Student fashion at the laser-cutting edge
Design graduate Jessica Xie presented her collection – featuring laser-cut wood – at one of Australia's largest fashion festivals.
Jessica Xie finishes in style
Recent design graduate Jessica Xie wrapped up her final year of study in style, presenting her laser-cut wood collection as one of just 12 candidates selected from across Australia to feature in the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s (VAMFF) National Graduate Showcase.
Jessica describes her inspiration, her use of technology, and what it was like to see her innovative creations hit the catwalk at one of the fashion industry’s leading events.
JESSICA'S DEGREE: Bachelor of Design (Honours) in Fashion and Textiles
Inspiration, and why wood?
It may seem odd to some, but my choice to use wood to create my final-year project came about after I designed a womenswear collection that featured pleating.
I was fascinated by the way folding fabric completely changed the way the clothing moved. It gave me the idea to try slicing other materials to see the impact on form and shape.
I started hand-cutting materials like paper, plastics, and used a laser machine to cut fabric, then finally wood. I loved how that allowed what’s normally a rigid material to become so flexible.
It wasn’t until the end of the show when I walked down the catwalk with a model wearing one of my designs in front of industry representatives and family and friends that it felt real. Even now, I’m still in shock I got to do it.
Fashion and textiles graduate
Working with a laser cutter wasn’t easy. They’re quite small, varying in size from 80cm x 50cm up to 120cm x 70cm, so figuring out a way to create garments was a challenge. I had to carefully design each one in a way that ensured the pattern pieces would fit into the laser cutter dimensions.
As I’d never worked with wood before, I had to experiment with different thicknesses to find a size that worked. If the wood was too thin it would break, and if it was too thick it wouldn’t work.
It was actually my tutors and the design students and alumni who work in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building’s Digital Maker Space who suggested different wood types to try.
In the end, I chose 3mm birch plywood. But there was a lot of trial and error in bringing my final collection together!
At the National Graduate Showcase
When I think back to those days of uncertain experimentation, I still can’t believe I was one of the 12 candidates selected from across the country to showcase my collection at VAMFF in March 2019.
The experience was completely surreal. It wasn’t until the end of the show when I walked down the catwalk with a model wearing one of my designs in front of industry representatives and family and friends that it felt real. Even now, I’m still in shock that I got to do it.
The experience was nerve-wracking! I was anxious about how my garments would look on the runway considering how fragile the material was – a well-founded fear, as one of the pieces actually snapped as I packed it for Melbourne!
SEE JESSICA'S COLLECTION:
Student Fashion 2019 exhibition
30 March - 13 October 2019
Luckily I had laser cut extras, so I fixed some of it before packing and fixed the rest at the fitting just a week before show day! The fitting also allowed us to see the whole look with accessories, which for my collection was nude heels and undergarments.
The show day dress rehearsal was even more nerve wracking. I had to trust the show’s volunteers to dress the models with my complicated designs while I sat waiting in the front row near the runway.
I showcased six looks on the night – four dresses, a jumpsuit and pants, layered with vests and tops – all made from silk and wool as well as the cut wood. Backstage was actually very calm as the show’s volunteers and stylists did most of the work. We briefed each volunteer about how to put our designs on and provided pictures from fitting day, so all we had to do was review the outfits before the models hit the catwalk.
Overall, the National Graduate Showcase ended up being less stressful than our UTS show, but I think having that already under my belt made a big difference.
I was also thrilled to be one of just three candidates chosen for Target’s graduate program (Target is partner to the National Graduate Showcase, which is also supported by Fashion Journal).
Launching a career in fashion and textiles
Since finishing at UTS in May, I’ve moved to Melbourne, where I now work with the design team at the Target store support office.
Our role as graduate designers involves a three-month rotation in each of the design departments to support and shadow the designers and learn as much as we can from them. I’m trying to get as much experience as I can, before I figure out where my future focus will land.
Growing up, I always had an interest in design and drawing. My mum was always crafting, knitting or beading, so I was constantly surrounded by creative influences.
I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort. But, it wasn’t until I went to high school and got to study textiles that I knew I’d found my passion.
My personal style has evolved since my teenage days of op-shopping, wearing my cousins’ hand-me-downs and transforming my mum’s silk scarves into dresses or tops for fun, but I still love digging in her wardrobe to find beautifully made vintage items.
It’s such a contrast to today’s fast fashion, which dictates a different trend every season. This now influences how I buy and dress – I always opt for simple, minimal, comfortable items that I can get a lot of wear out of.
My placement at Target and showing my collection at VAMFF have definitely been great launching pads for my career. And coming out of my degree has certainly confirmed for me that textiles and materiality is where my interest lies.
While I had a different expectation of what studying design entailed when I left high school, I feel like I definitely had to go through the highs and lows of the last few years to get to what I’ve achieved.
See Jessica's full collection Adapt at Jessica Xie on Instagram.