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Graduate Fashion Week 2010: Kingston

The Kingston University Graduate Fashion Week Show, on Monday 7 June, was a riot of naughty knitwear, zesty pastels and suits inspired by the Expenses Scandal…

Written by Nina Joyce

Alice Early, from her graduate work

Kingston University might be a hop, skip and a jump from the capital, but the 2010 fashion graduates aren’t letting a little thing like distance stop them from becoming real contenders in the fashion stakes. I went along to Graduate Fashion Week to find out just what the noise from the suburbs is all about. 

Standing at the front of the cavernous Earl’s Court 2 arena, River Island’s Graduate Fashion Week sings it’s assault on the senses, a holding pen for the designers of the future. Bright lights, pumping music and hundreds of discerning fashion devotees mill around institutes’ stands; groups form and disperse, giggle and buzz through the milieu. ‘I like her shoes, I wonder if that’s a wig, isn’t that Vivienne Westwood?!’

Amongst the activity, a stand glows at the front, a beacon of minimalist beauty: welcome to Kingston. 

Representative students are dressed in clean black t-shirts, hints of their individuality breaking through with a slick of lipstick or a quiff set just-so. White stands display student portfolios. The monochrome serenity of Kingston’s presentation is impressively slick, but I am struck by how, behind the blank white covers, the students’ portfolios come alive with a turn of the page. Illustrations of every kind dance like flickbook figures running across the paper, the minute but ornate versions of the catwalk to come. Pocketing an equally gorgeous guide to the designs to be shown, I’m soon heading off to Kingston’s prime time catwalk slot, seated just in time for the lights to go down. 

Live front row illustration by Lauren Macaulay

Alice Early’s designs make for a grand debut with her exploration into the craft of tailoring; rounded cape shoulders and flowing dresses enhance the silhouette of the slinky models, but leather tops and soft, wearable tailoring on high waisted trousers show Early has been paying attention to the direction of fashion today. Baby blues and smattering of peacock prints add a subtle femininity that appears in drops across Kingston’s show.

Sophie Hudspith’s rose and teal sheer knitwear seems to play under the lights of the catwalk, a fine lattice intricately woven together. Meanwhile, Lucy Hammond takes to the other end of the feminine spectrum with her tongue-in-cheek girl about town sweaters pronouncing ‘I Love Knitting, I’m not Shitting’. If Dennis the Menace can put up with her potty mouth he’d love Hammond’s knit’n’purl girl decked in red and black stripes and oversize, floorlength scarfs inspired by the work of Sonya Rykiel.

Nathalie Tunna showcases some of my favourite designs of the show in cute, round shoulder dresses, completed by a zesty palette of pastels. The lines of her garments have an exactness befitting of Jackie O, but a playfulness is inherent in the accessories as leather trim backpacks and printed holdalls make an appearance.    

For an institute hitting so many marks, it’s odd that 21 year old knitwear Zac Marshall should announce that he likes ‘getting it wrong’. But experimentation and an exploration into deconstruction and altering panelling have left Marshall with a wrong-and-yet-so-right collection of menswear. The audience could barely take their eyes off their cute, hand-knitted creatures adorning the jumpers, but clever twists on tailoring meant Marshall’s clothes are more than just fancy dress costumes.

David Stoneman-Merret’s garments share a sense of hyperactive jumper joy (you know the joy, when you find that amazing jumper with a teddy bear eating a cheeseburger on it in a charity shop for a pound), with pixelated digital prints of flowers and his Nan in a Christmas hat. Her death two years ago inspired an exploration into the garments worn by the elderly and the darker realms of dementia, but David is adamant that his Nan would be jumping for joy too: ‘She would have loved the attention- she’d be telling everyone ‘That’s me on that top!’ I’d have to agree with Nanny Stoneman Merret, appearing on such odd but strangely entrancing garments is an accolade to be proud of. 

Naama Rietti sends models down the catwalk with breathtaking, contorted knitted headwear and matching neck pieces. They twist and come to life as faces emerge from their fabric as a bestial addition to a collection scattered with snakeskin prints and rich blue furs coats.

Angharad Probert’s lust for large scale ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘ style fur creations is evident as models strut to a hypnotic, trendy beat; the large collars and dip-dye effect rustling to the rhythm. Sheepskin and fur headpieces hint at mohicans and transform the catwalk into a beautiful Darwinian manifestation, complete with extra details such as razor sharp teeth adorning leggings. Panelling slits reveal gasps of skin on a knee or shoulder, the armour of the modern warrior woman.

Zheng Zeng mixes up the female shape with contours etched into the patterns, dipping and diving over the curves of the body and ballooning on the shoulders like a superhero. 
The final two showings cross polar opposites in fashion but bring the show to a fantastic finale. First Vivian Wong shows her deconstructed business suits – parts removed, ripped up and replaced. Wong creates entirely new shapes on the body; a lapel is moved and a neckline becomes a triangle, or a collar hangs glibly down. In a comment on the recent MP expenses scandal, Wong is asking her audience what it means to have a rule or a uniform broken down, taken back to the drawing board and reimagined in a new way. Her suits conjure glimpses of the 1980s power woman but distinct lines on the body and luxury greys and browns bring the look up to date.

Finally, Harriet de Roeper closes the show in style, as her moody, androgynous suits are paired with Dr. Martens, in an homage to the anarchy of Lord of the Flies. Flies stamp the exterior of her suits in spludges and splashes, a sense of chaos that jars against the formality of button up collars and polo necks. 

As the last model trails off the catwalk, I’m struck by the maturity inherent in much of Kingston’s work. Whilst fashion inspiration can be tenuous and at times somewhat off the mark, the Surrey fashion gang have certainly been doing something right. Collections express a clear and solid direction. For a class that draws so much inspiration from rebellion against tradition, it would be promising to see the next students amp up the risks a little more, but you can’t complain about a graduate collection that is making this writer head off for some serious talks with her bank manager.


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