Cultural references abound at UCA Epsom

University for the Creative Arts at Epsom has a heritage of over 150 years experience in teaching art and design. With a very strong fashion journalism course – one of the first in the country – UCA Epsom fashion students are not afraid of cultural references. This year’s show was loaded with them.

Not deviating from their inspirations, some BA Fashion graduates transformed artists’ work into clothes while others referenced circus costumes. UCA Epsom’s soundtrack was well chosen; each song clearly indicating the theme of the collection to come. Some were utterly enjoyable.

Artist, Mark Rothko, inspired UCA Epsom’s Imogen Bowman’s textured collection, which saw Rothko-style lines displayed across frayed panels. A distinctive use of light and heavy materials joined in silky utilitarian shapes was seen throughout Bowman’s designs. This collection wasn’t about accentuating the body; it was about beautifully providing practical comfort for women.


Africa was brought to the Old Truman Brewery in the form of safari animal prints by Zahra Yasmine Azam. Her fun designs, including a boom box bag, gave the overdone trend a face lift with occasional neon injections. Folding ruffles around platform boot soles, over her traditional African prints, on the top of some of her garments and onto huge hair bows, Azam earned our attention from start to finish.

Clara Daly took denim to another level, creating newfangled jackets full of flowers. Each plant was cut out and appliqued onto different types of denim fabric, either plain with cut-outs or laid over rectangular mesh, giving her designs visual depth. Frays and rips were rife, finishing off boyish shorts and acid wash boiler suits in disorderly fashion.

Poppy Gooderick’s ice queen organza design, fusing glitter with paint to give a cracked concrete look, was striking.


Brooke Grindlay’s knitted tops worn under dungarees were created using the old knotting technique of macramé, uniting rope with nylon and leather to dazzle us.

Many menswear collections featured all sorts of boxy tees. Junaid Nasar sent out a nicely printed collection; his silver foil forming discs across torsos. But menswear graduate, Naomi Ingleby, impressed, fashioning the world’s best dressed football team. The usual kit was updated with stencilled Marienko flower prints in male blues and greens splodged across separates. Pinstriped workwear worked surprisingly well with loose shorts and tees, appearing on blazers and suit trousers. A bulky jacket turned out to be the outerwear version of a football, geometrically quilting the ball’s grooves.

Circus shows meant star-spangled headpieces and ruffled necks for Sarah E. Blake’s fairground mish-mash of pom-pom covered bodysuits.


Several UCA Epsom students are nominated for awards at this year’s Graduate Fashion Week. Some nice techniques were used along with minimal trend make-overs. Inspirations and influences were nicely echoed in many designs. Some proved too hard to shake to move forward creatively.

Cultural referencing is certainly apt for high street and commercial fashion. Although great designers including Galliano and Lacroix have made heavy use of them in the past, today’s competitive high-end market demands more interpretation.

All Photographs by Charlie Lee Douglas



Written by Lauren Sharkey

Lauren Sharkey

Lauren is a 19-year-old freelance writer. She hopes to pursue a career in fashion journalism and can be found blogging at