Florence And The Graduates...

…fresh talent from days one and two of Graduate Fashion Week

by Florence Massey
In the midst of five graduate shows per day this week, the third installment of our dedicated column moves it’s focus westwards to Earl’s Court for a summary of what we have seen so far. Beginning on Sunday, Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) has been the hub for the graduating fashion body each year. Set up in 1991, 2011 marks the twentieth anniversary of the non-profit event. Providing synergy and a focal point for young designers from all over the country, it generates a unique atmosphere of comradery between the schools. At NOT JUST A LABEL, I have been pleased to see graduates taking control of menswear and knitwear, as well as some highly innovative womenswear collections storming the catwalks this year.

Nudes and pale hues were everywhere, with many graduates choosing light tones of beige, peach, pale yellow and sand for their collections. UCLAN graduate, Angela Ritson broke the mould by using darker embellishments and zip details layered over nude tops to achieve contrast. Next, Samantha Woods’ accomplished collection for Epsom featured pale casual menswear suits with faded floral patterned shirts, which she accessorised with bum bags and caps. Lucy Wild at Rochester used bodycon peach and pink on Tuesday to give the look a more slimlined, slick appearance.

Natural sources and materials was a trend that was evident in almost every single show; Lucy Johnson’s menswear, showcased during the Epsom show, made this clear in the colour, text and overall feel of her collection – stand out pieces were her wooden necklaces and embellished baseball caps. For womenswear, Anna Kilpatrick’s (East London) triangle cut leather collars paired with pale yellow silk tops continued the natural theme.

Summer is on the way so, understandably and expectedly, the catwalks featured enough floral patterns and shapes to rival the Chelsea Flower Show. In a trend that is hard to rework, Marissa Owen, of UCLAN, went for it and won. Mixing many different prints and incorporating a nod to the orient in her collection, the classic red embellished kimono was revamped in the form of a hugely voluminous red puffa jacket, a real triumph. Successes at Bristol included Angharad Mead’s clashing prints collection and floral lined capes. Special mention goes to Epsom graduate Harriet Edmunds, who included flower embellished swimming cap hats and multicolored ruffled flower coats in her show. Natasha Storey’s final piece also at Epsom--a thick, knitted, floral cardigan with added metal studs was a head turner.

With many designers and high street brands favouring the block brights trend, it is hard to find truly innovative and stylish variations on the theme. At the Edinburgh show, Hannah Cumming was successful in this endeavour with her use of bold orange, and clashing colours in shirts, full skirts, wide leg trousers and well thought out wooden accessories. Emma Clifton, in the same show, went totally turquoise,– accented only by flashes of lime green and yellow. Barbara Kolasinki injected texture into the style with her folk mixed materials and bright orange fur jackets.

Menswear at the last few shows has left us spoilt for choice. So many of the collections walking the catwalk were of a noticeably high standard. At Kingston, Lucy Haugh’s clean collection of nicely tailored looks featured knitwear and bright red bulletproof vests. Ben Crane, also at Kingston, impressed us with his preppy macs and fisherman friendly anoraks; Carl Illingworth at Northumbria made his mark with darks in his eveningwear statement collection featuring leather and sequins.

Across the schools, knitwear has been a real favourite with various yarns, colours and mixes employed by designers. Laura de Barra at the Edinburgh show presented monochrome knitwear, light yarns for skirts and jumpers draped onto the body; the look was toughened up (and completed) with brown leather harnesses and straps. At De Montfort on Tuesday, Shabira Dowley used reconstructed knitwear, crochet overlays and sheer nude coloured skirts in a delicate adoption of the technique.

Accessories wise, Anika Hoppel at the Edinburgh slung neat little rounded box bags in pastel pop colours around each models neck or wrist, perfectly complimenting her more casual collection. Rebecca Wales similarly pulled her collection together with sleek Perspex jewellery contrasting her opulent, tapestry influenced clothing at the Epsom show on Monday. Lucy Penny at Bath accessorised her armadillo style capes and well cut trousers with bright pink harnesses.

Stepping out the box and into the unknown, Le Thuy Le Thi (East London) produced delicate laser cut peach tops, lampshade skirts, china-white patterning and closed the show with a ceramic show stopping bodice. Charlotte McLellan’s jungle collection was also hard to pin down to a definitive trend. With lion shoulder pads, zebra-maned dresses, elephant bags and rhino horned shoulders, it was quirky, fun and straight out of Africa. Salford graduate Anna Hoang made three to step out when she showed her tasselled collection using used heavy layering of exaggerated ruffles and trails of fabric to add movement and volume to her clothes – including swimwear, the collection was a mix of pastels with an injection of striking red.

The first two days of shows have been hectic, busy and best of all, full of fresh discoveries. It is pleasing to see the result of months of hard work come together in some very polished and accomplished collections. It is especially admirable that so many graduates I have seen, have clearly put in the added effort of finishing their looks with the finer details such as shoes, hairpieces, jewellery and bags.