Here's to the class of 2012

...NJAL congratulates the graduates taking the stage, across the world.

The 2012 Graduate Season has begun. For NJAL’s scouting team, this is the most exciting time of the year. The world’s most talented students are welcomed with open arms by a fashion industry hungry for talent, innovation and originality. These budding designers are the stars of tomorrow. NJAL will introduce the new crop of fresh talent, so watch this space for the latest updates on up-and-coming talent across the UK and the world. As early as April, the graduates from the United States took the stage, leading a procession of Graduate Fashion Shows. Join NJAL in support of fashion’s future.

At the Academy Of Art University in San Francisco, there was a strong sense of unity. The collections seemed to flow seamlessly into one another. Overarching motifs included heather grey jersey knits, draping, embellishment highlights and minimalism.

The graduates who chose to deviate from the mean included Rachael Sansom and Chelsea Levinson, whose joint collection featured brightly printed, layered dresses, mixing textiles and prints that referenced Moroccan ceramics in an amped colour palette. In a similar vein was design duo Kim Tran and Orly Ruaimi. Their collection was a textile medley using sheer polka dot layers over heavy jacquards in royal blue, tangerine and plum.

Angela Sisson went for a more traditional theme. Although her collection was basic in form, her reversal of fabric and colour for the autumn season brought life and playfulness to the sleekly minimal designs. Wool and cashmere appeared in the collection, but each look was colour coordinated using cotton-candy pastels.

PRATT INSTITUTE’s fashion department took a more art-based path. As a fine arts institution, Pratt is known for being at the helm of the art world, but fashion is not far behind. Each collection seemed to be inspired by different art movements starting with Theresa Decker whose collection incorporated watercolours. Juan Pozo, designed a nautically themed menswear collection that took a modernist, Bauhaus influenced approach.

Meredith Lyon’s propagandist anti-smoking collection featured cigarette butt prints, Marlboro themed chiffons and knee-high cigarette socks, a pop art-esque comment on the dirty little habit. Elizabeth Ammerman showed an oversaturated collection dripping with 90’s pop culture. The first Graduate show for the newly appointed Chair of the Fashion Department, Jennifer Minniti, proved to be a success. Attended by a VIP crowd, including Vogue Editor-at-Large, Hamish Bowles, the show received deserving attention.

Another first for New York fashion: PARSONS’ MFA exhibition for Fashion Design & Society. Course leader Shelley Fox introduced the first students to graduate from the brand new program, in a reception hosted by Donna Karan, entitled ‘The First Eighteen’.

Carly Ellis, who moved from London to New York to complete the program, designed a collection of urban, street style pieces that were reminiscent of an early 90’s futuristic rave.

Paula Cheng, whose previous collections were dark storms of powerful knitwear wowed us again with her latest collection. Her dramatically magnified garments demanded the attention of any passerby. Mayumi Yamamoto’s intricately detailed pieces were equally as powerful. Finely tuned embellishments like paper cut outs wrapped garments in a messy but perfectly placed rhythm of crinkles, folds and embroidery. The graduates who partook in the exhibition will also be showing during New York Fashion Week in September.

University of Westminster, London's best kept fashion school secret, was first to kick off a stream of university shows. The city of London is highly regarded for producing some of the most innovative graduates in the world. Although each university held true to its own aesthetic, some congruency was certainly visible. Swarovski crystals seem to be making a strong comeback this year.

Many of the graduates from Westminster, Central Saint Martins and Royal College of Art embellished their collections by adding glittery accents. For sportswear, high performance material and irridescent fabrics made more than a few appearances on the catwalk and a theme of eccentric eclecticism could be seen through out. Many designers chose to focus on combining fabrics and shapes that are not normally paired to create an almost schizophrenic look that is now becoming popular with fashion experimenters and risk takers.

UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER, an institution not widely recognised for its fashion department (although it should be) put on a fantastic performance at Ambika P3, a large, industrial venue with plenty of space for mezzanine views from above as well as catwalk-side seats. The show opened with Hannah Duckworth whose pastel dunce caps and geometric neoprene overcoats in candy colours accurately depicted her vision of sleek power dressing. Next up was Poppy Totman. Her crisp white and mint colour palette alluded to western medicine’s historic constrictions of feminine expression. Her theme was the Femme Fatale mixed with restrictive clothing built for purpose over design, such as the strait jacket.

Tackling the challenge of creating fashionable utilitarian menswear was Alexandra McGrady. Her denim jumpsuits were so basic, their clean lines brought beauty to the North Eastern Miner-inspired collection. Aiden Weaver, another menswear graduate focused on sportswear, using high performance materials like nylon and PVC. He gave life to each look by adding ombre tones. Following the eclecticism seen throughout the shows was Annie Phillips. Using old ladies as models was not a gimmick for Annie, but an explanation of her inspiration. ‘The eccentric older woman with style and individuality’ was her approach to her graduate collection.

Known for its highly regarded MA show during London Fashion Week, CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS held its BA show at the new campus at Kings Cross. The beautifully refurbished warehouse shed natural light on an expansive catwalk lined by Fashion VIPs including Sarah Mower, Tim Blanks and Colin McDowell.

First to grace the catwalk was the collection of L'Oreal Talent Award recipient, Erin Hawkes. Her Vermeer inspired silhouettes featured durable fabrics mixed with white silk aprons and headpieces, reminiscent of Dutch milkmaids or nuns, but with an urban twist. Tina Kelly Yan created a collection of knit dresses. Using crinoline, the silhouettes were over-exaggerated and hyper-feminine. Serena Gili, second runner-up, also played with exaggerated silhouettes with spherical, capsule shaped skirts it white, black and gold. Each look was also combined with delicate and intricately embroidered bibs.

Material experimentation is encouraged at Central Saint Martins. Aisling Farrell featured white sheer quilted parkas and outerwear, stuffed with Styrofoam balls used in beanbags. Due to the static electricity, the balls floated and bounced visibly inside each piece creating a snowglobe effect. Another graduate featuring larger than life pieces was Fei Fang, who constructed wearable Chinese vases, complete with crocheted flowers. Adding a final bit of excitement to a 41 collection long show was Natalia Mencej, who used Swarovski emblazoned quilted tracksuits. In a sea foam and plum motif, each outfit was complimented with a matching one for a dog. All of the models walked the catwalk clutching a rotund pug.

Ending the week in style was the ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART’s ever-anticipated MA show. Known for outstanding technique, the RCA never ceases to amaze. Colour was everywhere this year, but Holly Russell’s ethereally minimal collection featured subdued hints with rainbow watercolours.

Alexander James followed directly after with an uber-feminine menswear collection that somehow managed to keep its masculine strength. The knitwear graduate featured lace and ruffles-galore, balanced by some strong tailoring. Ichiro Susuki, took tailoring to a new plateau, creating 3-d patterns using highly technical geometric pattern cutting. Hiroaki Kanai also played with femininity in menswear with smooth, rounded shapes and a bright colour palette. Shubham Jain stole the show with huge, fuzzy neon rope-like accents. As if out of an ISPY book, the marbling details and large-than-life accents were eerie with an electric charge in a bacchanal way.

The city of Vienna celebrated its history and presence in fashion once again during the 12 Festival for Fashion & Photography. During the festival, the UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED ARTS VIENNA held their annual catwalk show in a massive warehouse, an appropriate location for the course director, Bernhard Willhelm to show what he had been working on. The show infused works and projects from each year of students on the course. This was a great way to see how each student builds up his or her portfolio for the final collection.

Graduate Milena Heussler used sheer black, taupe and white draping, chiffon with unfinished edges, billowing sleeves, led lights, and lots of layers to create an eclectically ethereal collection. Bernhard Willhelm’s influence was inescapable. His madness and experimentation made more than an obvious impression on the student’s work.

One student who steered clear of this was Austria Fashion Awards nominee Nedra Chachoua who showed a youthfully feminine yet minimal collection in white and bright green. With a palm tree motif, her pieces shouted tropical exuberance and also Metallic bows, wide leg trousers and a banana print.

Marcus Binder, a 4th year student, presented a collection of quilted pieces with exaggeratedly sloped shoulders, gold, tie-dye and enlarged, futuristic looking hoods. Playing off that same futuristic theme was Emil-Maria Bendil whose Paige boy-esque looks featured, skirts, bibs and short-shorts.

The famous ROYAL ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS graduate show in Antwerp was yet again a spectacular event offering an astonishing amount of new talent, showcasing work from students from all levels from the first year and to the final year. It’s fascinating to see how the students evolve and develop along the way; the class of 2012’s graduate collections were of course the anticipated highlight of the evening.

So Takayama’s 0+0 dark collection consisted of sculptural and tailored, but still feminine pieces with striking details such as long red leather gloves and headpieces. The artfully constructed designs played with silhouette and fabric, making a strong impact with shapes that pushed boundaries.

Rey Benedict Pador was inspired by male stereotypes and identity. He cleverly mixed different subcultures in his dark and edgy menswear collection. One couldn’t really put a finger on what exactly the hybrid looks represented, but the designer succeeded by tying together the references of the collection into one cohesive vision.

Closing the show was Marius Janusauskas’s ”Sleeping Beauties” collection. The designer wanted to celebrate eternal youth and beauty but also considered the dark and sad side of the classic story as well. Fragile lace and silk were constructed into dreamy, light and pastel coloured dresses which were burnt at the edges and cut open from the hem. The poetic designs were the perfect end to the nearly four hour-long show.

At the BRIGHTON UNIVERSITY graduate show, Alice Oluyitan’s sportswear and outer-space inspired collection fleeted down the catwalk in candy colours with splashes of neon and yellow. Olivia Hearnshaw showed a black and white collection with pieces deriving inspiration from the ovular shape. Thomas Rees stole the show with a menswear collection, showcasing stiffly structured pieces made from neoprene rubber-like material in deep blues and black.

The menswear was stronger than womenswear at the RAVENSBOURNE 2012 Gala Show, but the level of design was very high. There was an abundance of prints on display. Charan Boghal’s collection featured geometric shapes with sheer fabrics in shades of blue and black.

Philip Michael Jacobson’s quirky collection featured white toads in the form of a lanyard, which hung around the models necks and knitwear balaclavas covered several of the models faces. Blue, green, and yellow were the central colours. The suits and jackets were well made as well as his colour blocked sneakers. Eric Truong’s collection was superb with highly sculptural jackets and blue and silver ombre spray painted wellies & boxing gloves.

The show ended appropriately with Iryna Gorelikova’s stunning all black collection. Tall black pointed hats with glued on black felt eyebrows graced the models. Her ruched fabric, and emphatic power shoulders gave her collection a beautiful silhouette.

After a sneak peak backstage, walking into the prestigious location of The Royal Courts of Justice to our allocated seats for the ISTITUTO MARANGONI was an exciting experience. The beautiful high ceilings echoed every noise loudly, as everyone waited in anticipation. Then showcase of talent began.

Daniel Moshe Cohen’s inspiring floor length haute couture gowns with built in corsets consisted of black and white feathers and fur. Variations of this were all over the floor trailing skirts. Claudia Gamba’s triangular patterned red, white and blue colour scheme matched nicely with her quirky leather hats and pleated skirts. The well-deserved winner of the collection of the year award, Andrea Aguirre Landa, showed beige and black leather and suede fringing that was truly remarkable.

Putting a fantastic end to the graduate season was LONDON COLLEGE OF FASHION. In the circus-like Hackney House, with an array of mirrors, the show reinterpreted the catwalk as a roundhouse presentation. LCF combined students’ work in a selection of 25 mini presentations, where models wandered through the maze of mirrors before walking into the centre of the tent.

Colour was no stranger to the students this year. Splashes of neon and colour blocking were ever-present. One student who utilised this well was Siripirun Saritasurarak with plastic leis, and a tailoring collage. Each look combined quilting with panels from a traditional suit in bold colours. Ashleigh Downer, winner of the Trimmings Award, grew her colour. By harvesting crystals, she was able to create a magical, almost mythical collection. Si Ieong Chan also used colour and as if out of a Jim Hensen film, covered his collection with hugging, puppet-like hands.

During Berlin Fashion Week, WEISSENSEE KUNSTHOCHSCHULE’s show was marked by avant-garde and daring designs. It was clearly form before function. Especially the diploma collections that were bold and fashion-forward. Malin Bernreuther’s ‘Polar collection’ set the standard very high with her cool and icy looks that were inspired by the Polar region. Jana Schlegel’s graduate collection called ‘Grey Gardens’ was another highlight and worth being mentioned. Her collection was inspired by the life of Edith Beale (Cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy), who lived in recluse in the 70’s in a villa outside New York called ‘Grey gardens’. Strong as well as softer floral prints were visible throughout the whole collection, accompanied with slow music, leaving the audience with a sense of nostalgia. Milena Noack paid attention to the multi-functional approach of her pieces. Some pieces changed their colours when they were exposed UV-light, whereas others reflected the colours of a rainbow. Overall it was an impressive show with some promising young designers to watch for…

At the Schau 12 - UNIVERSITÄT DER KÜNSTE’s show there were some impressive, fresh and innovative designs on the runway. The best UdK graduates had the chance to showcase their collections in the exclusive Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tent. The main focus was clearly on creativity and the idea of ‘thinking outside the box’ than on following any specific trends. The first highlight was undoubtedly marked by Liisa Kessler with her collection ‘I think it’s time for you to come back to earth’ that focused on oversized, bold knitwear jumpers, mixed with loose, soft lace trousers. Eye-candy was demonstrated by Charlotte Ehrlicher & Marie Christine von Federlin with colourful prints on loose lace fabrics. The playful materials seemed to be floating over the catwalk. The most remarkable collection was presented by Henning Jurke, who impressed everyone with a sleek men’s collection called ‘celebration’ using splashes of neon colours on shiny coats. The feeling transmitted by his models who were striking down the catwalk was very artistic, celebratory and sweeping which re-iterated the title of the collection perfectly. Overall the Schau 12 was a thorough feast for the eyes.

The hard work put into these collections was more than evident in the success of their graduate shows. We look forward to seeing what these talented graduates bring to the table in September.