Paolina Russo. Photography Pablo Di Prima

the world’s most exciting fashion grads tell us how they will revolutionize the industry

As the finalists of H&M Design Award 2019 are unveiled, fashion’s future is set to be more sustainable, more inclusive, more magical and more meaningful.

by Steve Salter
02 November 2018, 12:25pm

Paolina Russo. Photography Pablo Di Prima

As it supports the world’s best graduate talent, the H&M Design Award continually has us excited about fashion’s future. Since it was launched in 2012, the award has helped young designers realise their daydreams about making their mark on the industry. Recent winners including Parsons’s Ximon Lee, RCA’s Hannah Jinkins and CSM’s Stefan Cooke and Richard Quinn have all used the €25,000, six month-long paid internship, and opportunity to develop the high street behemoth’s most fashion-forward collections. As this year’s globe-spanning finalists are revealed, we meet a generation of fashion graduate intent on dismantling exclusionary structures, stimulating deep thought about the sociopolitical world we inhabit, and questioning what fashion looks like in 2019 and beyond.

As Westminster grad Priya Ahluwalia discusses universal diversity, Aalto’s Ervin Latimer demands a queer, genderbent and intersectional future, Weißensee’s Regina Weber calls for collaboration over competition, KASK’s Hannah Vanspauwen proposes a slower, more meaningful output, LCF’s Bo Xu reimagines craft and tech, and CSM’s Paolina Russo sees a more fun, more sustainable coming, you too will not just dream about a better tomorrow, you’ll want to craft a better tomorrow too.

Westminster Fashion Graduate Priya Ahluwalia
Priya Ahluwalia. Styling and photography Riccardo Maria Chiacchio

Priya Ahluwalia, Westminster, UK
Diversity is the future, across the board. Diversity of ideas, diversity of designers/makers and diversity of consumers. I think the future will thrive off of people approaching design in a myriad of ways and being accessible to a myriad of people. I think it will become less elite.

I think technology will save fashion from being destructive. For example, there are fabrics that have already been developed that are made from recycled water bottles collected from the sea. Technology could also improve fashion for the consumer, maybe we will have virtual changing rooms?

I really hope fashion continues to engage with the quiet and bubbling revolution that is pushing for a fairer and more safe industry. There are so many people out there working on unique designs and beautiful ideas whilst pushing for things like less environmental impact, fairer wages and equality of opportunity. My dreams are that the industry becomes more accessible to people of any socio-economic background, race, sexuality, or gender and for craftsmanship and traditional skills to thrive and work in tandem with technology to create new and endless possibilities.” @Ahluwalia_Studio

Aalto fashion graduate Ervin Latimer
Ervin Latimer. Photography Jussi Särkilahti

Ervin Latimer, Aalto
“For me, the future of fashion is queer, genderbent and intersectional. And by that, I mean something more than just boys wearing make-up. I mean fashion moving beyond the traditional idea of masculinity and femininity to a place where we simply look at the body — regardless the gender or size — and see how we can play with things like proportion and texture. I’ll be damned if we still use terms like menswear and womenswear in 20 years. We live in an era where words like 'feminism' or 'pride' are instantly merchandisable and ripped out of their original context for cute logo tees. Everything ostensibly is intended to mean something, but at the end of the day the messaging can get lost in huge campaigns that often dilute the original purpose.

Fashion is about so much more than just the designer who designs the clothes. It’s also about who we use as models, who styles the fashion shows, who shoots the campaigns, where these campaigns are shown. These things matter, and I want to push for a better understanding of the importance of representation and diversity in all aspects of the industry. Diversity and inclusion inspire creativity and, consequently, push the entire industry forward. I want to see so many all-people of color, all-trans castings on fashion shows and campaigns that it becomes boring. I want to see so many female photographers working in the industry that we won’t even remember how terrible we were doing on that front still in 2018. I want to change the norm so profoundly that all things gay and queer are so mundane that straight culture no longer finds anything interesting to rob from us. But honey, never forget, we’ll still find a way to pull a stunt.” @lervern

KASK fashion graduate Hannah Vanspauwen
Hannah Vanspauwen

Hannah Vanspauwen, KASK
“We are in a phase that Jean Baudrillard called the order of simulation. Fashion empties the characters of their original meaning. Just think of how religious, ethnic, and national symbols are used in fashion just because of their aesthetic qualities. It leaves reality, morality, and truth behind and switches to an excessive consumption (often displayed by celebrities and social media). We don’t need this fast pace. We don’t need this many and this big collections a year. For me it makes it less exciting. With this quantity, repetition is inevitable. There’s too much screaming and shouting in fashion nowadays, trying to attract attention. The way fashion is created, produced and consumed today is not sustainable.

We need to move away from social media. I hope in the future there will be some more real-life connection with the garment and with each other. Social media can be cool, but not in the way most people use it right now. It’s taking over everything. People are constantly on their phones and that makes everything soulless. Look at all these catwalk fashion shows where everyone looks at it through their screens. It has to evoke emotion again.

Stick to your philosophy, do it your own way. Don’t try to ‘keep up’ with everyone else. Don’t lose the meaning of it. This is my hopeful future of fashion and how we can revolutionize the industry. When consumers attach this new value and meaning to their clothing, they will buy less and when they do, they will buy better quality and from honest sources.” @paulejosephe

Bo Xu. Photography Muka Studio

Bo Xu, LCF
“For me, the future of fashion represents the advancement of technology and the revival of craftsmanship. With the development of technology, we will have greater choice of materials and fabrics, as well as improvement in the production process. Not only the functional improvement, but also the more environmentally sustainable development too. These technologies will bring more possibilities for fashion design. Alongside this, I’m concerned about the development of crafts in the fashion industry. Personally, I like handmade products, therefore I used a lot in my graduation design. I always have respect for craftsmanship and craftsmen, because I could feel the warmth of humanity in these things. Technology and craftsmanship are not two concepts that contradict each other.

Whether it is past or present, menswear is sometimes overshadowed by womenswear. As a menswear designer, of course I hope to see more change and more exciting things in menswear, more interesting designs, whether that be in styling, clothing, materials, techniques, silhouettes, and beyond. For myself, I have always wanted to explore the different possibilities of menswear design. However, I couldn't say that I can revolutionize the industry. I just want to be the best of myself, be loyal to my heart, and then explore the possibilities of craftsmanship within menswear design.” @x.u.b.o

Regina Weber
Regina Weber. Photography Marcus Paarmann

Regina Weber, Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin
“The future of fashion is collaboration instead of competition. I believe that sharing and exchanging ideas adds to the value of creative content. For my collection, I worked with flower artists, an art historian, a product designer, a chemistry firm, and plenty of other inspiring people who played major roles in pushing my idea further. This is an approach I would like to continue to follow in my work. I also want kindness to be a basic principle of my work environment. I'm interested in pioneering the following...

1. Emotion. Fashion often feels flat and unemotional. Everything is optimized and fashion companies are so aware of everything that’s going on around them. For my collection I did not look into the current trends, but focused on what I find interesting/appealing myself. 2. Reconnecting with nature. My collection is a reaction to our ambiguous relationship with nature. As technology invades our lives, the gap between people and nature widens. Nevertheless, most people still long for a connection with nature. 3. Empowering women. My collection is dedicated to confident and determined women, who dare to show their sensitive side. 4. Most importantly, the fashion industry urgently needs sustainable solutions of consumption, manufacturing and distribution. I was part of a sustainability exchange with students from Bangladesh, which really opened my eyes. I want to be part of a generation that introduces new ways of thinking in that regard." @regina_wbr

CSM Fashion graduate Paolina Russo
Paolina Russo. Photography Erika Bowes

Paolina Russo, CSM
"For me the future of fashion is more fun, more inclusive, and more honest. I hope we move towards creating fashion that isn’t just about making clothing for women and men, but also empowering the women and men who wear it.

In 2019 and beyond, I think the industry will start taking sustainability more seriously. Fashion is one of the most wasteful and polluting industries right after oil. I think brands should be moving slower, making less and thinking more about about the clothing they are making.

Ultimately, to revolutionize the industry we have to start with ourselves, the students. I want to inspire fashion students to realize that their voice and ideas are super important. The students around me will be the ones deciding what will happen in this industry in the upcoming years. Students shouldn’t feel like they should conform to the way the industry is now. It’s our job to break out of that and find new solutions. I also want students to know that we should be finding alternative ways to express ourselves. In this day when tuition fees are extortionate, we have to remember that fashion shouldn’t be about how much money you have, there is no correct way to make fashion or be involved with fashion. You don’t need an expensive studio or fabrics or clothes or whatever to make something beautiful. We have to make do with what we have. At the end if the day, our ideas are our most valuable assets.

I would love to help with more opportunities such as the H&M Award that give young designers a voice and a platform. I would love to be able to give this opportunity back to other students one day. For now, I hope to inspire other young designers such as myself to realize how much power we have to change the industry we are in." @paolina__russo

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

h&m design award
paolina russo
priya ahluwalia