With the likes of Stella McCartney and Christopher Bailey emerging from previous Graduate Fashion Weeks, it’s always one to keep an eye on to spot emerging fashion trends. This year, the economy in Europe is weaving its influence on the catwalk, so it’ll be interesting to see if this transcends beyond Europe to Australia.
Graduate Fashion Week in the UK has demonstrated that austerity is no barrier to creativity. The week-long celebration is at the crossroads of art and commerce, proving how colleges providing fashion courses are working alongside business.
With youth unemployment at around 22.2% in the UK right now, this type of event is set to play a major role in talent strategies for leading retailers. Indeed, it’s no longer simply just fashion – all types of graduate shows and fairs are starting this year. What’s startling about Graduate Fashion Week is the level to which retailers are being attracted.
GFW showcased work from more than 1,000 students from more than 40 establishments around the country, and its organisers are keen to point out that retailers can find more than just the next superstars. Rob Templeman, Chairman of Graduate Fashion Week and former Chief Executive of Debenhams, pointed out that students need to realise there is “a lot more to the fashion industry than being a designer”, and that the week should also serve to raise awareness of all aspects of the fashion industry.
George, the ASDA brand that sponsors the event, is one of those retailers who has historically had close ties with the graduates themselves. Some of last year’s students produced collections with George, including a babywear range and knitwear. They echo the advice of Templeman, recruiting fashion graduates for placements in PR, marketing and visual merchandising, and retaining approximately 60% of them for full-time work.
So, it’s clear that there’s a fresh, young talent pool out there, and there are employers looking to recruit – and seek inspiration. But what of the graduates themselves – how are they tackling the shift towards austerity and cost reduction?
There was a degree of rebellion, with one designer winning a scholarship from Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton after showing graffiti garments with the words “no jobs” and “so much pressure” daubed on them. The economic troubles are clearly taking their toll, and it’s interesting to see how graduates are reflecting their trouble times. On the flipside, colour has been as vivid as ever before, with bright yellows and purples showing a certain optimism. However, the main shift towards puritanism was evident with Erin Hawkes’ satin skirts part of an overall trend towards flashing less flesh.
Indeed, if austerity has had any effect on fashion graduates, it’s the return of so-called ‘puritan’ fashion – covering up, and harking back to the 1950s. Mad Men, anyone?
The awards that are being handed out are an indication of what we will all be wearing three to five years down the line, but overall, the week is a celebration of the amazing talent and creativity of our Fashion Graduates.