Last weekend saw East London’s Brick Lane filled with the buzz of Graduate Fashion Week 2015, as over 1,000 students took to the Old Truman Brewery to showcase their collections in front of some of the most prestigious fashion influencers.
As 2015 marked the 25th consecutive year of Graduate Fashion Week, the charity continued its unrivalled championing of future fashion talent, seeking to bridge the gap between graduation and employment. Estimated to attract over 30,000 visitors, GFW is an indispensable business opportunity as well as being cited as “one of the most important dates in the fashion calendar” by Gok Wan.
From its outset the founders of GFW – Jeff Banks CBE, Vanessa Denza MBE and John Walford – intended the event to be a complete sensory overload, an artistic assault that, time and again, has proved successful in the pursuit of talent and its promotion (see previous alumni Christopher Bailey, Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon, Matthew Williamson and Julien Macdonald). And this year proved no different, as the convergence of creative brilliance was almost tangible even before entering the venue.
Committed to exposing the process of creation, the event housed a stimulating exhibition, displaying the works of 40 universities with over 20 runway shows during the four-day extravaganza. Visitors were implored to interact with fashion rather than merely viewing garments. A sentiment touched upon by George’s Vice President of Brand Development and Design, Fiona Lambert, who encouraged both creator and consumer to remain “permanently curious” in order to succeed.
The vast array of designs spoke of the diverging directions of fashions’ promising future. However, despite the contrasting artistic avenues of each collection, distinct trends emerged throughout the weekend.Arts University Bournemouth opened Graduate Fashion Week with a slew of bold designs. Of note was Louise Boland’s psychedelic pairing of plaid, lace and florescent florals, merging Afro-Caribbean and UK street culture upon a mélange of layered skirt and leggings combinations. In a similarly eye catching vein, Lauren Ward (University of Creative Arts Rochester) presented a tongue-in-cheek collection that paid homage to Momento Mori. Ward juxtaposed frivolity with the macabre, culminating in a balloon show finale that was as equal parts kitsch, as it was startling. Continuing the high-octane pace, Katie Homer and her cross-dressing models closed the Ravensbourne show and brought the house down with an artfully rendered display of high fashion and out and out sass. From a different perspective, Rebecca Kellet (University of Creative Arts Rochester) presented a refined collection that explored the dichotomy of nature and the metropolis through architectural structuring and watercolour-esque graphics. Also embracing natural surroundings through the medium of print, Georgie Wood (University Salford Manchester) imparted her understated designs with vivid green blades of grass, choosing miniature-potted plants as choice accouterments. Naomi Kleeli (Nottingham Trent University) similarly chose to conceptualise the outdoors with earthy tones offset with marbled and barked effect print work. They say that three is a crowd but in this instance it definitely marks a trend. Bringing sexy back, Tian Wang (Ravensbourne) and Lucy Doyle (Northumbria University Newcastle) shared a preoccupation with distortion and deconstruction, each fashioning their ensembles with Margiela-esque facemasks, as they toyed with the seduction of the unseen, and the unease that inevitably evokes. Whereas in a show of pure artisanal skill, Edinburgh College of Art student Eleanor Paulin’s ‘Genetic Metamorphosis’ collection prompted viewers to assume that pieces were laser cut and machine sewn. However, the designer was quick to correct that each piece took 100+ hours to construct, all by hand. Sportswear proved itself a key theme found on the catwalks across the entirety of Graduate Fashion Week – note the sheer amount of looks paired with trainers. Highlights included the summer sportswear collection of Samara Bishopp (Bath Spa), fusing the carefree spirit of the outdoors through transparent fabrics and the reality of sporting injuries with the edging of each garment referencing bandages. Nottingham Trent University’s Daichi Togawa’s space inspired collection emanated a decidedly sporty feel, with zip detailing and multifarious pockets punctuating anorak/puffer coat hybrids with fashionable practicality. Graduate Fashion Week culminated in the final awards ceremony hosted by Laura Whitmore, where the most innovative of designers received accolades for their creativity. Hannah Wallace from Manchester School of Art received the coveted Gold Award as well as the Creative Catwalk Award. Other winners included Melissa Villevielle from Edinburgh College of Art who won the Catwalk Textile Award and the Womenswear Award, while Ella Nesbitt from Nottingham Trent took home the Stuart Peters Visionary Knitwear Award and the Menswear Award.
The weekend was a cacophony of unbridled creativity and the high-energy continued right through to the celebratory confetti shower at the event’s close, marking the end of yet another successful Graduate Fashion Week. And who knows how many of these aspiring and talented designers will be at the helm of the fashion industry in years to come?
[LEAD IMAGE: Romy Pollard – Modeconnect]