ITW | Karen Topacio on her S/S 16 collection for the E-Fashion awards

Hacking materials, shaking up habits, the fifth edition of the E-Fashion Awards ambitions to become the creative link between Fashion & Hackers for a subtil combination of savoir-faire and new technologies. This unique prize is happening tonight, at the heart of Paris. I had the chance to meet Karen Topacio, one of the nominated Fashion Designers, who will present her latest Spring/Summer 2016 collection.

Karen is a Filipino-Australian fashion designer based in Paris. After graduating from a BA in Communication Arts at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, she continued her studies at La Trobe College of Art and Design in Melbourne. And pursued with a Design and Creation course at Esmod Paris. In 2013 she won a full scholarship at IFA Paris to continue her studies at a Post-Graduate level. Having lived in four different countries, Karen often draws inspiration from contrasting cultures and relationships of all kinds. Her graduating show in January 2015 defined her signature style – innovative, crisp yet fun and playful. While trying to understand the intimate relation of technology and the body, Karen played with the juxtaposition of unusual shapes and deconstructed silhouettes; the interaction between supple fabrics and flexible wood, eventually creating a collection where art, fashion and technology collide in perfect harmony.

Far from working solely on new variations of colors or silhouettes, Karen continually seeks to integrate innovation into the clothes she imagines, be it in the form of new materials or in design. Thus, for her collection, she incorporated wooden elements, relaxed by specific laser cuts adding a third dimension to the garments. For her E-Fashion Awards collection, she used an interactive recording motion software (visible on her teasing video below), developed specifically for this project, to generate random volumes that serve as basis for the design of the collection.

Karen Topacio a-w 2015 (1)-4

Clausette: Hi Karen, thank you for sharing some of your precious time with us! Your work is inspired by nature and its ability to adapt to different environments. How did you retranscribe this concept into your creative work?

Karen Topacio: ​It ​all ​really started with trees growing out of cars!​ I think, it is quite a phenomenon how trees are robust but ​flexible enough ​that they can wrap around objects and incorporate them into their growth​ and in the process breaking or creating something strange​​. Then I looked at mushrooms and all sorts of things after that. I recreated this by using a generally robust material such as wood and manipulated it to make it flexible using the Living hinge laser cut technique then juxataposed them into soft fabrics. Visually, the idea is to show that these pieces of wood literally grew out of the garments… Some just appeared to grow out of garment seams, while other pieces distorted the usual shape of the garment.

KarenTopacio_lookbook2015-33C.: We saw that you have been shortlisted for the LVMH Prize​ for​ Graduate​s​, how do you feel about it?

K.T.: ​I just can’t believe that all those amazing ​industry experts and jury saw and looked at my work and thought it was not bad! It definitely gave me more confidence in my work!

C.: Last line before the E-Fashion Awards, how do you feel about your collection? Please tell us more about the concept you will be showcasing?

K.T.: For the contest, Hackers de la Mode, ​I collaborated with Cyril Diagne​, a creative coder and I came to him with an idea of combining both our worlds into one application. So I did some research on texture, shapes and movement and Cyril worked on the coding part, then we came up with an interactive recording motion software, where users can digitally drape volumes and shapes through their body movements. It is a 3d program so it generates interesting 3d details that I am normally quite fond of but this time, instead of draping with fabric on a mannequin, I draped in front of a screen with my arms and legs. It is a fun way to drape but at the same time, the process is not as easy as it looks. You still need to calculate your movements as in the end, you will need to adapt them into a wearable garment. This is where the designer’s role comes in. The app + my body movements came up with some complex designs so it was challenging to drape in real life but they all turned out well.  The designs that I developed for the e-fashion awards show have an organic feel with a graphic touch, which is inline with my personal universe. Here is a short teaser clip for tonight’s collection!

​C.: We love seeing designers merging fashion with technology. What is your relation with tech?

K.T.: Technology is a very exciting tool because there are new possibilities coming up each day. ​T​he good thing about it is that, it is not exclusive to tech people, everything is open sourced now therefore encouraging more ​fashion designers to collaborate​ with artist​​​sI really like working wit​h it​ but I always make sure that it does not overpower the whole garment. For me, a garment should still be as exciting with or without the technology part. 

C.: As a designer, what do you think of Google’s new Project Jacquard? Do you think you’ll try to do your own wearables, maybe with the help of Cyril Diagne?

​K.T.: ​I think it’s brilliant. Technology is going to become more and more invisible with all the screens​ and​ wires ​slowly disappearing and in the end, it will all be embeded on the thing that is closest to our body – garments. Cyril and I are talking about it and we definitely have some ideas and we will keep you updated!
C.: Thank you for your time and kindness Karen, and good luck for tonight!

Little bonus, here’s A Fashion Creative Process, a video Karen did last year during a fashion school project for IFA Paris, to demonstrate a fashion designer’s creative process from the concept to the garment.

Karen Topacio a-w 2015 (1)-20Karen Topacio a-w 2015 (1)-21KarenTopacio_lookbook2015-8KarenTopacio_lookbook2015-12

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