This year’s winning entry for Middlesex University’s Isabella Blow Memorial Scholarship was a black and white contrasting piece by 23-year old BA fashion student Raphaele Hafner. ‘Handgel’, Raphaele’s piece, shows a pair of life-size hands emerging through the back of a Chanel-style jacket. The hands and the jacket were both made of fine wool double crēpe.
The Scholarship is open to all first year fashion students at Middlesex, and is supported by award-winning couture milliner Philip Treacy, a great friend and protégé of iconic designer Isabella Blow. This year the prize was judged by Noel Stewart, also an award-winning milliner. The £5,000 prize is spread over three years.
The students’ brief was to use a part of the body, adapting it in some way to isolate or frame it. Raphaele explained that the life-size hands are intended to create a startling image but also to contrast with the white and cream shades of the jacket.
Raphaele said: “I think Isabella Blow must have had a great sense of humour – you can see it in lots of her work – so I thought this piece would reflect that”. Asked where the inspiration for her design came from, Raphaele said: “I was on the bus – and suddenly I got this picture in my mind!”.
The prize was awarded during Middlesex’s ‘Fashion Fest’ which is held each November. Prize judge Noel Stewart, who was also one of the speakers at the Fashion Fest, was particularly drawn to Raphaele’s work, commenting that it showed mature, clever analytical thinking, and was beautifully presented.
Raphaele is from France. She has been interested in fashion ever since she was 14 years old: “It’s everything I wanted to do”, she said.
Two years ago, Raphaele did an internship at London-based designers Meadham Kirchhoff. Ben Kirchhoff, one of Meadham Kirchhoff’s founders, used to teach fashion at Middlesex and some of Raphaele’s fellow interns were also from Middlesex. Raphaele visited Middlesex, was impressed with what she saw, and applied to study the BA in Fashion. She commented on the course so far: “The tutorials are really good – all the lecturers have worked in the fashion industry, so they have first hand experience. We work with really good equipment, and you can use all the different studios – photography, screen-printing, jewellery”. She added: “In six months I’ve learned so much!”
Raphaele said: “I admire so many different designers and styles, it’s difficult to choose one single influence... I really like classics, though - nice finishing, top quality fabrics”. She added: “I’m really interested in menswear – I’m looking forward to the second year of the course when we’ll focus on tailoring and menswear”.
Raphaele plans to buy a tailor’s dummy with some of the prize money. She said “I’ll spend the rest of the money on really good fabric and shoes to use in my final collection”. Raphaele explained that she plans to do a menswear project for her main project and for her final collection.
Raphaele said : “Lots of people ask why, as a French person, I’m studying in London and not Paris - I think the Paris fashion industry is mainly big, formal companies whereas in London there are many more young and creative fashion companies”. She added: “I love London, it’s very dynamic, there are so many galleries, exhibitions, live music events and there are also lots of young designers”.
Raphaele’s ambition is to work in menswear. She said: “I want to work in a fashion house first, to really experience the industry, perhaps I will develop my own fashion label after that. To run your own business you need business experience and contacts. Maybe I’ll also work in New York or France for a while, too, to get that experience as well”.
Gillian Charles, Director of Fashion Programmes at Middlesex, said: “We’re delighted to see Raphaele selected as prize winner. There were some excellent entries but Raphaele’s really stood out. We’re also extremely grateful to Noel Stewart for taking the time to review all the entries. It is so rewarding to see such exciting work from our first year students - the deadline for entries is in week 8 of their first term. This year’s submissions are a real measure of the talent we are able to attract”.