Each year, the MullenLowe NOVA Award recognises the most innovative work produced by BA and MA students at Central Saint Martins, one of the world’s leading art and design colleges. Last year, womenswear designer Fredrik Tjærandsen won the top prize for his morphing inflatable rubber designs, while Elissa Brunato, who graduated from the Material Futures course, was awarded the Creative Innovation prize for her sustainable sequins.
Out of the 1,300 students graduating from Central Saint Martins this year, the winners of the five awards have been selected from 14 shortlisted entries, with BA Fashion Print graduate Sandra Poulson clinching both top spot and the people’s choice award for her project An Angolan Archive.
Poulson’s inter-disciplinary work features roughly 200 pieces spread across garments, photography, performance, sound and video. It draws on other materials such as written texts, research images and common Angolan items that feature in the final piece, which explores the relationship between family and inherited societal memory from colonial Angola and the civil war.
“This project started with a research trip to Luanda, my hometown, where I spent a month capturing and engaging with the daily life of the city, from informal settlements to downtown Luanda. I documented around 3,000 pieces of information through photography, video and voice recordings,” Poulson explains.
The work, she says, “acknowledges that an archive is colonial in outlook. Therefore, the task of decoloniality is central to An Angolan Archive, as the notion of African-led own archives is still to confront the current realities being depicted by external bodies.” Besides winning the main award, An Angolan Archive was also the recipient of the YourNOVA Award decided by a public vote.
The runners up to the main award are MA Industrial Design graduate Joseph Standing, whose work Aqua No More questioned how England would look in the face of diminished freshwater supply. The speculative project takes the form of a public engagement campaign, utilising a combination of voicemails and graphics to warn the public of water pollution and fragile water ecosystems, and the future implications of these dangers.
Fellow runner up Mathilde Rougier, who graduated from the BA Fashion Design Womenswear course, created a fashion collection that explores ideas of circular models, namely how restoring damaged data can act as a form of creation. The underlying concept aims to examine how existing materials and inspiration can be used for new ideas, using a modular assembly inspired by pixels on a screen.
The final award – Unilever #Unstereotype – went to BA Graphic Communication Design graduate Jahnavi Inniss, whose project Representation investigates the contribution Black people have made to British society. Inniss explored methods of establishing visibility and representation when it comes to Black British History, producing a five-metre long quilt and an online directory to share stories, as well as a set of educational resources.
The project was influenced by Stuart Hall’s theory of representation and Roland Barthes’ semiotic theory, and used examined public monuments and memorials as well as the education system. Speaking of the project, Inniss said: “What I’ve explored is just one small fragment, and there are so many more stories and histories that need to be told.”