​sarah mower celebrates the designers imagining a better world through fashion

Sarah Mower, the revered fashion journalist, i-D contributor and BFC Ambassador for Emerging Talent spoke at the International Fashion Showcase awards ceremony, where 80 designers from 24 countries responded to the theme of Utopia.

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Feb 22 2016, 5:05pm

Hala Kaiksow, Bahrain, photography Sergio Miranda

Sarah Mower, the respected fashion journalist, i-D contributor and BFC Ambassador for Emerging Talent, spoke at an awards ceremony at Somerset House yesterday, during London Fashion Week, celebrating designers from around the world who have created work for the 2016 International Fashion Showcase (IFS), each responding to the theme of Utopia.

Mower presented the IFS Designer Award to Hala Kaiksow of Bahrain -- who accepted her award saying, "I'm so proud, for every Arab woman" -- and the IFS Curation Award to Tala Hajjar of Lebanon.

"The response of the 24 countries who have imagined inner Utopias for this year's IFS is both impressive and deeply moving," Mower said at the ceremony, noting that, "The exhibitors this year have so much to teach London and the world about respect for each other and the richness and creativity in cultural diversity".

Hala Kaiksow and Sarah Mower. Photography Piers Allardyce, British Fashion Council

i-D caught up with Sarah after the ceremony to find out more about the International Fashion Showcase, its origins and why it is so important at this time of international unrest:

"It's an initiative that has been going since the Olympics," she explains. "It was conceived as a sort of cultural arm of the Olympics, because the Olympics were supposed to have a long tail of influence over the futures of young people; at the beginning, in 2012, it was a mini fashion Olympics. The entrants are invited through embassies of the world, to bring their emerging talents here -- always in an exhibition, not a catwalk show."

"This year it really came together because it's the 500th anniversary of Thomas More's Utopia, and so it has a theme [which runs parallel to the Somerset House Utopia 2016 year of events]. 24 countries have come, 80 young designers exhibited and really thought about what it means to imagine a better world. Which I think is so important when the world is going through so much trauma and there's so much inhumanity being shown by men to women and children and other men."

Scalo 502, Guatemala. Photography Agnese Sanvito

"To give everybody the project of thinking very deeply about their own cultures, and what their nations really mean, and what really matters, is very, very inspiring," Mower says, explaining that, "There's such a mixed range of countries here, from very tiny, poverty-stricken places such as the Philippines and tiny places like Guatemala and the Lebanon".

"What really stands out this year is the input of the Arab countries. The idea that women in the Arab world embrace fashion is perhaps unexpected. Indonesia is a fantastic example of that -- they've brought designers who make avant-garde 'modest wear'. It's a huge market that stretches from Asia right down to Africa. Seeing that here in London is very moving. Romania too, what with all the prejudice against Romanians in the UK now, the hatred that has been expressed toward Romanians coming here [and the stereotypes]. Go to the Romanian stand and you will see the most pure and extraordinary, modern, avant garde group of jewellery designers."

Dian Pelangi, Indonesia. Photography Agnese Sanvito

Can we imagine a better world through fashion? "I think we ought to be able to imagine a better world, full stop. And here, we are at the cultural frontier of designers, at the very beginning of who they are. Fashion is only a cultural medium, like art. If we don't think about who we are and what really matters in life then we're lost."

Fashion Utopias: The International Fashion Showcase 2016 presented by the British Fashion Council and the British Council is at Somerset House until 23 February, open to the public 10am - 6pm daily.

www.somersethouse.org.uk/fashion/fashion-utopias