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Ones to watch: the best of Graduate Fashion Week 2016 part 2

16 Jun 2016

Last week was gal-dem’s first trip to Graduate Fashion Week and we really enjoyed discovering the raw talent that the UK’s finest fashion schools have to offer. We expect big things in the future from all the designers who showcased their amazing work, but here are the collections of the graduates that we will be looking out for in particular…


Hagar Merdinger – Istituto MarangoniunspecifiedIMG_6101Hagar Merdinger, graduate of the prestigious school of fashion Istituto Marangoni, brought an innovative update on the traditional houndstooth pattern to the catwalk by expertly layering stiff plastics over soft fabrics, topped off with delicate lazer cut shapes and fur trims.


Sarah Moore – Bath Spa UniversityIMG_6150 IMG_6155 IMG_6149We love it when a designer’s work reflects a cause that they care about, and that’s why Sarah Moore’s graduate collection/environmental campaign caught our eye. The colour palette was kept monochrome to emphasise messages like “THE ENVIRONMENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR EGOTISTICAL NEEDS” emblazoned across chests, and the repetition of the word “ECO” forming patterns on sleeves and trouser panels. Her message about environmental damage is simple enough but it’s an important one all the same, even if all this collection does is just to get us to “THINK”.


Chloe Jackson – Nottingham Trent UniversityIMG_6180 IMG_6183 IMG_6188It’s always great to open a show with something fun that gets the crowd – minds saturated with eight shows-a-day worth of collections – excited and possibly even beaming. As soon as Chloe Jackson’s Minnie mouse-eared, bespectacled beauties hit the runway at the start of the Nottingham Trent graduate show, the audience went from slumped to straight-backed in their chairs, craning their necks to read the text hidden amongst layers of cartoon prints, plastic panels and neon.


Tiffany Ruff – The University of NorthamptonIMG_6265 IMG_6272 IMG_6279BA Footwear and Accessories graduate Tiffany Ruff enchanted the audience with her regal collection of towering burgundy and gold platforms, embellished with oversized tassels and laced with thick rope. Standout pieces include shoes with an ornately carved wooden platform sole, a gold clutch with a door knocker as the fastener, and a suitcase-sized bag-cum-chariot that you’d definitely have trouble claiming as your Ryan Air carry on luggage!


Ramlah Wraich – UCA EpsomIMG_6570 IMG_6574 IMG_6580Ramlah Wraich’s spectacular collection caused the biggest buzz at graduate fashion week not just because of its other-worldly shapes and daring stripes, but because one of the looks formed a giant beanbag which one-by-one the other toy-like models took a nice rest on in the middle of the runway. This chair couture was certainly unexpected and original, and that’s what fashion is all about! It also made sense of why the first model walked out carrying a wooden stool, because I didn’t really see that taking off as this season’s must-have accessory.


Lydia Bolton – Kingston UniversityIMG_6651 IMG_6657 IMG_6653 IMG_6659Lydia Bolton’s graduate collection, entitled “The Girl Who Wore Tracksuit to Prom”, took our favourite loungewear item and added bigger-than-your-head bows, self-branded accessories and opulent ruffles in a palette of sugary sweet pastels and metallics to form an alternative (and more comfy) choice to your standard evening wear.


Hazel Symons – De Montfort University LeicesterIMG_7022 IMG_7013 IMG_7021It came as no surprise when Hazel Symons won the Christopher Bailey Gold Award for her inventive collection comprised of pieces joined with nuts and bolts, rather than the traditional method of sewing. Flicking through her portfolio filled with IKEA-esque illustrated instructions, it became clear that Symons intention was that the wearer can get involved with the pieces by constructing the garments themselves, and mixing and matching to create new styles.


Shradha Rai – UCA Rochester IMG_6694 IMG_6700 IMG_6696The inspiration behind this collection was personal to graduate designer Shradha Rai, specifically to the 2015 earthquake in their home city of Kathmandu, and the environmental and emotional damage it caused. In their description of the collection Rai writes “this concept could be found sensitive and could hold semiotic meanings, however as I grew up in Kathmandu and the identity I carry of being Nepalese, I feel the need to involve this disastrous occurrence”. The jagged pieces, angry reds and photographic prints of the city landscape are juxtaposed with softer angles and pale colours, creating a marriage between destruction and peacefulness.


Rhys Ellis – Birmingham City UniversityIMG_7057 IMG_7058 IMG_7063 IMG_7065As the models fluttered down the runway in the gorgeous Rhys Ellis’ gowns made entirely from what looked to me like manipulated empty Nespresso capsules, they made this serene rattling noise that commanded such a presence. The organic silhouettes breathed a life of their own, moulding over the curves of the body, exaggerated in places, chains of multi-coloured metal discs swishing around the model’s legs.


Wenyue Zhang – Northumbria University NewcastleIMG_6053Zhang’s graduate collection, inspired by the 1993 Chinese film “Farewell My Concubine”, explores the tradition of men playing the part of women in Beijing Opera by amalgamating traditionally feminine elements like pink, lace and ruffles, with oversized silhouettes associated with men’s sportswear, and the traditional Peking Opera headdress. The result is a culture clash that demands to be celebrated.



All photography by Hannah Gooding