By Sophie Hawkesford – Print Designer
BA (Hons) Textile Design Graduate 2014
Last month BCU Fashion Alumnus Rhys Ellis unveiled his Spring / Summer 2018 collection ‘White Horses’ at London’s Dray Walk Gallery.
Since graduating in 2016 and showing his coffee capsule collection at Graduate Fashion Week, Rhys has enjoyed a high level of success and exposure, including exhibiting his work at Selfridges Birmingham and The Clothes Show Live. Rhys chose to debut his second collection in an intimate presentation opposite the Old Truman Brewery, the venue where his first collection was so well received. After the success of his first collection I jumped at the chance to go and see how Rhys has developed his practise and the impression he is making in the fashion world.
The highly anticipated collection is an exploration and materialiation of the environmental issues currently endangering our planet’s marine ecosystem. Motivated by the rapid deterioration and bleaching of the coral reefs, caused by climate change, White Horses examines the journey of depletion threatening to permanently destroy the natural beauty of the underwater world. Rhys highlights the destruction being caused to the coral reefs and consequently the threat to thousands of species that rely on this eco system to survive. Rhys made it very clear that the Ocean’s plight does not receive enough attention, unlike deforestation ‘with very visible forests, the ocean bed is out of sight’ and mind for the majority of people. This high fashion collection is a visionary approach to empower a movement for change and raise awareness of the decimation of the ocean.
The minimalist styling of the presentation and fluidity of the models’ choreography allowed viewers to truly appreciate and admire the collection, whilst an atmospheric soundtrack mirrored the audience’s anticipation. In moving away from the traditional ‘catwalk’ format Rhys enabled his guests to fully comprehend the show visually as well as talk to him personally, discussing his inspiration and motivation. People had travelled far and wide to be able to see the collection, with some attendees hailing from Singapore and Africa.
The collection’s title ‘White Horses’ is a representation of majestic, tumbling ocean waves disguising the awful damage and debris below the surface. Rhys has created beautifully constructed garments, in a sophisticated colour palette, a stark contrast to the chaotic reality on the ocean floor. Several dresses bear an uncanny resemblance to fish scales, whilst the Nespresso pod coat was mistaken for marbles by one guest. The gallery was ripe with intrigue and admiration for Rhys’ ability to transform consumer waste into high end fashion.
The S/S 18 collection has been made possible by a knitwear collaboration with Oliver Thomas Lipp. The majority of these are metal coffee pods, however there are some plastics incorporated into the knitwear. The 13 piece collection has been created using manipulated, recycled materials that have been collected from the UK, Netherlands, France and Italy, a product of Rhys’ networking and proactivity whilst living abroad. With Oliver’s help these resources have been woven and knitted into an innovative and unique fabric. Rhys presented his models with natural, raw hair and makeup to construct a juxtaposition to the precisely manufactured, recycled materials used in the collection.
The collaboration with Oliver (a result of connecting via Instagram) has given birth to garments that are more accessible (in comparison to his S/S17 collection) for the ‘ready to wear’ consumer and testament to the reality that recycled materials aren’t restricted to purely avant-garde creations. The refined colour palette of these innovative fabrics eloquently demonstrated not all recycled materials are destined to be dull hues of grey and brown.
Rhys was clearly overwhelmed with the turn out, explaining the show had little, to no PR. The Dray Walk Gallery certainly lent itself to capturing the curiosity of passers-by, who were encouraged to come and view the presentation. Some may have struggled to pick Rhys out from the crowd due to his quiet, calm and considered nature. From model prep through to the presentation itself Rhys was the mould of a perfect professional, continually making sure his models and colleagues were ok. He encouraged his models to be natural and mess with their hair if they felt like it. During the two hour long presentation the models’ wellbeing was a priority, with a rotation system being implemented for water breaks and Rhys ensuring each model was still comfortable in their garment – adjustments were made if this was not the case.
A few weeks on from the show I spoke to Rhys to get some insight into how his collection was received, unsurprisingly, he reported the ‘feedback from the presentation was positive and has thrown up many opportunities within press and retail.’ Two of the garments from the collection also made covers of two magazines which will be available in November and December. He reflected ‘the first presentation was a learning opportunity to highlight where more focus should be for future collections’ and is using this juncture to direct his focus towards creating his first Autumn / Winter Collection.
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Read more about Rhys’ first collection here.
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