and engineering. I have individually recreated significant rebellions throughout history that touch upon discovery, change, conflict, uprising, progression, innovation and protection. The courage and freedom in which a revolutionary rioter possesses have influenced my eccentric designs.

“Pluto Close is the name of my brand and was taken from a block of maisonette flats on a council estate. I chose the name because Space and Astronomy were one of many initial concepts so the connection was inexorable. I also wanted to reflect residential areas which were notorious for rebellions and upheaval within my research. The digital prints, logos and silhouettes in my collection have been inspired by the scale and layout of the architecture on the estate.”

What are the signature piece/pieces?

“Look 1 - Black Balaclava, Silver Puffer Jacket, Pluto Close Sweat top, Spacer Mesh Shorts and Pluto Close Leggings.

“This look focuses on the insulation of the jacket and the cross over in references taken from a space suit and a masked rioter. To create this fabric I heat bonded emergency blankets to a lightweight nylon. I used the emergency foil reflective blankets because of their many uses and colour. Derived from NASA technology, the aluminium helps redirect infrared energy which is crucial to any rioter. The long sleeves and cords are an exaggeration of traditional silhouettes and were inspired by the sky scraper tower blocks taken from my research.”

“Look 4 - Black balaclava, Jersey sweat top, Silicone cord embroidered puffer jacket and Pluto Close leggings.

“This jacket was created by hand pressing over 4000 black eyelets into grey nylon waterproof fabric. The eyelets were then embroidered with handmade trimmings made from silicone cord and heat shrink wrap. The heat shrink wrap which was bonded to the ends of the cords to prevent them from falling out. I have added heat shrinking tubes to all of the drawstrings on each coat; the shrinkable plastic tubes are conventionally used to insulate wires, providing abrasion resistance and environmental protection for stranded and solid wire conductors, connections, joints and terminals in electrical engineering. The eyelets represent bullet holes and were inspired by the many travesties which occur during riots. The Pluto Close leggings were designed to encourage movement and resistance whilst running.”

Did you have a specific audience in mind when designing your final collection? Who is your target customer?

“The styling and silhouettes in my graduate collection were definitely inspired by a mixture of urban/street youth culture, sportswear and anyone who loves puffa jackets! I wore them throughout my teenage years.

“My target customer ranges in age from 17 – 35 and has an interest in fashion and sportswear. The heavily logo branding on my garments make my collection versatile and accessible to a variation of customers.”

What made you choose to study at Manchester School of Art?

“I chose to study at The Manchester school of Art as they had great reviews and after I visited their open day I thought that the modules and structure of the course best suited my style of work. There was also the opportunity at the end of the second year to undertake a Fashion internship or work on a live brief with a designer.”

What do you plan to do now that you've graduated?

“I would like to gain as much experience as possible by working with fashion designers and sportswear apparels before venturing off and starting up my own clothing line. I’ll be keeping my options open whilst constantly working on new concepts, fabrications and designs to keep my creative flare thriving.”

Where do you hope to see yourself/your label in five years time?

“I would hope that I have gained the knowledge necessary to successfully own a sportswear line with a variation of stores and stockist’s around the UK. I would love to have my collection shown at Fashion Week in either 4 fashion capitals that would be magnificent!”

What was your Graduate Fashion Week experience like?

“I’ve been to GFW plenty of times but when you’re showcasing your own work the pressure is on, it was a hectic experience and a pleasure to see the diverse magnitude of talent throughout each university. It was also an indication of how important and spectacular the event is as not only are there awards to be won, but also networking with the fashion industry and the possibility of collaborations with up and coming emerging talents.”

 What designers/labels do you most admire? Who would you love to work or collaborate with?

“I admire the work of Hood By Air, Y-3, Nasir Mazhar and Astrid Anderson. They are all designers which I aspire to as they are all examples of sportswear meets fashion yet are individually distinctive. Above all it would be amazing to be able to collaborate with JUUN. J as I have followed his work for some time, his outlandish menswear designs are inspired by youth and street culture as am I.”

What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?

“I would advise any aspiring fashion designer to keep motivated and positive, never give in. Always stay true to your design philosophy, go with your instinct and stay inspired.”

Images: Hannah Wallace

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