For GFW 2014, Bath Spa University‘s graduate fashion show demonstrated beautifully the course’s commitment to allure, impeccable finish, deep research and considered development which led to an evidently seamless integration of textiles and garments. When so many collections privilege one over the other, to see such a harmonious equilibrium was refreshing. Fabrics felt designed for the clothes which in turn, made the most of the material. A maturity of taste and a sense of refinement pervaded the pieces.
Bath Spa University’s fashion design course was only established in 2003 but has since gained clout at Graduate Fashion Week and in 2012, graduate, Chloe Jones, won the overall Gold Award. Bath Spa’s fashion strength lies in 3D design. The school’s unique partnership with Bath’s Fashion Museum is a great help to BA Fashion Design students who are able to gain a deep understanding of cultural and social change through access to the museum’s historical archives.
Charles McLelland started proceedings in laid-back style. Demonstrating a minimalism reminiscent of Phoebe Philo at Céline, he cut his carefully constructed textiles into elegant coats and dashed them with a single stripe of primary red or blue. For a finishing touch, he sketched furry felt tip lines onto the outer edges of his delicately asymmetric designs. An isolated heart, printed on the back of a jacket, commented on contemporary confusion over a powerful feeling reduced to a socially shared sign of approval.
Alexander Huck followed with a series of sleek silhouettes figuratively tied to the models’ every curves. He made haberdashery that designers usually hide the focus point of his pieces, breaking exposed zips and eyelet lacework out of their usual function to become adornments. Dark denim was used to dramatic effect, creating crisp boxy pleats and armor-like shoulders. Although the concept supporting his collection was not overly original, its treatment, the silhouettes achieved and the quality of fit were exemplary.
Annabel Moore highlighted her inspiration by styling one model with a shiny mesh mask. Drawing on the sport of fencing, Annabel placed the strict straight lines of her cuts over rows of equally disciplined pleats. She rendered the sport’s traditional protective padding in bold blue and complimented it with a judicious scattering of geometric print. This was workwear for warriors.
Nominated for a GFW award, Keziah Newlove’s collection lived up to high expectations. We particularly admired her handling of a milky palette of purples and yellows over fine gauge knits, rubberised in places and mixed with chunkily woven bright blues and reds. These colours and textures shouldn’t have settled together so well, but Keziah’s expert eye ensured they did. She completed her collection using staple-like tiny silver bars to add detail to her designs and to decorate the frames of sunglasses.
Bath Spa’s final two collections intensified the level of skill on show with especially considered development.
Fiona Bell’s silk suits were beautiful; their material torn up into frayed-edge slimline strips providing texture and creating optical blur. For the next look, the stripy layering this technique created was digitally transposed onto a blazer. The colour palette was pretty with an acid edge.
With the last collection on show, that of Grace Weller, we compulsively moved to the edge of our seats, fighting the impulse to climb onto the catwalk to better scrutinise the layered tube dresses which mixed lace and loops of thread. Intricate embroidery evolved into cobweb-like spindles with clashing fiery reds and oranges sheathed under sophisticated navy chiffon.
Graduate Fashion Week 2014 demonstrated Bath Spa’s graduates training in textile development and garment construction. Fabrics perfectly suited designs down to the last fibre, each flattering and accentuating the other.
All photographs by Charlie Lee Douglas