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From College to Collage

Promising young fashion designer Michael van der Ham collages couture dresses from the 20s through to the 70s create a stunning new collection which was recently shown in London.

By Katie Dominy /asdf 08-10-2009

Dutch-born fashion designer and recent graduate Michael van der Ham likes to move fast. His Central Saint Martins College MA graduate collection appeared in February 2009 and by September he was awarded sponsorship to host his own catwalk show during London Fashion Week.

Van der Ham was chosen for New Generation (NEWGEN) sponsorship by the British Fashion Council to put on his recent show, which formed part of the Fashion East initiative to support upcoming designers. The collection drew on the key elements present in his well-received graduate collection.

Van der Ham says his collection pieces take their inspiration from a series of dresses made by Andy Warhol for an exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1975 entitled Fashion as Fantasy curated by legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland. Each of Warhol’s dresses was made up of a collage of elements from different dresses from the time, from pieces from high-fashion designers such as Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent. Instead of using only 70s dresses, van der Ham has broadened his remit to include couture elements from the 20s, 50s and 60s that he collected together and then remade in new fabrics to create a cross-fertilisation of textiles, shapes and colours.

The designer started by making paper photo collages of his ideas, and from there, into 3D garments in fabric. He says that the hard part is to balance the various weights of fabrics. His aim is to come up with a new style of eveningwear that combines flamboyance with something wearable and beautiful. Soft tones of silver and gold are achieved using brocades and slinky metallic jerseys, while off-key 70s-style colour combinations mix olive greens, sugar pinks with pale aqua tones.

Van der Ham's pieces are all about many long hours of hand-worked treatments. Asymmetric random panels in quilted prints, colourful embossed jacquards, fluid jersey, satin and sheers, plus tiered frills create blouses, T-shirt tops, skater skirts and both mini and maxi dresses full of different decades of fashion history. Every piece was accessorised with a specially-commissioned pair of gold or silver foil-print sheer nude tights and black fabric-wrapped heeled sandals.

Van der Ham won the Central Saint Martins MA L’Oreal Design Award for best collection in 2009 and the 2009 ITS#EIGHT Vertice Award. He has also worked for designers Alexander McQueen and Sophia Kokosalaki.

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