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Claravalla Blog: June 2016 – GFW & Vivienne Westwood


claravalla gfw entranceGFW has closed its doors again for another year, this time marking it’s 25th consecutive year. Spread over four days on the famous Brick Lane it has become a staging ground for young designers throughout the UK and now internationally.

Travelling from Chelsea London, where I have called home for the last 3 years getting to the event was rather easy, if you love rain and walking in heels for 20 minutes. Okay so getting to the event did not go as smoothly. When we arrived at the event my luck had changed, we were greeted by a polite gentleman on the press desk who gave us some lovely green shiny passes which meant we could access all areas! Or could we? As we entered the event I had this overwhelming feeling of inspiration and desire to design. After taking some snaps me and my charming business partner/ camera man headed into the depths of the unknown, to what might be the next generation of our designers.

claravalla gfwThe final day itself was a mixed feeling. By now the designers had been poked, prodded and scrutinized consistently all week but there was still a sense of excitement as they prepared for the awards show. It was a very interesting experience travelling throughout the building at the sheer diversity between the universities. Our own little game of trying to work out where in the UK a collection came from purely by looking at the designs was great fun and gave a great insight into the different cultures of different parts of the UK.

The students were divided by university with some showing just the portfolio and others the portfolio with the finished design on the mannequin. Walking around the different universities and seeing such inspiration, passion and talent in the designs I was keen to talk to the students and find a little more about the road which lead them to graduate fashion week. This was not a difficult task as most of the students kindly introduced themselves and told me willingly and proudly about their design and thought process behind it.

As I was keenly walking through the aisles taking snaps something caught my eye, this one off unique design it was fabulous! Made from foam and draped on the mannequin beautifully. Such an inspiring garment made with a sheer desire to push the realms of fashion.  The designer of this garment was a young lady from Leeds University, Isabel Fletcher. Speaking with the student about her design process and inspiration you could just feel the passion and drive being thought through our British fashion universities.  Just this encounter made my trip worth it.

claravalla gfw foam students design claravalla gfw foam students portfolio

claravalla gfw john rochaMeeting lots of students from different universities with lots of different stories and challenges to share, I found myself excited and slightly nervous at what I was going to encounter on the catwalk. Making our way the prosecco reception we had a chance to have a look around the backstage and meet some of the models, after convincing the security to let us in as the press pass had been crossed off the list, naughty. I found this part particular rather endearing, the professionalism from everyone backstage and from the students was really just amazing to experience.


As we were leaving this section we were lucky to bump into literally OBE John Rocha, what a nice gentleman he is, such a polite and kind person. Talking to him about the future of fashion and design before getting a picture with him. I left this section feeling inspired and thankful. 

It was time, GfW 25 years’ anniversary catwalk. Being seated was highly entertaining as I was trying desperately to get to the front row, tip for fashion weeks you don’t ask you don’t get. Okay so it wasn’t exactly front row but second too. Every seat had a goodies bag which was designed by Julien Macdonald for tesco, supporting the bags of ethics. This included discounts of associated brads Inc. ASOS.com, boohoo sunglasses, L’Oréal mythic oil shampoo and hair mask, homestore candle and disorder magazine.

Just before the lights dimmed I was informed that we were joined by the inspirational talented dame Vivienne Westwood. As I stared across the catwalk I see  Andreas Kronthaler and his wife Dame Vivienne Westwood. This moment for me was my favorite moment of the whole event. To just see such an idol in the flesh, was all the push and drive one needed to continue with their career in fashion and the arts.

claravalla gfw talk spaceAfter our walk around, we come across a section for speakers from within the fashion industry come to share their experience and thoughts on where they think British fashion is heading. One of the speakers we heard from on the day was a very inspiring gentleman from Marks & Spencer, Simon Colbeck, the general merchandise head of innovation and quality. This was simply fantastic and we really did learn a lot about the past and future of British textiles and the expansion of opportunities within the British fashion industry. If this is something that interests you, we will be doing a one to one interview with Simon in the near future so please feel free to comment or email any questions you have.

As the lights dimmed I was still overwhelmed by excitement and nerves, being in such a driven and talented space was completely priceless. One thing that immediately stood out was the level of design and craftsmanship these designers possessed. They were prepared to go to great lengths in order for their vision to be realised. Some spending up to a month on a single piece of one garment!

The award show itself featured menswear, womenswear and even childrenswear which just shows the scope for GFW and what designers of the future are looking at for inspiration.  

Here are the full list of winners:

claravalla gfw winnerChristopher Bailey Gold Award Presented By Oracle – Hazel Symons (De Montfort)

M&S Womenswear Award – Quivvei Jiang (UCA Epsom)

Debenhams Menswear Award – Caoimhe Savage (Kingston University)

GFW 25th Anniversary TU Scholarship Award – Genevive Devine (Northumbria University)

Matalan Visionary Knitwear Award- Kendall Baker (Nottingham Trent)

George Catwalk To Store Award – George Hollins (Arts University Bournemouth)

N Brown Textile Award – Chloe Jackson (Nottingham Trent)

ICG Accessories Award – Lorn Jean (Edinburgh College Of Art)

claravalla gfw kingston 2David Band Textiles Award – Alice Potts (Norwich University Of The Arts)

Drapers Fashion Publication Award – Emily Reid (Arts University Bournemouth)

New Media Award- Vanessa Cuffy (UCA Epsom)

Very Styling & Creative Direction Award – Mia Edie Roberts (University Of Central Lancashire)

Marketing Award- Nuala Convery (Northumbria University)

Barclays New Business Award – Danielle Reynolds (University Of Brighton)

Vivienne Westwood Ethical Award- Fiona Cartmel (Edinburgh College Of Art)

Oracle Fashion Technology Award- Alex Hughes (Northbrook College Sussex)

Stand Award – Sheffield Hallam University

Little Black Dress Fashion Photography Award – Erika Bowes (Northumbria University)

Boux Avenue Lingerie & Swimwear Award – Betsan Evans(De Montfort)

Karen Millen Portfolio Award – Emily Bunch (University Of Leeds)

Mothercare Childrenswear Award – Sinead Blagbrough (University Of Salford)

claravalla gfw northampton 2The Oracle International Catwalk Competition – Amesh Wijesekera (Academy Of Design, Sri Lanka)

Lipsy Red Carpet Dress Award- Antonia Nae (University Of East London)

Boohoo.com Fashion Innovation Award – Lorn Jean (Edinburgh College Of Art)

Watching the award ceremony was fabuolous, the young designers were very proffessional.

A special moment of recognition was given to the Founders of Graduate Fashion Jeff Banks, Vanessa Denza and John Walford.  We had the pleasure of attending the final day and watching the awards show which were excellent. Notable audience members included Dame Vivienne Westwood and Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey, whom himself won GFW back in 1991.

Speaches were given from people in the industry, and the founders of graduate fashion week. I would advise anyone who is lacking inspiration or direction should find time for such an event. The opportunities out there for British designers is endless. After the endless catwalks of inspiring, crazy designs we came to the winner.

Christopher Bailey Gold Award Presented By Oracle – Hazel Symons (De Montfort)


claravalla gfw westwood 1After the catwalk event had finished I was left satisfied as to what I witnessed, it did not fail to inspire and push the young designers in a positive light. Noticing a lot of people leaving the venue quite swiftly, I decided to wait and try to catch a conversation with the Dame herself Vivienne Westwood. This is one thing I would stress to anyone attending an event, always delay leaving the event with the chance of a picture or even a conversation with anyone who you feel will help push you further in your career. This could be your only chance.

After 15 minutes of waiting patiently I see that the Dame Vivienne Westwood no longer had a crowd around her. This was my opportunity and I grasped it with both hands. Walking over to my idol was like a dream, it did not seem real. I had no idea what I was going to say, I was just hoping I could manage a word. Success I was in the sight of Dame Westwood and in fact talking with her.  Where is British fashion going? What should we expect to see in the next 5 even 10 years from our future designers, me being one of them this was exceptional. She did ask me to pass a message to everyone, design with a story, have a meaning, be yourself. The message ended with Dame westwood asking you all to support her in the fight against climate control. Please look on her website for further information about this.

claravalla gfw westwood 2After leaving the venue walking with the Dame westwood I had never been happier. This event delivered in every aspect and I advise anyone who Is think about attending the event to go.It was a great event and next year if you can make it to the exhibition I thoroughly recommend it. An insight into where the future of fashion is heading.

Make your own future.

Please like and share and keep posted.

Thank you

Siobhan Clare O’Donnell


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Thank you, Claravallaclaravalla gfw leaving

Jacket: Ted Baker blue jacket

Dress: Topshop

Shoes: River island

Watch: DKNY


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