Graduate Fashion Week's winning students


HELP AT HAND: Graduate Fashion Week, the British charity that supports design students, is re-branding as Graduate Fashion Foundation, and has named ambassadors for the first time. Holly Fulton, Henry Holland and Julien Macdonald are among the ambassadors as well as the London publicist Mandi Lennard, singer Alesha Dixon and university professor Caryn Franklin.

The organization said it was re-branding in order to highlight its work on initiatives with students on a yearlong basis. The ambassadors will mentor students and promote the charity’s initiatives and join the charity’s patrons, Christopher Bailey, Victoria Beckham, Nick Knight and Vivienne Westwood.

“When I talk to sponsors or potential contributors they immediately think of Graduate Fashion Week as the show we put on every June, so the change of name will help make our mission clearer,” said Mark Newton-Jones, the institution’s chairman.

Fulton, who has opted out of the September show calendar in order to work on collaborative projects and reconsider the structure of her eponymous label, has taught fashion before.

She said her students tend to come to her to deal with creative blocks after their graduate collections, “which seems like a peak they can’t surpass, so I want to be honest about my own story, explain that things don’t always go right and you have to be able to deal with criticism,” she said.

The charity has also announced a new bursary scheme, which will see 35 scholarships being given out to final-year students from universities across the U.K. to help them with their final year project. The initiative will launch next year with the aim of growing exponentially in the future.

Earlier this week, the charity hosted its annual fashion show at the Houses of Parliament, showcasing the winning collections from its 2016 showcase in June.

Participants included Hazel Symons of De Montfort University, who won the Christopher Bailey Gold Award. She stood out for her seamless silhouettes and prints made to resemble toile. Caoimhe Savage won the Debenhams men’s wear award for her oversized, utilitarian aesthetic, while George Hollins, of Arts University Bournemout, focused on texture.

Nigel Lugg, chairman of the U.K. fashion and textile association, which sponsors the event, said the industry needs to come together to lobby the government and ensure that leading designers, students and members of the workforce in garment manufacturing continue to have the same opportunities, especially given the volatile economic situation in the country post-Brexit referendum.

Newton-Jones said the post-referendum weak pound should help young designers. “If you are a big corporation relying on exports then you have a reason to be concerned about, but for students producing their work in the U.K. there’s an opportunity as their lines can now be bought for less by international buyers.”

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