I’ve not been able to get to as many student shows this year because of the book aka a never ending peaking and troughing graph of writer’s block.  Central Saint Martins’ BA, Middlesex, Westminser and all the shows at Graduate Fashion Week have had to be seen via Catwalking.  Boo hiss.  I’ve also had to lighten up on coverage on MA shows due to a) not making the London College of Fashion MA show back in February (NY snow), b) not getting to investigate portfolios further from the Central Saint Martins and Royal College of Art shows (book + travel).  Alright, I’m all about the excuses but I’m not going to skip out on MA shows altogether, especially in a year where London’s elite fashion schools have experienced the loss of Louise Wilson and the retirement of Wendy Dagworthy.  The pithy journo in me is tempted to say it’s an end of an era.  Except that they leave behind them more than competent teams at both schools and the cycle of students will go on.  Their absence from fashion education will be felt and only time will tell whether we see a discernible difference in the crops of MA students that emerge in the future.  For now, from LCF, CSM and RCA, I’ve picked out a collective group of ten that caught my eye, purely based on surface and instant visceral reaction.  Still, even from just skimming the mere surfaces, you understand why the likes of Wilson and Dagworthy have had such a high rate of success over the years.

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Barbra Kolansinski (London College of Fashion) – You don’t immediately think of Scottish clansmen when you look at Barbra Kolansinski’s collection as your eyes are bombarded with pastels and frou frou loveliness.  Look closer though and Kolansinski has put in a great deal of research into the idea of fabrics as a way of signifying identity, tweaking tartans and crafting a lot of interesting textures to create her own clan uniform.  Kolansinski has looked deep into her own Scottish background to drive this collection and so there’s something endearingly rooted, but she also manages to make sure her tartan antics get a 21st century update.  You certainly wouldn’t need to belong to a particular Scottish clan to want to wear these clothes.

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Eun Kyeng Seo (London College of Fashion) – I like students who have an early drive to start their own thing and can already envision a “brand”.  Eun Kyeng Seo has come up with a name for her directional denim brand – Urban Logo 88.  Denim with a difference is nothing new especially when you look at the likes of Marques Almeida but as they shift and expand their label offerings, Eun Kyeng Seo is looking to focus on denim with a bit of grit and a real identity.  Oversized, frayed at the edges and spliced with check – it’s the baggy jeans and plaid shirt of yesteryear youth combined into new formations and looking incredibly fresh.  Alright, I’m not entirely down with the name but Eun’s vision for denim is definitely something that can be developed in the future into something tangible.

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Anita Hirlekar (Central Saint Martins) – The mix in this year’s group of CSM MA graduates really was a mix.  They didn’t all lean towards one particular aesthetic, discipline or “schtick” but continuing in the trend of recent years, textiles is still reigning supreme at CSM.  Anita Hirlekar’s embroidered explosions were the perfect example.  Inspired by an old embroidery sampler, Hirlekar also looked at the twin artists Gert and Uwe Tobias to create brushstroke-esque embroidery, combining wool yarn and sequins in a mass of layered dashes.  With such heavily built up textures, Hirklekar still manages to retain a sense of femininity as she sought to create a collection that to her is “oddly seductive”.

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Jessica Mort (Central Saint Martins) – Another textiles score!  Jessica Mort’s collection of fringed rugby shirts immediately resonated on a visual level.  What’s not to like?  A preppy classic collides with Native American fringing in a supremely executed collection that you can see playing out in the real world.  Mort takes the simple idea of customisation and employs precise techniques to have those familiar rugby stripes fade away into a mass of fringing and jersey strand weaving.  Apparently, Mary Ellen Mark’s photography was an influence.  The people depicted in her seminal tome Streetwise could easily have been wearing these garments.

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Michael Power (Central Saint Martins) – The L’Oreal Professional Prize – the grand prize of the CSM MA show – went to Michael Power.  I couldn’t pick an out-and-out winner from the show but Power – by name and nature- certainly impressed with his distorted silhouettes adorned with trapped winding tubes of beading, drawing geometric lines on stark black shift dresses.  It’s easy to make sense of the tribalistic, cult-like and insane vibes you get from the collection when you learn that Power looked at kachina dolls of the Hopi people in Northeast Arizona, Juggalo gang subculture and Art Brut champion Jean Debuffet.  You don’t necessarily need those references to understand the almost forceful nature of Power’s work.

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Serena Gili (Central Saint Martins) – I instantly recalled Serena Gili’s BA collection when I saw her MA collection.  Turns out she had developed the Elizabethan-inspired, fibreglass egg skirted BA collection further and inspired by darker imagery, her MA collection has similar silhouette ideas to her BA, but with a different aesthetic outcome.  Punk and S&M inform her collection this time round and so instead of gleaming with 16th century gold and stiff with Elizabethan ruffles, Gili’s collection is now ripped and dipped in kinky black PVC and latex.  I love the contrast of the stiff skirt structures, once again made out of fibreglass, with the intricate chevron-striped bugle beading, unravelling into strands.  Gili has taken her fashion knitwear expertise and combined soft mohair knit with the beading to further strengthen that punk holey jumper reference.

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Ge Bai (Royal College of Art) – RCA has had a great success rate in producing high octane knitwear designers.  Xiao Li of last year was memorable with her rubber dipped knits and another Chinese knitwear designer comes forth in 2014.  Ge Bai’s knitwear runs a similar vein to Li’s in that she uses technical prowess (in this case 3D printing) to add an accurate edge to traditional knit techniques.  Bai’s judgement of colour and decoration here though is what catches the eye as simple zig zag knits are contrasted with floral motifs (she puts a new spin on the phrase rose-tinted glasses) in shapes that are have immediate hanger appeal.

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Eva Maria Suviste (Royal College of Art) – There was a real variety of serious surface and textural experiments at the RCA show and I had a tough time narrowing down my faves.  Eva Maria Suviste presented an intriguing way of looking at nuclear weapons testing.  Nevada Test Site, established on 11th January 1951 for the testing of nuclear devices where a fake town of houses and dummies was constructed.  It was called “Doom Town”.  Suviste interpreted grim imagery of this fake town into garments that have been treated with acid, layers of dye and embedded with cryptic numbers and letters constructed out of draped silk strands.  Who knew nuclear bombs testing could finally result in garments that look so luxuriously tactile as models walked by swathed in slippery satins.

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Janni Vepsalainen (Royal College of Art) – Another knitwear gem from RCA.  Janni Vepsalainen wanted her knitwear to drape and fall as fabric does.  She researched indigenous Arctic dress as well as traditional Japanese kimonos to create a culture collision between something minimal and something bold.  Vepsalainen’s ruffle festooned knit dresses moved beautifully on the runway.  When incorporated with pastel abstract patterns, they looked wonderfully expressive and exuberant.  But when rendered in pure white, letting form and texture do all the talking, they looked serene and ethereal.  No surprises then that this collection elicited an instant “I want to wear that!” reaction from my table, when I attended the RCA gala.

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Emma Hardstaff (Royal College of Art) – Do they save the best until last?  Sometimes with student shows, there’s something to be read in the running order of students.  Emma Hardstaff ended the RCA show and definitely left us all on a high as we marvelled at her “exploded silhouettes”.  Or metallic tulle jellyfish, which is what I thought of.  Hardstaff transformed gigantic flat patterns with the use of elastic to create voluminous forms on the body.  So far so Comme.  Except she trapped cracked metallic textures in an array of Quality Street wrapper colours underneath white floating tulle to create these on-body sculptures.  Hardstaff aptly describes them as a “soft extravagance” and as they wafted by you on the runway, you couldn’t help but be in awe of her dedication to her core idea and the technique involved.

I feel a little bad as Hardstaff’s collection, like the other nine listed in this post deserves further investigation.  Still, first looks and glances count for something.  When it’s good, it’s good and that needs no further probing.

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Sources: i-D, Hunger, Another, Rooms Magazine, 1 Granary

Comments (14)

  1. Yvespink says:

    I love the first few photos, the combination is phenomenal.
    http://yvespink.wordpress.com

  2. Yemzi says:

    Nice summaries, very inspirational.
    Feel to start a sketchbook, it has been a year!
    Yemzi x

  3. Fabulous compilation, good luck to each one of them!
    http://shadeofredblog.com

  4. The Minx says:

    Incredible! I’m so happy you had a chance to go through some of the London student collections, even if it was brief it was wonderful! These kinds of posts are some of my favorites from your site 🙂

  5. zaena says:

    Grad collections are so excited. Have been lucky enough to get invites to Graduate Fashion wee this year and I was stunned by most of the collections- jaw droppingly amazing! http://thelaststraggler.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/graduate-fashion-week-2014-and-exciting-blog-news/

  6. Marta Pozzan says:

    The first lookbook is insane, dope colors!

    http://www.itssuperfashion.com

  7. Lauren S says:

    I love Kolansinski’s collection and pieces from Vepsalainen’s, greta use of colour, phototgraphy and textures
    Lauren x
    Britton Loves | Fashion Lifestyle + Photography – http://www.brittonloves.blogspot.co.uk

  8. sasa says:

    Love the colors of the design. So inspiring:)

    http://www.shallwesasa.com

  9. kirsty says:

    oh wow, the first collection is amazing!!!

    http://www.fashionforlunch.net

  10. Sihaam says:

    amazing photos

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