THE LONDON GRADUATES

...those that shone brightest

by Elizabeth de Groot
Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and the Royal College of Art are known for nourishing students that challenge the banality of much that surrounds us today. This year was no disappointment as Elizabeth de Groot found out for NOT JUST A LABEL.

CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS – PROVOCATIVE AND CONCEPTUAL

Central Saint Martins produces some of the most creative, and boundary challenging fashion students in the world. It is famous for advocating a conceptual teaching style and has alumni that hold influential positions worldwide. Although the graduate BA students are only just embarking on the beginning of their careers, they demonstrated focus and individuality with their collections.

Beginning with menswear, traditionally seen as more challenging as detail is often seen as key. Opposing this John Booth, Peter Bailey and Holly Fox Lee brought us statement bright oversized street wear. Whilst Kye looked to emphasise the masculine body contours with his six pack padded vests and jackets. These students definitively demonstrated that their positivity still shines through despite the dismay surrounding the recession.

A more demure (as demure as men’s jumpsuits can be) set of collections also took to the catwalk. Shaun Samson and Peir Wu mixed ideas of androgyny with formal tailoring, Shaun showed shirts pleated at the bottom and Peir showed dress length shirts and sheer jackets. Neil Young brought PVC to the catwalk in his suits and tops, along with neo-preen structured jackets and coats. Whilst Levi Palmer evoked the sophisticated cowboy, with a hint of glamour, added by a fur coat.

The womenswear graduates brought some arresting creations in the form of Blandine Bardeau ‘s bright twist on an abstract oriental theme and Dorothy Oi Tung Tang’s sculptural creations on top of her clashing brights. Others brought quilted and printed textiles with moustaches that poke fun at the (sometimes) serious nature of fashion and oversized ball gowns that looked ‘fabulous darling’ but that even the models struggled to walk in.

St Martins womenswear showed us some fantastic and exquisite knitwear. Luke Brooks managed to evoke summer woven-wicker chairs with his creations and won a runner-up prize in the CSM award ceremony. And Phoebe English, who also showed amazing skill, created some remarkable dresses.

Marie Hill, who won the first prize with her body-con dresses, was a highlight of the show, bringing together beautiful geometric prints in an unusual fashion. She used them to highlight the body’s contours. Ryan Strong contrasted the body-con brights by providing short flowing dresses that came alive when worn- billowing behind the models down the catwalk.

Alexander Ruth and Dean Quinn brought a more understated look, but with no less impact. Alexander contrasted sheer materials using its opaque counterpart to bring a sophisticated voyeurism to some of the dresses and Dean Quinn (the other runner-up) added elongated sequins to the ridges of his black and white outfits, in order to draw attention to their sculptural forms.

We also saw statement-making pieces form this conceptual college. Ara Jo showed pieces that enveloped the head and used corset like structures with sheer organza to reveal the body underneath. Daniel Lee displayed his skill at structuring materials, creating shapes that flowed with, but not to, the body. There were pieces with huge ruffled shoulders upon body con dresses, some Matrix like futuristic black costumes and, also, some huge draped plastic creations.

The CSM BA graduates used this show as it should be used, to demonstrate skill and conceptual ability to its maximum, before embarking on a career in the often more restrictive world of commercial fashion.

LONDON COLLEGE OF FASHION – THOUGHT PROVOKING

LCF is known as a fashion college that provides not only a creative development but a business education too. And although it is always the more commercial of the London schools, these BA graduates did present us with some thought provoking collections.

Beginning with menswear, only three were chosen to go through to the final show this year. Asger Larsen invoked the image of a medieval soldier with his use of chain mail like knit and Hessian like t-shits. Whilst Cherry May De La Cruz used an all black aesthetic to draw attention to the bold line of her shirts and jackets, with the addition of a men’s jumpsuit (a strong feature in many of the graduate men’s collections).

A few of the LCF womenswear graduates collections were reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, although perhaps a more sophisticated version. Anna Legay’s collection looked as though they took inspiration from playing cards and Cicy Xiaoshu Zhao turned her models into roses. Alice Morton brought us sweet like prints and Hoi Lam Wong covered her models in florals.

There were collections that looked like a modern twist of the impressionist paintings of Renoir. Bahar Alipour brought us back those famed boaters, deep reds and painted navy. Naliana Fuenmay also revealed that maroon like red. Whilst Stephanie Turner brought us summer tans and creams with accentuated bows.

Alex Rosenwald and Joanne Jones however fashioned a more safari/tribal guise. Alex chose to form her collection in different shades of safari green, and finished with a huge trailing cape. Joanne chose to make her models into a tribe, using different shades of that Hessian like colour, interspersed with splatters of red.

We saw a lot of sheer materials and cut-outs in the collections, adding to the voyeuristic feel. More unusual features were the use of gold to emphasise aspects of the body, and beautiful painted striped patterns. Shoulders were big and layering and draping seemed a must.

LCF’s graduate show reflected the nature of the course well – one that focuses on business and technical ability, as well as developing creativity. These clothes will serve the students well now they really have to demonstrate what they are made of.

ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART - WHAT A DIFFERENCE AN MA MAKES

The RCA is known as the postgraduate university which advances knowledge and technique, but also professional competence. These MA graduates certainly served as evidence of this. On the whole they displayed outstanding design, innovative use of materials and modern technique.

Beginning with the men’s collections, which again featured some of the features of the other London schools, notably men’s jumpsuits and Brights. Alex Mattsson’s collection took both these aspects; building jumpsuits that may have been too adventurous for such space heroes as Flash Gordon. Kim Choong-Wilkins brought us back to the dark side with her huge sharp - shouldered knit jumpers and wide legged trousers.

Mason Jung and Jae Wan Park showed some exquisite tailoring. Mason began with tailoring that challenges what he describes as ‘the antipathy towards formal menswear’. And Jae's collection drew the viewer in by contrasting some of his seams and pockets using trompe l’oeil.

Luis Lopez Smith has been getting a lot of attention; his garments were strewn with large smiley faces, huge prints and unusual attention demanding shapes. Matthew Miller also brought some interesting prints featuring cartoon-ish bombs, which he described as embodying masculinity’s ‘jovial approach to macabre’.

The womenswear collections were also outstanding. Some of the collections seemed to have taken the creation of a measured and architectural form to heart. Jennifer Selden embodied this with her bright dresses constructed with lambskin, wool and jersey - each in a different colour. Siofra Murphy gave us beautiful outfits featuring rucked panels interspersed with coloured blocks and Rachel Barrett layered silicone over lace or jersey to create garments that ‘rigidly follow and dramatically stray from the wearer’s silhouette’.

We also saw some interesting prints deriving from the graduates themes for their collections. Johanne Anderson created her own imaginary world within a cuckoo’s nest leading to some beautiful ethereal prints. Whilst Vibe Lundemark created a colourful and eccentric granny, drawing on inspiration from her hobbies and wardrobe throughout her life, her collection resulted in a beautiful jacquard pattern with uniquely printed jumpsuits, and huge draped knits. Sini Moilanen chose to centre her collection on evolutionary theory producing some striking prints alike to views of the galaxy.

Heidi Wikar also had a story to her collections that created curiosity; her collection served to comment on the change global warming has had on the Scandinavian winter. Her aim was to create a functional, comfortable and dynamic collection. We also saw collections, which played with aspects of light, interlinking of materials, proportion and new garment and stitch technology.

This show demonstrated that wearable can still be outstanding and striking, whilst clothing can also be used to make somewhat of an art piece or a statement. These students definitively displayed their ability to develop focus in their collections, whilst remaining innovative and forward thinking.