Press reviews

The Independent 9 June 2013

Graduate Fashion Week 2013: In a class of their own

The creative pizazz of our homegrown talent is the subject of worldwide acclaim. Among the good, the bad and the ugly of Graduate Fashion Week 2013, Rebecca Gonsalves pinpoints the design stars of the future.

In the first of the recent round of graduate events, the show by students from the University of Westminster set the bar remarkably high. Although ostensibly a bachelor’s degree, the university offers students a sandwich year of internships at such leading design houses as Lanvin, Balenciaga and Tom Ford that equips them with the skills and confidence to go straight into industry. Andrew Groves, course director at Westminster, thinks that this experience can only be a good thing.

“The industry experience our students gain is vital. They grow as designers and as individuals and come back more focused about where they fit into the industry and the amount of hard work that is needed. They get to see how many people are involved in the process of creating a collection and where they might fit into that world after graduation.”

The designs of Westminster students were indeed remarkably assured. Standouts included Lisa Clayton, whose adept construction techniques ensured her multiple textile creations were given a sculptural quality while Philli Wood’s use of trompe l’oeil-printed jumbo knits gave a new dimension to outerwear.

Riffing on the importance of the fundamental techniques of dressmaking, James Pawson’s pattern-cutting inspired collection was witty and well-presented. In an industry obsessed with the now and the new, the next step for these fledgling designers will be of great interest. Many will face a choice between setting up their own label or cutting their teeth in the studio of an established name.

Since graduating from Westminster’s BA course last year, both Ashley Williams and Claire Barrow have joined the Fashion East stable of emerging talents, showing their autumn/winter 2013 collections on schedule at February’s London Fashion Week. Has their rapid – and well-publicised – solo progression been an inspiration to the current crop of students?

Groves believes so, although he assures me: “All our students are fully aware of how hard setting up on your own can be. But they also know how much support there is for new designers that have something exciting to say.” Indeed, London fashion is a fertile breeding ground for the exciting and the emerging, thanks to sponsorship initiatives funded by industry heavyweights such as Topshop, Mulberry and LVMH and the work of the British Fashion Council.

Compared with, say, Milan fashion week, dominated by huge household names with little or no young talent emerging in the past 20 years, there is a much more egalitarian spirit in the English capital, reinforced by the excellent reputation of its design schools.

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