Fusing old and young
The fashion industry’s obsession with youth was turned on its head at Arts University Bournemouth’s graduate show. Children and the elderly shared the catwalk with 20-something models, wearing technically excellent designs and basking in the glow of unusual attention. Caryn Franklin, a co-founder of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, started the show, explaining how her organisation and AUB have partnered up to encourage graduates to think outside the body shape box. We were told to watch out for 77-year-old star of Channel 4’s Fabulous Fashionistas, Jean Woods, who strutted down the runway for the very first time at Graduate Fashion Week 2014.
Arts University Bournemouth makes clear to its fashion students the importance of a professionally finished look. Encouraged to think about fit and aesthetics, students carefully chose materials and colours and tested out new fabric fusions. Each of their garments was of their own design and making, resulting in cohesive but time-consuming collections.
Finding seeds embedded in our tickets for AUB’s Graduate Fashion Week show, we had imagined gardening as a possible theme. We were not wrong; floral motifs, each fresh and different, popped up in several collections.
Neha Bhushan’s floral garland headpieces provided an obvious start to the trend, while she graphically built up her structured garments with a digital eye and open mouth print. Orange, a colour currently very popular both on the high street and in many graduate collections, was subtly used by Alice Acreman on flowers which crept up the sides of billowing waistcoats. She earned double points for designing a beautifully feminine and entirely wearable collection.
GFW 2014 AUB’s graduate colour palettes ranged from the subdued mint and cream of Francesca A. Henderson’s cone-shaped ensembles all the way to Kathryn Rogers’ extrovert yellow and red mash-up. Rogers’ transposed her unusual combination of knit and rubber onto textured trousers designed to keep the wearer warm and waterproof. She carried through her knitted detailing onto the tops of transparent boots.
A couple of AUB’s graduates took to the challenge of designing childrenswear and produced stand-out collections. Jenna La Maitre’s designs had attitude with animal ear hoods, fur trims and bold black-and-white striped jeans.
Stomping along to “Little Monster” by Royal Blood, La Maitre’s kids had a mischievous, punk feel. Hattie Lines’ fluorescent carnival collection evoked a different personality; her children were upbeat, skipping down the catwalk in busy tribal prints and feathered headdresses.
As soon as Ross McNaughton’s first outfit stepped onto the catwalk, we knew we were in for an AUB menswear treat. Experimenting with rubber, his oriental-style panelled trousers were complimented with monochrome watercolour-patterned tops. Alice James showcased technical curiosity, pairing plastic-bottomed trousers with ‘action back’ tops. Two unusually-placed suppressions at the high waist allowed the use of additional material, creating a semi-self in the structure of the shirt. This clever menswear cut allowed ease of movement and must have required time and attention to devise.
Laura Dark designed our favoured menswear collection. Her contemporary yet smart designs featured tailored workwear over masculine patterns: nostalgic gin bottle prints fitted on arms and legs tightly for a tattoo sleeve effect. The models carried briefcases for a finishing touch.
Kimberley Stone’s series of exceptionally well made outerwear captivated us. Coats are a male staple at Graduate Fashion Week with women’s cover-ups often left on the side-line.
Stone renovated the trench, adding pleated, winged sleeves on one side. This feminine twist on a classic masculine cut stood out and her restricted palette of grey, black and muted mustard were a breath of fresh air among the acid colours repeatedly seen at GFW.
Runaway brides from Benedicte Fjeldberg came next with a gothic black procession followed by girls in pure white. Netted veils contrasted the colour of the gowns; the darker ones split to thigh-level while lighter dresses were more elegantly cut.
Shawn Yang’s disc collection ended AUB’s GFW show with leather lined circular cut-outs exposing midriffs. A duffel bag piece caught our eye; it wasn’t an accessory but a long top complete with a drawstring neck, confining the model’s throat to the rope ties.
With garments moving in previously unseen ways, AUB graduates’ technical skills were head and shoulders above the rest. Their inclusion of all ages created a fun atmosphere with claps and cheers bounding round the room. Diversity in design and target markets is still lacking in the industry. Thankfully, Arts University Bournemouth’s BA Fashion graduates made a promising start; one we’re sure they’ll take to the next stage in their careers.
All photographs by Charlie Lee Douglas