Immerse Your Senses: RMIT Floral Fashions

By Patrick Hooton

Images courtesy of Fergus Bartram

Every year, RMIT Bachelor of Fashion Design Honours students are given the opportunity to design and create a piece of ‘living’ fashion. They are invited to present a plant-based fashion outfit as part of the Floral Fashion Design Competition exhibit at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS), for the show’s five days in the Royal Exhibition Building.

The design must be 80% plant matter, with a further 20% to be used on structural elements. These meticulous pieces are often entirely made of simple chicken wire, plants, and glue.

Our students spent two full days working on their fashionall while ensuring that their piece remained alive for the entire five-day event. This is a unique project offered to RMIT students, who must dedicate themselves to their dress and the plants from which it is made.

This year’s competing students drew inspiration for their garments from the National Gallery of Victoria’s Offshoots, Viktor & Rolf: Fashion Artists Exhibition as well as a brief prompting them to work around the theme ‘Immerse yourself’. While not an easy challenge by any means, RMIT students consistently produce outstanding pieces of fashion for the event. This year was no exception. These ecological garments are a highlight for many patrons of the event, with one even claiming they “come every year to see the outfits.

This year, Grace Cooper won Gold, Alice Kavanagh Federici won Silver, while Tara Ingram and Belinda Sorrento tied for Bronze.

Alice’s piece, entitled ‘Monarch’, was an attendee favourite for its magical design which captivated childhood memories and sparked the imaginations of both young and old. Her design was inspired by a childhood fascination with fairies that she believed were living within her garden. The dress expressed the sense of awe and wonder she had felt while looking for fairies amongst the plants, with the aim of breathing botanical life to the fashion fantasy. The regal yet wild piece transported admirers to a hidden garden, overgrown and lost to the modern world, where fantasy reigns.

Grace Cooper’s design, ‘Flower Birth’, was an artistic interpretation of a blooming flower. Her attention to detail was to be commended, with intricate details of seeds in the bodice, twine sleeves to represent roots, exaggerated bell sleeves bursting with flowers, and a skirt made up of leaves. Winning the highest honour amongst RMIT Bachelor of Fashion Design students came as quite the shock to Grace, given the high level of quality of amongst the designs.

Like all the hardworking students focusing on the project, though, Grace discovered new challenges in working with plant materials. She says that it established “a whole new ball game to a fashion designer.”

The RMIT Floral Fashion exhibit at the MIFGS showcased the remarkable talent and innovation of the University’s fashion students. It challenged students to think outside of the box, in an experience that few around the world will ever have the opportunity to engage in.

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