LONDON — This year’s Graduate Fashion Week was one of the largest events to take place in size and ambitions with more than 5,000 pieces of work on display from 500 students — the majority of whom hailed from outside the U.K.
Graduate Fashion Week is a charity that was founded in 1991 and aims to bring together British and international fashion universities and elevate the creative industries.
“We’ve had more visitors than we’ve ever had. We’ve got 37 U.K. universities and 51 international ones, so we have managed to create a global stage for everyone,” said Mark Newton-Jones, chairman of Graduate Fashion Week.
“We’re trying to bridge the gap between graduates and employers, we’ve introduced a protégé program so everyone up for an award tonight will be mentored by a designer or leader in the industry,” he said.
Hosted in east London’s Old Truman Brewery, the awards ceremony opened with a personal message from British Prime Minister Theresa May. “I am very proud of the U.K.’s fashion industry, some of the most iconic brands and biggest names in the business hail from the U.K. Graduate Fashion Week plays such an important role in the process of nurturing the very best talents.”
The designs drew on a plethora of sources and the overarching theme was postapocalyptic with oversized silhouettes, techno fabrics and bold graphic prints taking center stage.
“It seems depressing, but actually they are thinking in terms of, ‘What is society like beyond bling and the Kardashians and owning stuff?’” said Jeff Banks, the designer and a cofounder of the week. “I can see that students are thinking beyond that, and that’s a great thought. They’re not seduced by greed, and that’s a very pleasant goal for the fashion industry,” he added.
Rebecca Wilson, men’s, women’s and children’s’ wear designer, won the Christopher Bailey Gold Award for her workwear-inspired clothes. She showed off paint-splattered apron dresses, newsboy caps and patchwork knitwear.
“My collection is inspired by Victorian working class clothing and Victorian family portraits. I’m looking at the beauty in the wear and tear of garments,” said Wilson.
Hannah Gibbins scooped the Debenhams Menswear Award. The judges said they were impressed by her use of dyed and textured textiles. Elsewhere, Evelyne Babin took home the Hilary Alexander Trailblazer Award, sponsored by Swarovski. Her pieces were socially and ethically charged. She championed Tanzanian women and arts and crafts with her voluminous floral embellished pieces.
Meanwhile, Aurélie Fontan was presented with three awards for her sci-fi-influenced designs. She won the M&S Womenswear Award, Catwalk Textiles Award and Dame Vivienne Westwood Sustainable and Ethical Award sponsored by Levi’s. She sent upcycled, laser-cut dresses with plastic cable ties down the runway in fashionable rose-gold and black, showing that sustainable fashion can be cutting-edge.
“My collection is very intricate, I grew my own textile for one of the pieces, I really tried to master the raw and recycled materials I was using” Fontan said.
Tu at Sainsbury’s Women’s Wear Scholarship was awarded to Jennifer Healy while their Men’s Wear Scholarship went to Molly Hopwood. Judges on the panel included Richard Quinn, Diane von Furstenberg, Pam Hogg and Dilara Findikoglu.