27-02-2018 | By

Designers to watch

Mode Suisse favourites: Rafael Kouto & Collective Swallow

Here at Œ, we used the first days of February for a short trip to Zurich and attended the 13th edition of Mode Suisse. Out of all the labels presenting their work to an international audience, two designers particularly cast a spell on us. Scroll down to see the promising collections by Rafael Kouto and Collective Swallow, and keep an eye out for them in the future!

Rafael Kouto Lookbook

Photo: Diago Mariotta Mendez, Retouching: Flavio Starrita, Hair & Makeup: Meltem Sahin / Angelique Hoorn Management, Models: Ade, Jairus, Mozher, Servano

Rafael Kouto

Recently graduated from the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, Rafael Kouto returned to Switzerland where he studied at the FHNW Institute of Fashion Design in Basel. His innovative take on fashion combines sustainability and politics with creative design techniques. The unique collection, titled “ALL THE NOTHING THAT WILL REMAIN,” consists solely of garments that were previously discarded by the mass-market fashion industry. Rafael Kouto added embroidery and woven details to each of the pieces, transforming them into high-fashion designs. They form a consistent and fascinating collection, and we would never have guessed that the textiles were formerly thrown out!

Rafael Kouto Mode Suisse Sebastien Hernandez-Bertrand

Photo: Sébastien Hernandez-Bertrand

Using up-cycling as a main source of inspiration, Rafael Kouto promotes a fashion concept that calls into question the practices of fast fashion, and revalues clothes that are considered waste. The brand’s aim of showing the “use of up-cycling waste garments in the creative process” also relates to Kouto’s designs. Drawing upon postcolonial ideas, the collection follows the view that a just global economy does not allow wealthy nations to cast away their waste to other countries. Kouto inverts this current scenario by sending back the western world’s trash in a high fashion collection, and highlights the possibility for a new system of fashion production. Overall we were really impressed by the multi-layered collection, which takes the issue of sustainability seriously and proves the potential of up-cycling processes.

Collective Swallow

The presentation we enjoyed the most was staged by Collective Swallow, a Berlin/Basel based brand founded in 2015. Anaïs Marti and Ugo Pecoraio, both graduates from FHNW, are the creative heads behind the brand who invited us to a pizza party at Mode Suisse. Their “Slice me nice” collection features a range of oversized hoodies, printed with images of the all-time favourite Italian dish. “We combine food and fashion, and transform the taste and smell of a dish into fabrics and volumes to wear,” Collective Swallow told us about their highly conceptual approach. Indeed, many of their outfits resemble a cooking recipe, mixing different materials together. This became especially obvious in their showroom, which looked like a giant celebration of pizza. When asked about where the idea for their collection stems from, Ugo and Anaïs revealed: “The inspiration for our presentation comes from that darling Italian restaurant that everyone knows. Interior and decoration are a bit tacky but genuine, slightly off but cozy, and the pizza they serve is the best. Of course, our inspiration also comes from the pizza delivery hero, who delivers the pizza when you just don‘t want to leave your cozy sofa.”

What makes their collection truly exciting is the savvy bricolage technique, which runs like a golden thread through the various looks. It allows their statement hoodies to be paired with overcoats, and delicate evening dresses to be included in the collection. Instead of splitting up the looks, Collective Swallow have managed to create a brand identity that links different garments through recurring details. Detached from seasonal and gendered logic, they always build upon influences from their environment and present new work twice a year. We are looking forward to seeing more of Collective Swallow, who already dropped a hint about what is in the pipeline for the label: “We started working on our next collection, which is all about another all time favourite dish. You can expect a refreshing collection and lots of yummy garments from this one.” No doubt we will hear from them soon!