June marks the highlight of the graduate fashion calendar, with universities across the UK presenting their most exciting stars. This year, sustainability took centre stage, as the next generation of talent wrestled with the challenges of a more circular system. Spectacular, inspiring and dynamic, these collections set a heady precedent for the future.
Not your average ‘fashion’ designer, Abbie Stirrup is already causing a riot with her bold, boundary pushing work that merges fashion and performance to powerful effect. Her work involves the human body in a more visceral way, with neon paints playing a central role in the design. ‘I am extremely optimistic that the future of fashion will involve a lot of crazy multi-disciplinary collaborations becoming smarter, more innovative, more about thought than about product,’ she says.
Bianca Saunders’s graduate collection focused on defining black masculinity, and in doing so offered new narratives around identity. Inspired by a range of sources, from Thomas J Price to classic Greek sculpture, her collection played with proportion and form, marrying sportswear with a romantic aesthetic.
Relationships played a central role in Binbin Hu’s graduate collection. The emerging star offered clothes which brought duality to the core design principle, with clothes in simple whites and greys that blended and merged the wearers. Far from gimmicky, the designer offered new perspectives about the purpose of clothes – using them to investigate space and our bodies within the environment.
Emerging menswear talent Brier Holloway worked buttercup yellow across her sculptural collection, but that didn’t distract from her masterful command of 18oz denim; the less obvious star of the show. Working with a range of fades, Holloway showed oversized parkas and shirts, as well as wide-fit trousers.
Having been picked up by the likes of Vogue Runway and Dazed, there’s no doubt that knitwear graduate Christine Tantiwa Kinson is one to watch. For her collection, the talented designer worked across bright shades, working with new technologies to offer lust-worthy and intricate knitwear.
Inspired by the Great Depression, menswear designer Daniel Rynne’s collection deservedly took home the Debenhams Menswear Award at Graduate Fashion Week this year. Working with a colour palette of chalky greens, muddy greens and creams, Rynne presented expertly tailored trousers and oversized duster coats.
As an Ethiopian born in North Korea and raised in Sweden, Feben Vemmenby is a designer who brings a great range of cultural scope to his work. For his final collection, Vemmenby offered an eclectic and electric energy, working with copious amounts of racer red. Sheer panels, disco silhouettes and quirky accessories rendered this designer a must-know name for the future.
Romantic and ethereal, Georgina Rose’s graduate collection took traditional ideas around femininity and offered a nuanced, gentle vision of the modern woman. Sheer nude pieces laden embellished with rose petals and decorated with nude fringing were highlights, and ruffled waist belts added structure to lightweight materials.
Hattie Crowther’s deconstructed collection of brightly coloured pieces married futuristic sportswear with avant-garde design. Oversized knitted snoods, patent pink bunny ears and oversized camo parkas made for a stand out collection, bringing energy and playfulness, as well as beautiful knitwear.
Edinburgh College of Art graduate Halina North was awarded multiple awards at this year’s graduate fashion week, and rightly so. North’s collection used recycled paper and plastic to create her designs, which were ambitious in their scale and construction. Highlights included large swathes of tartan detail and cut-out details across t-shirts. With a collection that was 100% sustainable, North certainly set a high precedent for what can be achieved in a circular fashion model.
‘My work is born from the performance of making itself,’ says RCA graduate Lucy Haugh. The designer started the work for her collection by wrapping a tent around herself, and the organic, textured shape this engendered formed the basis for her menswear designs. As such, billowy silhouettes married with imaginative use of straps and ties formed the crux of her graduate collection, which was evocative of early Craig Green. We can’t wait to see what comes next.
Chinese designer Maria-Xiasi Zhou offered a surreal graduate collection in which copious frills were juxtaposed with off-kilter accessories such as stuffed legs. The result was to submerge audiences in her world, where identity performance and sharp tailoring are immaculately intertwined.
Ruth Williams‘s innovative approach to materials rightly saw her shortlisted for the best Graduate Collection Award and visionary knitwear award at GFW 2017. Highlights of her collection included laser-cut rubber woven into mesh and accessories made from recycled tents. Her collection presented a kind of modern nomad, which evoked the best dystopian elements of Kanye West’s Yeezy collections, coupled with a Qasimi sense of kinship.
Menswear designer Shanice Palmer brought performance to the centre of her collection. Oversized sleeveless puffa jackets in patent black were highlights in a collection that married grime influences with ideas of religious identity. This combination of internal reflection and external energy manifested itself in signature details such as drawstrings and oversized eyelets, coupled with supersize silhouettes.
Another menswear designer to watch, Manchester College of Art graduate Susan Forrest brought bright colour to every element of her collection. Straight-fit printed denim designs with pocket details were shown alongside oversized suede coats with bright red and orange shearling finishing. This was an invitation to enjoy and celebrate new visions of masculinity that were both flamboyant and grungy.
Inspired by the visceral, Verity Germer marries experiments with form and material to create corporeal structures that surprise the wearer. Her work plays with the nuances of the human body; in her juxtapositions of volume she transforms every day items – a sweatshirt, a pair of shorts – into something fresh and exciting.