Budding fashion designers from China and Northern Ireland hope to steal the spotlight at Belfast’s first Linen Biennale Fashion Showcase this Thursday (October 4).
The event, which takes place at The Public Record Office in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, will see work by students from Belfast Metropolitan College and the China Women’s University in Bejing showcased alongside designs from established local and international designers - with all garments exclusively made of linen.
Altogether, the students will have over 50 different garments in the show – with the events emphasis on slow, sustainable fashion and the promotion of linen as a timeless enduring design.
This China/Northern Ireland link is the result of a two-year collaboration project between Co Down Designer and Researcher Jane McCann and Professor Wang Lu from the China Women’s University, Beijing, and is supported by British Council Northern Ireland.
Speaking ahead of the event, Jane said: “Linen is the perfect material for sustainable fashion, as it lasts a long time - so we wanted to create a fashion line that was enduring, but also inclusive, and I think the students have been able to create just that.
“Even though most flax is spun in China today, some of these Chinese garments were spun by machinery which originally resided in the former Mackie’s Industrial plant – it would therefore be really lovely to get spinning back in to Northern Ireland, as linen is very much a Northern European fibre.”
Also speaking about the event was Professor Wang Lu, who said: “I first worked with Jane nearly 20 years ago – but for me, this is the most important and biggest project that we have ever done together. Sustainable fashion is a huge topic in China right now because of environmental concerns and product safety, so it is important that we educate those who will help shape the industry tomorrow.
“It’s been difficult for my students to think and slow down for this project, but ultimately, they have found it very rewarding; creating styles that are innovative, timeless and with a simple touch of elegance.”
Roisin McCaffrey, Curriculum Area Manager for Fashion and Art at Belfast Metropolitan College said: “This is the first time we’ve partnered with the China Women’s University in Bejing, but it’s been a very important learning curve for our students; who have found the last year very challenging and demanding. However, I think by Thursday, they will be delighted to see their work modelled by professionals in front of a real-life audience – and it will all have been well worth it.
“Moving forward, sustainable fashion has to become part of the students’ learning process, as currently they are geared up to working in fast fashion and this mind-set needs to change.
“On the night, you can expect quite a range of looks from our students – but overall, it’s a simple, smart, feminine collection.”
Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: “It is wonderful to see this link between Northern Ireland and China strengthened for the inaugural Northern Ireland Linen Biennale.
“Both countries have a lot to learn from each other and we hope through this project, that Belfast Metropolitan College can continue to build and strengthen relations with Chinese institutions.
“Congratulations to all the students involved, and we wish them every success on Thursday night.”
This Linen Fashion Showcase, which will be presented by former BBC broadcaster Caryn Franklin, will also see collections from established local designers that include Maria Cardenas, Grainline and Loft Trading, as well as from Celia Homewood (France), Sirpa Morsky (Finland), Claudia Escobar (Scotland), Tara St James (USA) and showcase host, Jane McCann.
The event is part of this year’s Linen Biennale conference which takes place at Lagan Valley Island Centre on October 3 and 4.
The conference will bring distinguished speakers and delegates from all over the world to Lisburn to discuss the past present and high tech eco-friendly future of linen and includes a key note address from Dutch artist and designer, Christien Meinsdertsma as well as speakers from France, The Netherlands, Canada and The United States.
For more information on the conference visit http://www.linenbiennalenorthernireland.com
The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations body. For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI.