Graduate Fashion Week 2018
I am lucky enough to be a judge at Graduate Fashion week during three days of shows, plus attending all the other shows on Day four. There are usually seven shows each day, featuring seventeen or more collections, each composed of six outfits – meaning that I see a lot of clothes.
Only in London is it possible to see the unity of the entire fashion education system. Throughout the huge exhibition spaces, portfolios and stands cover every aspect of fashion from pattern preparation through to PR and Communications. The industry support ranges from Vivienne Westwood and Tu at Sainsbury’s, alongside Julian McDonald and George at Asda, through to Henry Holland and Clark’s. Pam Hogg, Daniel Lismore, Twiggy, Hilary Alexander, and dozens more names come along to talk, judge or simply support the event masterminded by Vanessa Denza, Jeff Banks and John Wilford twenty-seven years ago. Now in the hands of Martyn Roberts, the event is growing every year with a bigger international presence than ever before.
So, what did these students show and what are they featuring in their collection that points the way forward for the industry?
Well, like Matty Bovan and Richard Quinn, two of the hottest London names around, it was craft, technique and intense workmanship that characterised much of the work. This craftsmanship also encompassed a huge amount of work referencing students cultural and ethnic background. Celebrating one’s background is part of the ethos of many students now, especially when many will return to their homeland to develop fashion brands or stand-alone labels. Embroidery, knitting, braiding, painting, crochet, appliqué, patchwork and textiles, using weaving, printing and texture, were strong. Chinoiserie, Korean culture, Indian heritage as well as Greek and Jamaican influences were just some of the many inspirations.
Gender fluidity too was also referenced as part of this move towards diversity, but with much of it understated and obscuring the lines, rather than an aggressive overstatement. Many collections were shown on a mixture of models, further demonstrating the ease with which the modern wardrobe morphs and adapts for everyone. Many menswear collections used references to the past to emphasise that visions of masculinity have not always been the same. How we choose to live our lives and our view of the world is about us as an individual. This appeared, to this observer at least, to be the key thought behind much of the design, rather than any overarching gender pronouncement.
The ethical and sustainable issues were much in evidence, but again often in a quiet manner. My enquiries revealed back-stories and research underpinning fabrics, dyes and techniques. Subtlety rather than a sledge hammer approach is clearly the way forward for this generation. Inform and make a statement, but there’s no need to shout. The collection that won the Sustainable and Ethical award was created by Aurelie Fontan from the University of Edinburgh. She had grown her own fabrics, but unless you knew it was simply a stunning collection of exquisite pieces.
"In the past, students revelled in the ease of an all-black collection. No longer. Colour, and also pattern, ruled the catwalks with many colour palettes on display.."
The most interesting single trend was the lack of black. In the past, students revelled in the ease of an all-black collection. No longer. Colour, and also pattern, ruled the catwalks with many colour palettes on display, from iced pales through to the richest of darks. Hints of fluro and exciting colour combinations show students are prepared to tackle colour like a chef preparing a new recipe; it’s all about trial and error. Even navy blue seemed to have replaced black. Orange is now a classic accent colour, and even neutrals were used in exciting ways through texture and colour gradations.
It was an amazing and uplifting few days with disco and English country inspirations, swirling natural knitwear or primary blocked synthetic sportswear: never a dull moment.
It’s safe to say we provide the world with our British trained designers from Hong Kong to New York, and from Milan to Paris. In this showing at Graduate Fashion Week it’s also safe to say, there is no sign of this diminishing. Bravo to the graduates of 2018.
Tony Glenville shares his thoughts on fashion and trends in regular articles for our website. Tony is Consultant Creative Director to London College of Fashion (LCF), University of the Arts London. He is Couture Editor for Luxure magazine, and his prolific career in fashion journalism has seen him covering the major fashion scene, haute couture, and London and Paris Fashion Weeks, as well as working with NOWFASHION, Schön!, Antidote, Lash, Narcisse and Renaissance magazines. He is author of the books Top to Toe, a guide to men's grooming and New Icons of Fashion Illustration. He also works closely with Fashion Scout and is a judge at Graduate Fashion Week.
All images: Tony Glenville