GFW2014: Best of Show Womenswear
Every year the ‘Best of…’ show is a chance to recap on the crème de la crème of Graduate Fashion Week ahead of the awards ceremony which reveals the winners of the GFW awards. Up for grabs this year, were scholarships, industry experience and, of course, the grand £10,000 prize from GFW sponsor, George at Asda. Womenswear was particularly strong at this year’s event with over half of the finalists specialising in this area. As the collections came to a close, we were glad that the responsibility of choosing between such talented young designers didn’t lie with us. Ultimately, it was Grace Weller and her intricately embroidered designs which triumphed for womenswear scooping both Best Womenswear Award and the George Gold Award.
Holly Jane Smith from Birmingham City University set the ball rolling at the Best of Graduate Fashion Week 2014 catwalk 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.
Hannah Donkin from Northumbria University’s all-black affair was a compelling, though not enormously innovative investigation into the seen and unseen. Lace and oversized netting covered the models’ faces; their eyes darted out from a single cut-out whilst sheers suspended from rigid metal bars revealed and veiled simultaneously.
Whitewashing the catwalk with her simple sporty designs was Jennifer Nelson from UCA Rochester. As with any monotone collection, the absence of colour focused our attention onto cut and texture. Both were sporty with light netting and sheer polythene styled into petite bomber jackets which crept up the models’ shoulders looking almost like protective shells. She used skin to create unique embellishment with plastic pockets providing a peek-a-boo element to the garments.
Fur, sequins and pictures of hairless cats may sound like a tiring mix to watch but the clashing nature of Camilla Grimes from Manchester School of Art’s collection worked. Pink bomber jackets and poodle skirts were the focal points, making for a crazy couple of minutes that were delightfully kitsch.
Africa was brought to the Old Truman Brewery in the form of safari animal prints by UCA Epsom’s Zahra Yasmine Azam. Her fun designs, including a boombox 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.
The soft baggy shapes and fluffy cerulean fabric of Veronica Peduzzi-Davis from University of East London’s streetwear transformed the models into teddies the size of real life grizzly bears. Carrying rather more cuddly versions embroidered on the fronts of the sweatshirts in their hands, this was a collection designed to bring out the big kid inside all of us. Leather accents and thick braided drawstrings in charcoal grey and black toughened the collection up, providing a more grown-up edge.
Northumbria was up next. Unfurling across dove grey leather jackets and embroidered on baby doll dresses, ferns were Chloe Sanders’ favoured motif.
Her muted palette helped ensure the pattern didn’t clash with the kaleidoscopic prints of her fitted trousers. Simple scarves and neat collars meant this was a collection for subtle and sophisticated ladies.
Kingston University’s Lauren Lake followed with a series of super-sized sheepskin coats in candy floss pink and soft dove grey. Long shearling hair-edged hems were sculpted with overlapping oblique lines over latex dresses in a similar palette.
Clara Daly from UCA Epsom took denim to another level, creating newfangled jackets full of flowers. Each plant was cut out and appliquéd 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, disorderly finishing off boyish shorts and acid wash boiler suits.
Next up was Jayne Acton of the University of Central Lancashire’s rather more peaceful offering of pretty prairie style in soft grey linen and muted, dusty blue florals. Paperbag-waist skirts and fraying edges were the order of the day here and gave the outfits a feel of make-do-and-mend in soft focus.
Also from UCLan, Stephanie Chesworth’s sharp citrus collection explored the relationship between clothes and consumption. Juxtaposed against wooden brick buttons and blocky prints, she took the logo of the Lilt cans seen in the hands of the models and superimposed it onto skirts and coats. Though somewhat less subtle, the voluptuous curves of banana and pineapple accessories provided a compelling contrast to the strict geometric regularity seen in the rectangular prints.
With gauzy fibrous overlays demonstrating how delicate felt can be, Jasmine Sellars from Kingston’s dress collection proved itself to be a daintier affair. Pleated detailing on one side of the dresses created asymmetric puffy shapes that cloaked the models like chrysalises.
Edinburgh College of Art’s award hope came towards the end of the show. A starry night scene emerged before us with Colleen Leitch’s twinkling garments capturing the catwalk. A mysterious, sophisticated figure sleeked her way in front of the crowd as if in a 1920s Jazz club; silver sparkles descending into black spangled sequins on wide-legged trousers and long collared coats.
The Wild West was brought to Leitch’s collection through sequinned cowboy hats and an updated version of a cowhide created through bleaching velvet.
Sportswear can often seem uninspiring, but University of East London student Keishin Hoshiko Barrett’s collection proved once and for all that functionality and fashion can coexist. Creating soft flattering shapes and flowing waterproof sports jackets, his lines were long and languid. Pattern was eye-catching but never over-the-top with geometric shapes arranged in flower formations over blurred translucent fabric. His colour palette was unusually but pleasingly muted for sportswear with peaches and sea blues complimenting creamy lemon yellows.
Coming to the end of the collections, winner Grace Weller from Bath Spa’s work caused us to compulsively move 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; proving Weller to be a worthy winner.
Another UCLanstudent, Rebecca Rimmer’s collection – the last of the lot – revisited the slimming silhouette, printing a variety of cartoonish silhouettes on oversized black garments. The concept may sound perverse but it was executed with gusto – with some pieces even depicting background sceneries – and it proved a massive crowd pleaser. The collection’s brash contrast seemed to comment on the industry’s obsession with size and the unreality of modern day expectations.
Graduate Fashion Week 2014 presented extremely strong womenswear collections as demonstrated by this selection which includes both striking designs as well as commercial relevancy, spanning from couture to streetwear. Grace Weller from Bath Spa University went on to collect both Best Womenswear and George Gold Awards. Grace’s collection was simultaneously innovative, beautiful and relevant. In today’s complex fashion world singling out just one collection is a difficult exercise. Congratulations to all this year’s graduates, we wish them all the best for their fledgling careers.
All images by Charlie Lee Douglas