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Graduate Fashion Week – June 2010 – Trend Round Up


Graduate fashion week has a reputation for producing stunning designer talent, and we are all waiting for the next Alexander McQueen to fly onto the catwalk and stun us. In the past designers such as Stella McCartney, Julian MacDonald, Antonio Baradi, Hussein Chalayan, Christopher Bailey, Stuart Vevers and Owen Gaster have all launched their careers at Graduate Fashion Week. With out this event there would be nothing to give designers the chance to exhibit to the fashion industry as a whole.

Graduate Fashion Week is an unbiased platform for young designer talent to show off their hard work and there is no other show and exhibition like it, except the Smirnoff Fashion Awards in the 1980’s, until 1991 college and university shows were held individually over a 4 week period with no centre.

A number of college heads and directors spotted this problem and went to the fashion industry asking for help setting up an event. This included the organisers of the original Smirnoff event. In 1991 the first Smirnoff Student Fashion Awards was staged at the Business Design Centre, Islington supported by four big names: Four people took up the challenge – Jeff Banks CBE, Caryn Franklin, Vanessa Denza MBE and John Walford. During this time Jeff Banks and Caryn Franklin were hosts on the BBC Clothes Show and with the support of the show the exhibition was instantly given credibility.

Since then the exhibition has gone from strength to strength, in 1992 the exhibition change its name to the Graduate Fashion Week and grown to include stands for illustration and fashion promotion as well as design and marketing. This was all sponsored by the Health Education Authority. By 1993 however the event was left with out a sponsor and relied on universities and colleges to fund their own stands and shows with the help of friendly venue owners and subsidy from private sponsors.

In 1994, to help with costs, Graduate Fashion Week became a certified educational charity and a not for profit organization – all costs are met from sponsorship, ticket sales and stand revenue. In the next few years the event attracted sponsorship from high street giants such as : Esprit, BHS, Topshop and most recently River Island.

River Island has now sponsored GFW for 6 years and it has been announced that this sponsorship is no more. With the show costing in excess of £850,000 and the recession still a problem many are skeptical about there being a new sponsor for the prestigious event. Topshop have already sponsored the event for 4 years and it is doubtful that another Arcadia store will step into the River Island shoes, so we ask; who is next?

Trend Round Up – Graduate Fashion Week


Graduate fashion week is usually recognised for its originality and creative flair. This year, young graduates mixed their creativity with current trends to create a selection of inspired, trend ready collections.


Watch out, elders of England, soon your wardrobes will be raided for any hint of beigey-nude! A dusty light colour scheme, nudes and neutrals featured strongly this year. This gave the proceedings a very classy, chic feeling. These nudes were taken in two directions, a soft, feminine direction and also in a sophisticated, grown up direction. This made many of the collections completely ready to wear. The sophisticated edge to the collections included body con, layering, structure and sexy pencil skirts where as the girly looks included lace, sheer floating fabrics and soft feminine shapes.


Almost every collection included structured garments. An obvious recent trend that has caught on amongst students, most likely because of huge fashion icons such as Lady Gaga and her ridiculous structured outfits.

Structuring was in the form of big angular shoulders, huge puffing skirts and swollen hips. Structure was also added with appliqué from some daring designers.

Sheer Materials

Boobs and bums were everywhere with many designers opting for sheer materials. This was not lewd or smutty but very classy and only a little sexy. This was impressive, young designers handling nudity so carefully and sensitively.

The sheer panels and underwear-like garments have been a recent emerging trend through many prestigious fashion shows and designers including *****at London Fashion Week.

Petalling and Layering

Petal details and layering of fabrics has become very popular recently, replacing ruffles somewhat. This layering includes folded layered fabrics, torn or cut this is consistently featured in collections adding texture and structure.


Leather or leather look trims and garments are becoming increasingly popular. This shows the new graduates’ skills and willingness to experiment with more difficult and more expensive fabrics. The leather look has featured strongly in British trends recently, starting with rockabilly trends and now leaning into nudes and softer colours.

Childhood Themes

Many collections featured playful and childish themes with cute young prints, bows, frills and primary colours. Some collections took this to the point of using childhood toys as a centre of inspiration where as others used primary school uniforms to create their young boyish edge. Many designers used gingham and polka dot prints as well transporting them from the past into the new age with embellishment, structure and exciting cut.

The Orient

Some collections had subtle themes and the orient theme is quiet and understated. With kimono sleeves, wooden block shoes and a strong red and black colour schemes. Many designers used asian prints and beading meaning that some collections looked almost Bollywood while many looked like they were from the steeps of Fuji.


Collections from many of the designers transported us back to the 1950’s and into the kitchens of suburban households. Imagine your stereotypical 50’s housewife – this is what these collections emulated. With wide, bright skirts, cinched waists and chic blouses the 50’s was an undeniable trend. The Epsom UCA show had a very war time theme with many collections portraying the fashion of the 40’s and 50’s perfectly. This girly trend is kitsch and lovable!


Fur has always been a bit of a gray area in fashion and its not until FashionCapital’s February trip to Copenhagen that I was sure about it. After seeing the beauty and elegance that fur can bring to a collection i am all for it, fake or real. The addition of fur trimmings has come about recently adding opulence and drama to a collection, reminiscent of ladies wealthy ladies who lunch. This has been popularised by the love of vintage that has washed over the UK. Fur was used differently in many collections but my favourite use of fur is accentuated shoulders and fur shrugs to add glamour to an outfit. O ne designer took fur further by using what looked like hair extensions to trim a collection – innovative and amazing.

Mixed Fabrics

With so many great fashion courses in Britain and graduates eager to please they are going to more and more extreme lengths with fabrics. Mixing many different textures and materials together makes for an intriguing collection and so many of the collections had brave uses of materials such as mesh, pvc and leather. This versatility shows that the graduates have upped their game from previous years and are totally ready for a career in the fashion industry.


With the underwear outerwear trend gaining popularity its not surprising that sexuality has become a focus in fashion. Many designers used fetish in their collections either as an undertone or boldly, one designer using primary colour restraints and gags on the models! Fetish wear is a little taboo on the street however you can often see ‘goths’ wearing chokers or handcuffs and this is becoming more popular. Another example of a strange fetish undertone was a collection based around a nuns habit. Although this modernised religious outfit was not necessarily intended to be sexual you couldn’t help but have the feeling of a glamorous orgy with over the top crucifixes and sparkles throughout.

Dip Dye

This trend was not a huge one but one or two designers took boho a step further by dip dying their garments. This isn’t essentially a huge trend right now, but we think it’s one to look out for.

Embellishment and Appliqué

One thing that jumps out at you this year was the attention to detail. Embellishment was absolutely stunning with most designers opting for beautiful intricate detail and sparkles. With embellishments like studs and sequins so prominent on the high street and the catwalks it is not a surprise. Applique was used mainly to highlight asymmetricity with in a collection with large folded, sparkling, pleated additions added to the garments. Most designers used embellishment tastefully and artistically with no overly spangly collections to be seen.


Military jackets were everywhere. Sharp clean lines with exaggerated shoulders and tight nipped in waists. The recent rise of the military jacket has been noted through out the fashion industry and is no different here. Another trend to emerge is that of Khaki. Utility style garments with pockets and zips are on the rise with many graduates using a greeny-grey colour palette for their collection – this was another example of leather being used, many of these military stye collections used leather to hammer home harshness. Many of the collections had war time connotations and themes running through with women masculinised through the military styles.


The models, as always were fantastic, earning their place on more prestigious catwalks by working Graduate fashion week. The female models are less skinny and deathly than usual with the wave of alien like features slowly fading out and more natural figures coming in. It was strange therefore that so many designers chose to make the women so androgynous. This is a complete contrast to the 1950’s nipped waists and girly skirts! This emerging trend saw jackets with shoulder pads widening the models before fallings straight over any curves to the thigh to skin tight leggings, cropped tailored cigarette pants and boots. It was a really interesting development and the ability of the designers to create a different more manly figure was excellent.


Flashes of metalic materials were used in dozens of collections, many designers had found this lovely shiny pvc like material and added in small panels and highlights to their pieces. Of course there were exceptions to this rule and sadly a few designers dress their models like they were off to a roller disco. Over all the metallic panels worked splendidly and are expected to carry on working their way through the shops.


A big trend on the graduate catwalks was lace – this was either used for a dark sexy effect or for a girly innocent look. Lace has been all over the high streets and catwalk and is frankly getting a little over done.


By Jemima Daisy

Images by:

Andy Espin, Hayley Kirton, Luke Charles, Hugh OMalley and Chelsea Harris

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