In just over a week’s time Graduate Fashion Week will arrive in east London, deserting its previous post of Earl’s Court. Founded in 1991, the annual showcase is well established and deservedly retains a heavy presence within the media, but until the Best Of and Awards shows that conclude it, the four-day event is primarily for graduates, their friends, family and potential employers. As of course it should be.
The front row cast of yesterday’s University of Westminster Fashion Design BA show meanwhile, welcomed prominent fashion editors as well as former students Louise Alsop, Claire Barrow and Ashley Williams – each of whom have gone on to present under the Fashion East umbrella – and perhaps questionably, Will Young.
Played out in a car park, with a large queue and operations courtesy of an established PR company, the distinction between university showcase and ‘real’ fashion show was fine, a product perhaps of the industry’s need for speed.
Naturally, favoured looks were found moments later on Instragram and Twitter – both personal and professional accounts – an instant nod of appraisal those in 1991 couldn’t have imagined.
Alexander Muto opened the show with a six-piece menswear collection that merged sportswear with religion, using a combination of lace and water repellent fabrics across monastery appropriate gowns and jackets that wouldn’t look out of place on the sidelines at a five-a-side match.
The addition of a boot bag – branded plainly ‘MUTO’ – together with clean colours and clever fabric selection, hinted at a Christopher Shannon esc extension of traditional menswear. But it was fresh, and remained one of the stronger throughout.
Elsewhere there was an apparent trend amongst the womenswear designers for bold colour neighbouring black. Rachel Raheja’s mix of monochrome checks with green rubber quietly gave thanks to Matisse’s cutouts, while Emma Charles’s huge appliqued ruffles of silk were luxurious, operating in the same way a bright coloured faux fur stole might.
Resisting black, Valeska Collado’s large-scale PVC pastels were thoroughly enjoyable, as was menswear designer Hannah Ficking’s near exclusive use of berry tones; producing a fully metallic army, her coats excelled best with heavy shapes juxtaposing the shine.
Perhaps it was the quality of the fabrics or the orthodox nature of the pieces, but Alex Bottenberg’s looks each felt very established. Cropped denim jackets partnered (extremely) wide leg trousers, while Americana inspired patches reading ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Bottenberg’ highlighted a number of outfits.
That the back end of the newspapers stationed on each bench offered names and contact details – underlined with internships completed – of each student, was a gentle reminder of our cause for being there, and that their introduction to the industry was so slick, will no doubt provide a motivational tool.
Words: Zoe Whitfield