The Fashion Image-Makers to Watch

by SHOWstudio on 1 December 2021

From digital storytelling to physical landscapes, fashion's traditional definition of the image-maker is changing. Meet eight graduating students to keep your eye on.

From digital storytelling to physical landscapes, fashion's traditional definition of the image-maker is changing. Meet eight graduating students to keep your eye on.

Over the past year, fashion's relationship with the digital was kicked up a gear. A couple of seasons of non-physical fashion weeks saw more brands than ever before turn to fashion film, live streaming and even video games; in other words, the potentials for fashion communication have only gotten more exciting. In this new frontier, both traditional and futuristic-feeling forms of image-making can exist as one. From digital storytelling to physical landscapes, the industry's traditional definition of the image-maker is changing. Turning to the next generation of talent, we spoke to eight graduating students from the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion Image course to find out how visual communication is evolving.

Image by Lowri Cooper
Kallan Hughes

Kallan Hughes

Explore the interactive here.

When did you first become interested in digital design processes, and how did you begin to incorporate these into your work?

KH: Shortly before the first lockdown whilst I was planning my final project for my BA at London College of Fashion, I planned to incorporate digital fashion into my project and then lockdown came. Digital fashion was the perfect way to create editorials as we couldn’t physically shoot with models. I decided to do a series of Facetime and Skype photoshoots to capture the models and collaborated with 3D artists and a digital clothing brand.

What excites you most about this in a fashion context?

KH: There is so much potential when it comes to AI (artificial intelligence), a lot of which I think people shy away from embracing. But when this technology is available, I think it’s important to experiment and explore its capabilities in the context of fashion. Not only have I seen really exciting image creation with AI, but recently Robbie Barratt designed prints for Acne Studios which I particularly loved.  

What was the biggest challenge you overcame on the MA course?

KH: Developing my aesthetic and thinking of non-traditional ways to create imagery. I wanted to create images with technology that is widely underexplored in fashion image, and so when I was researching and looking for references, I found it particularly difficult.

Kallan Hughes
Eomji Sim

Eomji Sim

Explore the interactive here.

What did you want to communicate with these images about virtual identities?

ES: I was interested in the visual relationship between humans and devices. Once as I walked down the street, I witnessed people only looking at their of two or three people were walking while looking at their smart phone or holding it in their hands within one block. I thought, ‘Where do they exist now?’ By having the same experience not only in South Korea where I lived, but also in the UK, I learned how highly dependent we are on devices around the world and thought that the more time we spend in virtual reality, the more attractive and powerful our appearance in that space will be. In other words, it shows the conflict between the two worlds.

By referencing Barbara Probst who explores the subjectivity of truth and perception, showing the same scene at the same instant captured from different angles I established a relationship where the real point of view is an image of my visual intention. The virtual image was created by 3D scanning, because this area cannot be done by humans and is the product of digital systems. I tried to show how they are blended through AR (augmented reality) technology, a medium that expresses the idea of Pataphysics, which visualise the overlapping phenomenon of each world.

How does digital culture facilitate your storytelling?

ES: Since my work has been rooted in digital photographic practises and screen-based media, I believe it is recognisable these days to explore the potential of digital culture and mix them with the real world. I realised that we could be looking at the most amazing visuals on our phone, navigating an abstract virtual space, but it's also always experienced in a real-world setting like the pavement, bus scene, park or our homes. I collected research images from private chats, social media and digital interfaces so that it allowed me to create a visual language that's associated with new technologies. 

What was the biggest challenge you overcame on the MA course?

ES: I found it difficult to have confidence in my thoughts on image-making in fashion communication. This course has given me a lot of faith in the direction I want to go. When I started collaborating with new people based on the ideas and storytelling that I had worked hard on and prepared for so far, I overcame a lot of difficulties as I realised that there are many people who are interested in my direction and want to participate. I will strive to become a pioneer as a digital director and image-maker who utilises multi-platform and public interaction better than anyone else.

Eomji Sim
Lowri Cooper

Lowri Cooper

You describe your work as exploring human blind spots, what first drew you to this?

LC: The last couple of years have been testing; we’ve all had to adapt to change and new ways of living. For me, the current climate can present itself as all-encompassing and often overwhelming. Instead of allowing myself to be inundated, I found that it’s imperative to shift the focus and change the pattern of thinking, to begin to break out of tunnel vision and find beauty and intrigue in places that are often overlooked.

I began to distance myself from the noise of this societal chaos, forcing myself to have moments of objectively ‘zooming out’, appreciating the beauty of life and its intricate details. Through doing this, I became more self-aware and started to frame my practice in new ways. This meant that the visual work was produced organically, to reflect my personal journey and realisations about the importance of checking our blindspots.

Could you explain a bit more about your creative process, how do you achieve the luminous glow which surrounds your sitters?

LC: My creative process is quite personal and organic, it rarely comes about through the same routine. Often an idea will arise from seeing a particular garment or accessory, I tend to spend a lot of time experimenting, both physically and digitally. I’ve always enjoyed producing my own shoots; scouting wonderful pieces, models, and talented young creatives to collaborate with. It’s satisfying when you’ve taken a vision or idea and fully materialised it all yourself. I'm inspired by bold shapes, textures, and patterns as I see the potential for experimentation with light, shadows, and long exposure.

I’m not afraid to try things out or to fail and I believe this always creates the best outcomes. It’s because of this belief that I have learned to let go of total control and to allow outcomes to be determined by a combination of both my own input and the unpredictable input of the process itself. I enjoy interacting and moving with my subjects, I never shoot on a tripod - for me it feels rigid and I much prefer to dance around with the camera capturing different angles. I will often change the lighting throughout the shoot and try different camera techniques.

The major project work has all been produced in the daylight studio at Central Saint Martins, I love working with both the natural light and the studio lights - I like seeing the sky and working with natural light sources although I’m in an artificial setting - it brings a softness and calmness to the shooting environment, which translates into the images. I enhance this softness in post-production and further experiment with tone, luminosity, and colour. My interests have always lied in mood-focused and atmospheric imagery and I take inspiration from surrealist artists such as Dora Maar and Man Ray in creating the glows. I believe fashion communication today has shifted towards questioning our understanding of what a fashion image should and can be. It feels that I have entered this space at the perfect time.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame on the MA course?

LC: I think the challenge from the beginning was always to find innovative ways to shoot and produce quality work without the big production and budgets. This became a lot easier as we gained access to the studios and in fact, the need for innovative solutions opened up a world of creative and visual opportunities which I may not have otherwise explored. I hadn’t fully appreciated how intense the course is as it’s only a year, I wish I had longer at CSM to really immerse myself further in facilities and to build more relationships. But I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to grow and meet such wonderful people and I’m excited for the next chapter.

Martus Chai @artuschai
Yao Peng

Yao Peng

What sort of fashion makers did you approach to bring the Chinese Tuwei aesthetic into the realm of fashion image-making, and why was this your focus?

YP: The word 'Tuwei' has been in the Chinese public eye since around 2017, translating directly into English as the 'taste of soil', initially meaning 'tacky' and 'unfashionable', but after two years of evolution it has become a popular symbol and its meaning has changed. The Tuwei videos and their derivatives that are prevalent on the Internet usually bring a cheap, simple, outdated and even cheap sensory experience, but Tuwei has swept the Internet with these labels that are out of step with modern pop culture.

My friend Princess Butterfly, who is studying fine art at Central Saint Martins, provided me with a lot of garments that fit the theme of my shoot. She is also a pioneer in the study of the Tuwei aesthetic in China, and her clothes are very creative, such as the vase dress and the hot pot beef flake dress, which are both very symbolic of the Chinese aesthetic.

What was your upbringing like in China, and how has this influenced the look of your final project?

YP: I was born in 1998 in Changsha (a second-tier city in central China), during a period when China was developing at its fastest. After 2000, along with the process of urban-rural integration and the advancing of a mediated society in China, the relationship between urban and rural areas has shifted from a relatively single political and economic relationship to a deeper socio-cultural one. Although I have always lived in the city, every year during my holidays I go back to my grandparent's house in the countryside to experience Chinese rural life in depth and to experience some of the underlying cultural practices. This is why I have been receiving the impact of both Western aesthetics and the unique local aesthetics of China. This unique local culture as an expression of the new urbanisation in the media, reveals on the one hand that the urban-rural interface is the border between urban and rural culture, and on the other hand it reflects that the youth are participating in the writing of social relations and media portraits of urban and rural areas.

I started capturing this cultural phenomenon through photography during BA, and I felt that it was not a vulgar culture, I found it very creative. I believe that the current Tuwei aesthetics in China is a kind of subcultural aesthetics, and the contribution of the Z generation in subcultures and the pursuit of this non-mainstream culture around the world in recent years can represent the direction of the aesthetics of the main fashion consumer in the future. Therefore, I would like to show the fashion expressions with Chinese Tuwei aesthetics as the soil, to visually reveal this social phenomenon, to cause the public to reflect on it, and at the same time, it is also my vision of fashion aesthetics in a direction close to contemporary art.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame on the MA course?

YP: I think the biggest challenge was the inconvenience of Covid, because we started school during the lockdown period. I had just arrived in London and had to shoot some of my projects on the rooftop of a friend's house, so there were a lot of restrictions on shooting. My final project was the same, because of Covid if I wanted to go back to China to shoot, I needed to be isolated in the hotel for 14 days and 10 days when I returned to the UK, which would delay a lot of time. So, I had to pay a high transfer fee to get all the props I needed from China. But these inconveniences have also honed my styling and production skills, as well as my ability to deal with different situations. 

Ruby Pluhar @rubypluhar
Bluebell Ross @rosabluebellross
Aparna Aji

The MA Fashion Image showcase is open to the public at 103 Murray Grove, N1 7PQ:

Wednesday 1 December 2021, 16:00-20:00

Thursday 2 December 2021, 10:00-17:00



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