Florence and the Graduates: Week 1

…fresh talent in fashion at Pratt, Westminster and Lasalle

by Florence Massey
What a week that was…and there is still (a lot) more to come! The graduate shows are one of my all-time favourite slots in the fashion calendar as they manage to throw together some of the best fresh, emerging talent on the scene today with unbelievable professionalism. An exhausting goldmine of events, I will be covering and writing about the many shows on offer in this column for the next two weeks. With first hand reports, live tweets and photos from the NOT JUST A LABEL team, it should be your first port of call when it comes to discovering new gems within the industry this season.

For years, there has been a gradual, yet unwavering challenge to the general consensus that fashion weeks revolve around the big four cities. As catwalks continue to emerge on a global scale and most countries now hosting their own, there are more and more opportunities to seek out something special within the industry. Graduate fashion weeks are the crucial entry-level point into this world; marking the first step into a designer’s career the graduate shows present the all-important chance for them to secure buyers and press attention.

On April 27, prestigious New York college, The Pratt Institute, handpicked 18 of its 2011 graduate class to send their finished final year collections down the catwalk at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. It was not your average run of the mill show. For those selected to present, the event carried with it the added pressure of audience members including Anna Wintour, Daphne Guinness, Hamish Bowles and iconic designer Diane von Furstenberg, and many more from the Vogue team.

The collections spanned a range of categories, providing a huge amount of variety within the show. Special mention must go to Sarah Lind, whose costume collection included a wonderfully excessive full tiered skirt, Dara Rose’s classic bridal wear and Elisha Rho’s delicate feathered evening pieces in neutrals and darks. The range of women’s sportswear was impressive, as many of the designers took on the challenge of creating more casual looks, Abby Dubois, Olivia Choi and MaRu Jung nailed it. As one of the most prolific platforms for new designers in the United States, the showcase can act as a dream worthy launch pad for those leaving the institute.

Kicking off the London leg of the season, Westminster University held their graduate runway show at the popular LFW venue, Ambika P3, last Thursday. With a solid reputation for nurturing designer talent, the bar is certainly set high for those graduating this year: alumni of the university include Vivienne Westwood, Christopher Bailey, Markus Lupfer and Carrie Mundane (both of whom were on the catwalk judging panel this year) and last year’s graduates went on to win both the Harrods and the Warehouse design competitions run by The British Fashion Council.

On Thursday night at the packed to the rafters catwalk show, the menswear designers really shone out for us. In particular, Molly McCutcheon impressed with her capsule collection, alongside Alice Carvill-White’s men’s jackets in soft colours and exaggerated woolen details. Sarah Barber’s multi-coloured thermal leggings and voluminous jumpers were another triumph of the evening in bang-on-trend brights. For those that missed it, the university’s first ever Portfolio Show will run on their Regent Street headquarters from the 31st of May through to the 3rd of June.

A further international edge to this crop of must-watch graduate showcases is provided by the Singapore graduate offering. In the ever-globalised nature of fashion runways, 26 students from Lasalle in Singapore sent their collections down the Audi Fashion Festival catwalk on May 15. Symbolising progress within the industry, the Lasalle College of the Arts is the first arts college to grace the AFF Singapore runway. Under the umbrella theme of ‘Department Store’, the LG sponsored collections began with models carrying the Optimus Black handsets by the brand, with various handsets accompanying each model. The collections (minus the phones) will be showcased at London Graduate Fashion next week.

An industry must, the graduate shows will undoubtedly act as a platform for some of the best talent there is to be seen from this year’s crop of design students.