Halina North

LONDON — Graduate Fashion Week was dominated by politics, in both the tone of the collections on show and the students’ statements.

The five-day event took place this year at East London’s Truman Brewery and showcased the work of students from more than 30 U.K. universities. It wrapped with a Gala Awards Show that highlighted the work of the top 25 students.

London’s latest terrorist attack, which saw eight people die, took place as the showcase was happening, as did the country’s national general election, which ended with a hung Parliament and a weakened Conservative prime minister.

At the start of the showcase, Mark Newton-Jones, the charity’s chairman, was defiant in the face of the terrorist attack. “This is exactly what we should be doing —f carrying on with life,” he said.

Graduates voiced their views about the state of British society with slogans printed all over their garments. Lauren McArthur, a design student from the University of Creative Arts Rochester, printed phrases such as “I’m Lost” on girly, pastel-hued dresses, while Sarah Rafferty from Nottingham Trent University splashed words such as “Woe to the Rich” or “Money Is Power” on oversized pinstripe suits for men.

Irene D'Antonio

Looks by Irene D’Antonio.  Courtesy Photo

“It’s not something that we used to see in the past, but students now realize that you can’t ignore what’s going on around you. At the same time they are all young and creative so the atmosphere is still very positive,” said Martyn Roberts, the event’s creative and managing director.

The biggest winner at the awards was Halina North, a design student from the Edinburgh College of Art, who scooped the Christopher Bailey Gold Award. Norton also won the Swarovski and Hilary Alexander Trailblazer Award.

She impressed the judges with her innovative fabrics that were created using recyclable materials such as paper.

“Sustainability is really important to me, so I custom-made all of the fabrics in my collection. It was a year-long process and a lot of trial and error,” said North, who is looking to work at a luxury fashion house to gain experience before she considers starting her own label.

The judging panel included designers Henry Holland, Ryan Lo, Levi Palmer, Matthew Harding and Holly Fulton.

Oliver Spencer Amy Vanderwel

Amy Vanderwal receives the Tu at Sainsbury’s men’s wear scholarship from Oliver Spencer.  Courtesy Photo

Among the other winners were Irene D’Antonio of the Edinburgh College of Art, who received the women’s wear award sponsored by Marks & Spencer; and Maddie and Ruth Williams, also from the Edinburgh College of Art, who received prizes for textiles and knitwear, respectively.

Tu, Sainsbury’s clothing division, granted two scholarships to students and mentorships by Henry Holland and Oliver Spencer.

Laura Gillings from Bath Spa University received a year-long scholarship for women’s wear alongside mentorship from Holland, while Nothingham Trent University’s AmyVanderwal received the men’s wear scholarship.

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