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  • Katie Christie

GFW X The Guardian Weekend Submission

As my time at uni comes to an end in such weird circumstances, I'm really grateful to have had the opportunity to write a guest column submission for The Guardian Weekend and Graduate Fashion Week's 2020 Graduate issue. It's allowed me to reflect on the year and on the affect of social distancing on the future of the fashion industry. Here it is!

How becoming the Digital Class of 2020 dropped me straight into my own dissertation

In a round about way, my dissertation focused on the effect of digital landscapes, such as social media, on contemporary creative content. Specifically I looked at the styling choices in Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ music video, to further my understanding of how online content can be used to subvert gender norms. I don’t know my mark yet, but at least I got the automatic feedback from Spotify the day after I submitted, that I am one of Billie’s top 1% of listeners worldwide. Can that go on my graduate CV?

As a fashion student, I always worked in the knowledge that my work would have a physical audience, as well as a digital one.

Now, my entire submission is digital. And yet having written a dissertation that should have prepared me for the effects a digital-only format would have on my work and the way in which it could be perceived, I just don’t feel prepared for the power that sharing solely digital work has. I’ve realised how much I underestimated that power in my dissertation.

It’s funny, because it’s pushed me to think about the digital qualities that exist in my work, that already tied in so obviously with my dissertation. My textiles included photographic prints, developed from what was effectively digital life drawing. I found myself fumbling about in my grimy student-flat shower in a racing swimming costume with a clear acrylic board I found outside the college art shop and a five year old camera, to produce subversive images of the female body that hinted at the surface of water.

Absolutely not as sexy as it sounds and definitely the least graceful thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m actually quite appreciative that I don’t have to talk to influential fashion industry members about that in person, because no matter how hard I try, I cannot describe the process in the professional and mature manner I wish I could. That’s definitely a win for online interviews!

Reflecting on the process behind those images, there’s nothing stopping me from doing the same again in lockdown, other than my dignity. I feel like I found a personal pastiche of the figurative artists I had researched. Through what really is very amateur photography, I have a way to life draw both expressively, and digitally. While, unfortunately, being in lockdown means I can’t finish my graduate collection, it’s pushing my concepts, and allowing me to think about how I can continue to subvert human forms digitally in my future work. That’s absolutely something to be celebrated.

Beyond celebrating university related lockdown epiphanies (as important as they may be when there’s two weeks left of your actual degree!), I would also like to celebrate the creativity in the Class of 2020’s community as a whole.

Where at uni, I might have ran to the same pubs on Friday at 10pm studio closing time, to meet my equally frazzled peers for a single drink, before we all decide everyone just needs to go home and go to bed, in lockdown I’m having better nights out than ever. (Okay not compared to the rest of my time at university but certainly the tiny slither of 4th year final semester I got to experience).

My friends and I still got into half black tie half pyjamas for a zoom History of Art Society ball; I’ve learnt, I could argue, entire modules of my friends degrees through overly frequent online pub quizzes; we’ve even had a music festival Skype night. If you’d shown 1st year me, 4th year me sitting at a desk in my parents’ house, in a bucket hat and a 90’s Adidas shell jacket drinking Strongbow a mere month from my final hand in date, I really would have thought it was either future me having a stress-induced breakdown, or future me having dropped out entirely. But it was me having a great time with my friends, with a degree still on the cards, and a greenscreen effect Glastonbury crowd in the background.

Even with all the research in the world, when I was writing a dissertation on digital creative content, I could never have predicted the most powerful traits online creativity provides; senses of interactivity, light heartedness, and community that no historic art movement could have anticipated. There’s something so profound in using digital platforms that mix work and socialising. Beyond the internet providing the Digital Class of 2020 with access to our tutors’ guidance, to future employers, to competitions, we’ve become more connected with each other. We’ve got a really exciting opportunity here, to push collaborative, interactive art that could potentially reach new audiences and encourage an even wider sense of creative community out-with our graduate year.

And people are actually going to have a look at it, because they’ve got nothing else to do!

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