National Graduate Showcase: Isabella Raco

The National Graduate Showcase is a prestigious runway celebrating the next generation of Australian fashion design talent. Handpicked from renowned design institutions and universities across the country, see Australia’s brightest graduate talent shine under the Royal Exhibition Building dome.

Isabella has been selected as one of twelve finalists to appear in the National Graduate Showcase.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from, where did you study?
I never really know how to answer that question, I guess I’m still figuring that out. I grew up in Canberra and moved to Melbourne to pursue fashion design at Whitehouse Institute of Design.



Can you please tell us about your collection? What was the inspiration for it, and what is your favourite thing about your collection? What can people take away from your collection?
My current collection CONTRADICTION:SUBJECT TO CHANGE, looks at the inconsistencies in human behaviour as we react to environmental changes. Drawing inspiration from the surrealist movement and artist such as Max Ernest, I acknowledged that the relationship between humanity and our natural environment is damaged and corrupt.

This collection voices moments of cognitive dissonance and the surreal disconnect between emotion and behaviour, exploring the confusion in the decision making process, especially when it comes to making choices that challenge our ethical and environmental beliefs and habits. This is expressed through the textural fabrications choices and garments silhouette proportions. All fabrications come from natural fibres, including cottons, wools, and silks. Everything has been sourced and made with the environmental and ethical impact in mind. The fabrications with higher environmental impact, such as the kangaroo leather detailing on the shoes, are off cuts that would have otherwise been sent to landfill; the strongly dyed fabrications were either remnants or have sustainable certifications; and the yarn used in the knits are Woolmark certified.

My favourite thing from the collection would be how I’ve been able to incorporate my drawings into the knitwear and the accessories. The main thing I’d like people to take away from my collection is that ethical and sustainable design can be fun and innovative.

What journey/pathway led you to where you are now? Were you always intending to be a fashion designer? What is the most valuable thing you learnt while studying fashion design?
I’ve always been interested in art and design. My first taste of sewing was when I was little, my Nonna used to make my clothes, she taught me basic sewing skills, it was how we would bond. During high school I studied textiles/fashion design, it became my creative outlet and the one thing that I always felt comfortable doing. From there I sort of knew that fashion design was the field that I wanted to get into, even after starting a psychology degree, I was pulled back into fashion.

Once starting at Whitehouse, I found that it was the process of designing that really enamoured me with fashion; being able to experiment and challenge thoughts, ideas and feelings within a tangible practice. I like to be able to connect the dots and the fashion industry is a medium that touches almost every human being on this planet, and I feel like that is a very powerful thing, especially as it is a great tool for creating change. Whilst studying I’ve found that the most valuable thing I’ve learnt is that you should trust your instincts because second guessing yourself, generally leads to making more mistakes.



What do you think are the most important issues in fashion at the moment? As a new designer, what is something that you want to bring to the industry?
For me it would be the environmental and the human rights issues surrounding the fashion industry. I feel as though there are many facets of the industry at various points in the supply chain that are directly responsible for impacting climate change, damaging the environment and working in a way that negatively affects basic human rights. Although awareness and changes are being made, I think there is a need for greater urgency in order to create a substantial positive change to both our earth and consumer behaviour. Personally, I’d love to get actively involved with those who have already initiated creating positive changes within the fashion industry whilst expressing these social issues through my own creative voice.

Who or what inspires you?
In terms of designers, I’ve never really had a favourite designer or brand. Given the nature of the industry I feel it’s better to evaluate and appreciate designs for what they are in the moment. However, currently I’ve been looking up to designers that are able to incorporate art into their designs, and who have a great appreciation for contemporary art. I’m also inspired by human behaviour and the psychological interactions humans have with their environment.



What do you do in your down time? What do you do to switch off from fashion?
I love being both sociable and having my own space. Either catching up with my family and friends. Or being by myself doing some mindful artwork or sitting outside just taking a moment to reconnect with the world.

What's in store for you for 2018?
This year I have plans for a few new projects and collections that focus on exploring new sustainable solutions. It’s all currently in its exploratory phase but I’m excited to see where it will go and how I can push myself further creatively.

Find Isabella on Instagram.

National Graduate Showcase
Friday March 9
Royal Exhibition Building
Tickets now on sale


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