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‘Infectious Evolution’ – the story behind my final collection

BA (Hons) Fashion graduate Rachael Mansfield’s collection caught our eye on the Graduate Fashion Week Catwalk for being bold, grotesque yet utterly fascinating. Here, she tells us all about her inspiration for the project and how she created it. Warning: this blog contains mature imagery

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The idea for my collection came about after a difficult experience where I had travelled to Amsterdam for an internship interview, and it didn’t pay off. I felt I had grossly misrepresented myself and I felt very lost.

While I was there, I visited the Body Worlds exhibition, where real cadavers are displayed. The exhibition documents how the body functions and changes, and how we are all truly the same beneath the skin. While it may seem morbid, I found similarities to forms in nature and this planted the seed for the collection.

Our relationship with nature is complex, and every day our actions as a species damage it further. This culminated in a collection titled “Infectious Evolution”.

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The collection is about our own selfish consumption and disregard of Earth’s resources, and how we will become an obsolete part of the cycle of planet Earth when the time comes for her to begin again.

It was vital to maintain the relationship between natural forms and the human body in my designs.

Fabrics which accented the movement and energy of the collection (gathered chiffon, showerproof poplin, acrylic) were crucial as the collection needed to look alive and independent, while fused to the wearer as part of their anatomy.

The transparent acrylic was one of the boldest choices in the collection, as it articulates the relationship between the artificial, the natural and the human.

The acrylic is plastic, a damaging material we continually utilise, which I shaped to the body through a long process of minute alterations using the heat gun.

The end result was closer to sculpture than fashion and was one of the most instinctual and involved parts of the whole collection.

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This collection pushed my creative pattern-cutting to new levels, where every seam needed to be considered.

I had also seen the foray beyond conventional materials, where I had to engineer solutions and consider everything from practicalities of wear, to my uncompromising approach realising my vision. 

Now that I’ve graduated, I want to push this even further and I endeavour to study a masters degree.

The conceptual approach of my fashion is perfectly tailored to the exploratory nature of a masters degree, and the time in between will be about creating a strong foundation for that through combining industry opportunities with the search for inspiration.

So, much more to come – probably in an even more extreme way!

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My time at NUA has greatly shaped me. I’ve learned that this degree is about you as an individual. The advice from tutors, friends, and anyone who offers it are all important to process, but you must also know your own mind and have courage in your convictions, for they are what make you unique.

My one piece of advice for a final collection is to remember it is your collection.

You will be working on it for a long time, so you have to love it – make it something you care about and can keep caring about.

When motivation or inspiration run low make it something you can fall back in love with. Have courage, be brave and make the world pay attention.

Instagram @design_by_r

Catwalk photography by Becky Louise Photography
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