The words 'fashion week' are bound to get pulses racing among style aficionados everywhere, but I must admit that for myself there's an added frisson when they are preceded by the word ''graduate'. This might seem a little counterintuitive to some, since Fashion Week is where you can see the biggest names in the industry. Graduate Fashion Week, however, always has the tingle of possibility. There is something uniquely beautiful about witnessing the rise of great talent, and this year, the 26th Graduate Fashion Week, was no exception. Running from 4-7th June, the event showcased the best and brightest designers of tomorrow.
The big winner of the night was, of course, Halina North, who took home the Christopher Bailey Gold Award. The prize, worth £10,000 to the student, and an additional £2000 to their university, is a real mark of esteem. North's womenswear collection was deservedly recognised for its remarkable qualities, including striking silhouettes and an emphasis on sustainable materials. This is a concern being highlighted across the fashion industry right now, with Emma Watson having made efforts to showcase the work of designers creating environmentally conscious collections. Sustainability was also a major theme in Business of Fashion's Voices event last year. The Edinburgh College of Art student incorporated tartan and splashes of scarlet into her dramatic designs constructed from cardboard. It's easy to see why the judges were so impressed with her work, praising her for her capacity to "look beyond the normal confines of how we define fashion".
Edinburgh College of Art were in for a good event all round, as another of their students, Maddie Williams, took home the Catwalk Textiles Award. Williams' designs bring Marie Antoinette into the modern age, with voluminous trousers in tactile, fluffy textures. Her Instagram features some great videos of the models acclimatising to the clothes, capturing the playfulness of the garments. The overall effect is somewhere between Rococo aristocracy and alien creatures, and it is utterly brilliant. Edinburgh students also went home with: the M&S Womenswear Award (Irene D'Antonio); the Visionary Knitwear Award (Ruth Williams); and the Hilary Alexander Trailblazer award (Halina North).
Other notable award winners of the night include: Sheffield Hallam student Hattie Crowther, who took the Asos Design Award; Laura Gillings of Bath Spa and Amy Vandelwel of Nottingham Trent, who won the TU Womenswear and Menswear Scholarships respectively; and Arts University Bournemouth's Daniel Rynne, who earned the Debenhams Menswear Award. For a full list of prizes and winners, see Vogue's comprehensive article here.
Even if you can't make it to Graduate Fashion Week, if you're a fan of fashion outside of the capital why not go out and support your local shows? I was lucky enough to see some of Northumbria's graduate exhibition this year in the Baltic Mill, and there were a variety of spectacular pieces on display. These shows give you an opportunity to get a closer look at the clothes; speak to the designers; and to see what's going on near you. I was particularly struck by Chloe Redmond's work, which featured an oversized aviator jacket adorned with white fur. Having completed internships with Tom Ford, All Saints, and Mary Katrantzou, Chloe is clearly going places in this industry.
Graduate Fashion shows give you a peek into the future. They let you glimpse into the world of tomorrow's style. For that, they are absolutely a must see. Congratulations to all of this year's graduates, I can't wait to see what you do next.