Having flogged myself already at the grown-up LFW, I gave the Graduate version a whirl. Showcasing British talent fresh outta school, there is an energetic and youthful atmosphere, absent at the older sister, who’s more concerned with only the right people getting into the shows, thankyouverymuch. The event, launched in 1991, is a get-together of some fabulous fashion schools around the country; they get fabulous venue and press coverage and the industry can “shop for talent in one place, all paid for by big brand sponsorship, who get lots of advertising space. Win-win all round? I’d say so. And at the Gala Show and Awards Ceremony at the end of the week, handpicked collections are sent down the runway and prizes doles out by super-slebs such as Matthew Williamson, Giles Deacon and Claudia Schiffer, and for the first time, tickets to this normally industry insider-only event were made available to the general riff raff public to rub shoulders and drink complimentary champers with the Vee Eye Pees.
Host Caryn Franklin began the evening with the Fashion Promotion and Media Awards, presented by a whole gaggle of juicy names; Elizabeth Jagger, Amber Le Bon, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Lucy Yeomans, Dylan Jones and Claudia Schiffer. The crowd were responsive and supportive, being made up of large groups of other students and friends of the graduates from each uni. Next, collections were sent down the runway, with great variety of styles represented. Charlotte Simpson, who later won the Zandra Rhodes Catwalk Textiles Award, had some fabulous geometric prints on tunic dresses and leggings in blues, oranges and yellows.
Hannah Taylor from Ravensbourne College presented some fabulous multicoloured knitwear for men with animal masks and pompom wigs – not too dissimilar to another GFW alumni Emma Bell’s colourful designs with animal faces and a cracking sense of humour.
Sarah Benning also served up something with a twinkle in its eye with tee shirts and leggings with drawings of muscles on them in weirdly colours of bottle green, cream and flesh. These were worn with ponchos made of enormous tubelike fibres knitted together.
But winner of the crown jewels, both womenswear collection and River Island Gold Award was Myrto Samou, presented by Richard Bradbury, Matthew Williamson and Giles Deacon. The collection was all in a stone tone shade of cram, with detail on tailoring and structure. Not the most exciting, i thought, but what’s being applauded the loudest right now on the real catwalks. Said Deacon, “We chose the winner of the River Island Womenswear Award because we felt her collection had a very strong signature style. It was a cohesive range which could easily be sold tomorrow.” Fashion is no less an art than it is a business, and the money-making factor plays a massive part in what’s otherwise a creative industry.
I heard tell that in this economic downboom designs are either getting crazy-and exuberant or ultra conservative. Obviously the judging panel back the latter horse, so here’s to next year having some balls!
The afterparty was held at the champagne bar at the venue. Many colours of wine flowed freely and River Island workus Leanne Robinson serenaded the crowd with from atop the DJ booth. Fashion TV crews filmed fahionably dressed peeps having a generally just fablous old time. I met some lovely grad’s from Bath Spa uni, Louise, Helen, Sophie and Sian, and we threw some wild shapes on the floor. Then we hit up a bar and bumped into Calum Harvey, winner of the Textiles Award. Go again next year? Hell yeah.