Graduate Fashion Week Journal

... the NJAL team covers Graduate Fashion Week with daily updates

London, a city recognised for its support for young designers, once again opens its arms to welcome the newest pack of budding young designers. The 21st annual Graduate Fashion Week has kicked off at Earl’s Court and is already causing a stir in the fashion world. We have seen new trends pop up such as the use of raincoat yellow and sunset orange—a comment on the English weather, and modern art references. Many designers also incorporated over-exaggerated ruffles and embellishment details. As the judges, including Vogue UK’s Jessica Bumpus, and Hilary Alexander, sit at the edge of their seats, so does the team at NJAL; ready to support the fresh talent from the moment the collections hit the catwalk. Join us as we update our Graduate Fashion Week Journal daily for the latest news on the UK’s next biggest designers.

Monday, 11 June at 17:35
THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON kicked of GFW with an eye-opening collection by Joanna Pybus. The collection was influenced by postmodernism and seemed to reflect the work of Joan Miro, with an open eye motif. Lula Ghebre featured the use of fine jersey in layers to create a tiered effect that added an arithmetical essence to an otherwise delicate collection.

Next up was the UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASHIRE. Art seemed to be the central inspiration for the students. Claire Acton featured pop art mini-dresses complete with hair panels and jumbo hair clips. Steph Cunningham used 3-D golden painting frames as silhouettes in her boxy digital-print collection. Laura Bowler stole the show with an all-white collection inspired by white drawing pencils. Alternating between looks that featured pencils and dresses that featured 3-D scribbles, this collection was a conceptual highlight. Closing the show was Xiaoping Huang whose collection referenced Picasso’s Three Musicians. Using accordion folds, each piece bounced up and down as the models walked the catwalk.

NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY’s catwalk show opened with Emily Edge. Her glass shard-inspired menswear collection was influenced by trends in modernist architecture. Perhaps an ode to London’s newest skyscraper, the collection's colour palette was taken from the opposing seascape of her coastal hometown. Hannah Harrison took her collection in a tropical direction. The bright colours and funky textile mix were representative of a journey in South-East Asia. Each look took elements from a different culture to create an eclectic feel.

EDINBURGH COLLEGE OF ART’s students took a more experimental path in terms of fabrics. Jacob Birge opened the show. His models wore large, sculptural mesh headpieces and each look was constructed from rubber and neoprene paneling; hi-tech materials in metallic shades. Katie Bremner’s collection was all about fringe. Her first look was entirely electric blue, then came the glittery lace and more intricate fringing with heart shape details. Combining unlikely materials was Emma Hardstaff. Her collection featured puffy pink quilted fur under neon pink chiffon creating a unique pattern.

The UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD MANCHESTER show ended the night with an overall military theme. Highlights were Ellie Brooks whose pastel palette and clean lines, were perfect for her minimal casual wear and Ashlea Williams. Her mix of cotton eyelet, burgundy velvet, crochet lace and laser cut-outs was an interesting contrast to the gothic, almost virgin Mary references.

Tuesday, 12 June 16:56
Kicking off the afternoon, on the second day of Graduate Fashion Week was the DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY show. There was an abundance of bright neon colours, with a dominance of fresh street style and a unique amount of fringe. It was exciting to see a multitude of menswear collections strutting down the catwalk with a few ones to watch, Amy Welsh, Amanda Marjorie Salway and Claire Sant.

Delivering a stark contrast of design styles was the NORTHBROOK COLLEGE show. Old met new with a combination of romantic vintage looks by Apryl Pinckney and Emma Claire Scott, which moved into bright and vibrant prints in shades of blue and copper metallic by Sacha Kreeger, and intricate prints and element shades by Joanne Scarratt. Most noticeable were the designs of the menswear collections. Josh O’Sullivan’s intrigue, concealing the identity led to a collection of intricate knits and long billowing cut coats in dark winter colours.

In the other half of the shared catwalk from Northbrook College was the ARTS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE BOURNEMOUTH graduate show. Metallic green skirts and accessories like black head caps from Sophia Rice’s collection entitled ‘Inside’ started the first half of the show; moving onto Heather Sheppard’s unique blend of colours, materials and textures, which were displayed in her final show stopping pieces. Drawing the show to the end, was a cool, fresh and funky collection for the younger generation as Shauni Paulley introduced a colourful kidswear collection entitled ‘Little Ganesha’.

Starting with a bold and brass statement, black and white dominated the graphic prints and metal fringe in the collection of the NOTTINGHAM TRENT graduate Shin-ichi Murata. The contrast in the show was the journey of different seasons the viewer was taken on. What felt like a stance against winter, in the pieces by Shin-ichi Murata led into a slightly softer collection by Elizabeth Daniell. Men’s suits in bright, summer reflectives and multi-coloured prints were shown by Chak Yan Kwan. Displaying playful innocence with soft shades and delicate embroidery that looked liked hand-drawn colourful illustrations was Kimberley Wilson as her models walked with veil-covered faces.

The UNIVERSITY FOR THE CREATIVE ARTS ROCHESTER was the last show for day two at GFW. The show kicked off with a menswear collection by Daniel Holliday, featuring the juxtaposition of big structured pieces in refreshing splashes of neon green combined with subtler tones of grey. Emily Houghton’s collection drew parallels between fashion and architecture, featuring X-ray prints. Elisabeth Bostrom displayed beautiful digital prints on silkscreen printed wool and accessorised the pieces with synthetic wigs. Three designers: Callum Burman, Emma Beaumont and Elisabeth Bostrom have been selected for the GFW Gala show.

Wednesday, 13 June 15:50
The third day at GFW started with the International show introducing students from Esmod Berlin, Istituto Marangoni and Amsterdam Fashion Institute.

ESMOD BERLIN opened the show with Sonja Dissberger’s colourful menswear collection. Her designs drew inspiration from the artist Jean Michel Basquiat, which was evident in playful details such as the painted wooden clogs. By using second-hand materials Karen Jessen gave old leather from a sofa a new life through her collection. Louise Friedlaender focused on combining traditional craftsmanship with simple but artistic forms and silhouettes that shined with her use of different silk fabrics and high attention to detail.

Tiago Tomé from ISTITUTO MARANGONI MILAN introduced a feminine collection of beautiful powdery colours and soft shapes, using light and transparent fabrics. Sophia Colasante made a big impact with her unique and stunning dresses, impressing the audience with her use of technology, the highlight being the steam powered dress.
Ayla Van Maarschalkerweerd from AMSTERDAM FASHION INSTITUTE was inspired by clothing from various cultures and also by women who dress differently. Sladjana Pengic introduced a winter uniform for a modern woman, articulated in oversized silhouettes and details in different shades of white.

ISTITUTO MARANGONI PARIS closed the show with particularly strong menswear. Justine Chomette’s black and white menswear designs nodded to 80’s power dressing. Li Van’s flower inspired designs celebrated the spring with male models wearing flower headbands, making the audience smile.

The second show of the day was by BATH SPA UNIVERSITY and WILTSHIRE COLLEGE SALISBURY. The Bath Spa University students’ inspirations for their collections varied from art and culture to Japanese Samurai warriors. Chloe Jones opened the show with a collection inspired by gothic architecture. Her grey toned designs combined elements from sportswear and couture. Lara Chipping’s designs brought together different cultures by blending together national costumes from around the world. Closing the show was Rebecca Head who’s fun and sporty collection played with volume, shapes, silhouette and proportions.

Wiltshire College Salisbury show started with an earthy toned collection by Milly De Wend Fenton, with high attention to detail and strong use of leather detailing. Tara Bradley-Birt presented a blue toned collection of simple silhouettes and fur details. Closing the show was Shaunshan Liu’s stunning all-red collection of oversized garments with ruffle and stripe details.

A very sculptural selection was seen from UCA EPSOM with Iryna Mikhailovich showing an incredible piece that seemed to vacuum pack the model between two huge single pieces of fabric, what kind of machinery must they keep backstage? James Walker’s collection was another heavy sculptural piece. Inspired by country heritage he showed sharp fitting, shooting tweeds, and over-sized leather trims with built-in hat boxes and one giant wearable accordion made entirely from vintage leather. Louise Wallbanks stood out with a classic Rock ‘n’ Roll style menswear collection with a twist in the choice of materials, like it had just been striped from a Victorian gentlemen’s smoking room, with skinny crimson paisley trousers and rich dark brown leather jackets.

The show most dominated by a heavy theme of crafts and knits was BIRMINGHAM CITY UNIVERSITY. Miles Dunphy’s street-menswear collection made a big statement with the use of bright yellow and orange knitted jumpers, with animalistic patterns and amazing elephant printed shirts, with extra length to fit in the trunk! Also Sophie Saunder’s green knitted jumpsuit with a geometric floral design was a different take on the theme of crafts, along with Beth Hermon’s quiet fisherman-esque chunky knit jumpers that appeared to be made from rope with full length layered skirts that had printed illustrations.

MANCHESTER SCHOOL OF ART’s catwalk show’s overall theme took an architectural nature. The show opened with Jousianne Propp’s metallic skeletal pieces using sheets of plastic to add curves, mixed with printed dresses nodding to the graphics of the Rorschach test. Hannah Kate Bellamy displayed futuristic raincoats with graphic prints of buildings being warped by symmetry. Rebecca Scarlett was a real eye-opener with wooden armatures extending the shoulders and torso. A break in the chain was Menswear designer Faye Oakenfull’s giant knitted, light brown doubled arm jumpers with sleeves to the floor inspired by Buddhist beliefs and the Tibetan Culture.

The last show of the day was KINGSTON UNIVERSITY, which opened with Charlotte Cohen and her bold black and bright yellow, street wear collection with a strong link to gym equipment such as boxing helmets, kettle weights, hooks, chains, and weight lifting belts. Holly Thompson’s collection of menswear rain coats and jumpers with muted grays and extra zips, buttons and pouches, made for a subtle but strong collection. Alice Maughan closed the show with a more experimental collection, her choice of materials had come straight from a twee cottage with pastel colours and illustrations of puppies, the crown of the show was her full length dress that looked just like a curtain including the rail.

Thursday, 14 June 20:50
After a refreshing week of catwalk shows bursting at the seams with fresh talent, the awaited Gala Show was a little less than riveting. What was portrayed as an evening dedicated to honoring the hard work of the many students who participated in the week’s events did not quite live up to its promises. Too much focus was placed on the second rate celebrity judges including celebrity blogger Bip Ling and TV presenter Caroline Flack and not enough on those whose expertise in fashion had been utilized to the greatest degree to pick the award winners. The graduates were just a side note.

Throughout the week, extraordinary students had the opportunity to showcase their work at Graduate Fashion Week. NJAL favourite, Xoaping Huang picked up the The Zandra Rhodes Textiles award and all the nominees seemed more than worthy. It was slightly disappointing that not more collections were shown during the evening. Graduates were rushed off stage in order to present the following award, although plenty of well-deserved time was made to honor and celebrate the lifetime achievement of the wonderful photographer, founder of, Chris Moore. Moore, who was called out of the photographer pit to accept the award, received a standing ovation. Less time should have been allotted to past-her-prime princess Daphne Guinness, whose awkward time could not end soon enough.

Perhaps the commerciality of the Gala show got in the way of its purpose. It seemed the organizers lost sight of the student’s brilliant work. It would have been nice to see more focus put on the fashion design students. Their excellent talent, passion and ability to create deserve a Gala show indeed, just one in true support of their futures as designers.