At GFW 2014, fashion graduates from the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design showed themselves to be capable surface designers. Concentrating on decoration rather than cut, Birmingham fashion graduates utilised material as a blank canvas base for their prints and embellishments.
Birmingham City University students can graduate with one of three fashion BAs with specialities in Garment Technology, Performance Design or Fashion Accessories. The university houses a variety of specialist equipment, assisting students with the knowledge and skills needed for the working world. Birmingham City University boasts excellent links with international brands including Alexander McQueen and Jimmy Choo.
Holly Jane Smith set the ball rolling at Graduate Fashion Week 2014 with an Egyptian-inspired collection. She placed bands of thick clear plastic over dresses which flounced down into generous folds, creating broad silhouettes, layered in tiers, and accessorised with “top–cap” headgear – caps with exaggerated peaks and tops featuring prints of her designs.
Her outfits played out over a palette of Liquorice Allsorts shades. She contrasted fuchsia pinks with black, white and Nile river blue, dotting the pieces with hieroglyphic patterns featuring the Egyptian eye of Horus.
Menswear was up next, with Lei Wang whose line-up started by ticking off a checklist of tartan prints before digitally deconstructing them, mismatching the lines to kaleidoscopic effect. Thereafter, he ran the two prints alongside one another, plastered over suitcases and picked out on the pockets of rucksacks. He took leggings to new levels, using them in dungarees and creating skin tight knitted trousers layered under longline bomber jackets.
Lucy Orton contrasted fine knit with super-size shapes, swathing one model in an enormous pink woollen t-shirt top. It was soon apparent that the extended t-shirt shape would be a staple of her collection.
She gave velvet plenty of space to show off its supple qualities and a dramatic floor skimming dress made evident its inbuilt metallic sheen. Lines of bright yellow piping and bombers with barely-there quilting brought a sporty feel.
The monochrome of Lucy Helen Crossley’s collection shifted the focus onto mixed textures. Chalky white paint covered black leather creating tree bark-like cracked effect. Whether intentionally or not, white flakes fell to the floor as the pieces went past giving a sense of temporality to the garments. Her knitwear wasn’t spared a coating either, and chunky matte cream scarves draped over the models’ shoulders.
Wai Keung Lam was up next with a feminine-styled menswear collection featuring beiges and charcoal greys offset with red stripes.
He refashioned the classic white shirt with soft draping on one side and deconstructed rough weaving into ropes with knotted ends that swayed as the models moved.
Stephanie Lee’s expertly-shaped collection brought the Birmingham City catwalk show to a close. Colour was mainly kept to coats, with a brilliant green oversized biker jacket layered over a black and white skirt/trousers. Her use of textiles was not entirely innovative, but the sleek and streamlined edges of her oversized coats more than made up for it.
Birmingham Institute of Art and Design presented an enjoyable show that mixed dramatic styles with quieter ones, offering not only different silhouettes and style of fashion but also many approaches to surface designs.
All photographs by Charlie Lee Douglas