It's startling how many worlds are contained within the grounds of Somerset House — from the grunge-y underbelly of the lower-floor levels to the Neoclassical grandeur of the courtyard. To be a curator at such a grand space is an intimidating task — but a challenge gladly met by Shonagh Marshall.

Her excitement for both fashion and her curatorial playground is infectious. “Somerset House aspires to tell interesting stories with different histories and narratives that might not be pulled apart at other places,” says Shonagh. “It’s always aiming to be different from something else you might see in London.”

Since finishing her MA in Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion (her BA was in Fashion History at Central Saint Martins), Marshall’s career has been on a rapid trajectory upwards. One of her favourite projects so far arrived in a moment of serendipity, when she was signed on to co-curate the Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore exhibition at Somerset House in 2013. “I’d actually archived Isabella Blow’s collection for Daphne Guinness. When Isabella died, all her clothes were set to be sold at auction at Christie’s and Daphne had gone in and bought the whole lot in one sale,” she says. “It was an amazing exhibition because my favourite thing about clothing is telling life stories or histories that are imbued in the objects. And with Isabella, she had such an interesting personality and that story could be told through her clothing.”

She’s got a busy year ahead of her. In time for London Fashion Week, Somerset House is celebrating the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia with the year-long programme, Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility. It all kicks off today with the International Fashion Showcase, where 80 emerging designers from 24 countries will feature their fashion vision of the future using More’s text as a point of departure.

“You get an insight into these designers living and working in the most incredible cities, and what their vision for fashion design in the future is. I think there’s something inspiring about that, and I’ve learnt a lot about different industries around the world, different courses and what designers they produce and what people are inspired and interested in.”

Korea’s Print Matters installation, for instance, uses stunningly collaged magazines to communicate the aspiration enveloped within their pages —they’re often the designers’ first point of contact with fashion. And drawing upon the concept of an ephemeral mirage, the Czech Republic has built an Edenic display of garments, accessories and jewellery suspended from a tree like exotic fruit.

“To apply utopia to the International Fashion Showcase is interesting because if you look at the different utopias that exist today, you get a sneak peek into how fashion designers really create that perfect image.”

Fashion Utopias – International Fashion Showcase 2016, presented by the British Council and British Fashion Council, is on from 19-23 February at the West Wing Galleries at Somerset House. Visit the IFS website for more information.