I always look forward to the Northumbria University BA fashion degree show for two reasons. One, because it’s always effing good – the innovation, technique and creativity on display is second to pretty much nobody at Graduate Fashion Week. Secondly, I studied at the university, so this review might seem like a big fat plate of bias – I assure you, though, that it isn’t.
Nestled on the front row in between Style Savage Steve and the ever wonderful Hilary Alexander (who bopped, sketched and scribbled her way through the show) I was a little concerned that my big lens (baaaooowappp) might block the view of either of these fashion journalists. Neither said anything though, so I think I got away with it…
Opening the show with an explosion of glam-rock-meets-Elvis-meets-Lady-Gaga, Naomi New presented a very polished micro-collection featuring exaggerated shoulders of leather, spikes and studs, and horse-hair tails. Models strutted back and forth with real sex appeal and the quality of Naomi’s craftsmanship looked, from what I could see, incredible.
The key theme in this year’s show was digital prints, and it’s a testament to the late, great Alexander McQueen’s legacy that this is such a mainstay on graduate catwalks. Faye Chamberlain’s was the most striking of collections, owing to its wild neon prints reminiscent of MIA’s Kala album cover, and blingy embellishment. Short, short dresses with spikey hips challenged the traditional constraints of the female form.
Further print patrons included the work of Sophie Dee and Ludmila Maida. Sophie Dee presented a feminine, playful collection of vibrant prints, micro shorts and bubble skirts, accessorised with childlike objects such as candy floss and helium balloons, harping back to the glory days of the seaside. Ludmila Maida’s collection was a slightly more mature one, with elegant maxi dresses in neon, gathered into sections to create flattering asymmetrical shapes.
Gemma Williamson also hopped on the print train, with her slightly eery collection making use of religious iconography.
Menswear was, as always, well represented; one of the few menswear graduates to win the prestigious Gold Award in recent years was a Northumbria student. Sara Wilson set the standard with a mixture of soft tailoring and Japanese influence – loose fitting blazers were teamed with skinny trousers and shorts, while snood-like pieces of material attempted to cover the face, giving each outfit a martial-art feel.
Louise Dickinson’s inspired outfits seemed to draw influence from historical Britain and tradition in general. An oversized Barbour-style jacket here and a triangular-shaped cape printed with a vintage map there made for a intriguing and genuinely unique collection.
But it was Caroline Rowland’s eccentric tailoring that captured my imagination the most. A bit Sebastian Flyte, a bit Dries Van Noten, it was the perfect mix of traditional tailoring and quirky design flair. Ill-fitting gingham shirts (I presume on purpose) were teamed with tucked-in waistcoats and patterned bow ties, while cropped blazers looked great with high-waisted tailored trousers. You can never go wrong with a sock suspender either.
And now for a quick round of some of my favourite womesnwear collections. It’ll have to be a whistle-stop tour because I have 3 other shows to write up and I’m having my hair cut in an hour.
One of my absolute faves was Julie Perry, who combined body-concious all-in-ones with Meccano-style leather creations. These outfits had real sex appeal – not one for the supermarket but definitely for the fierce fashionista who isn’t afraid to show off. Julie’s pieces were architectural in shape and hinted at a little bit of kink.
Holly Farrar’s super sleek collection toyed with masculine tailoring and models had structured shoulders with outfits tapering downwards. Defined v-necklines gave the outfits an overall geometric look and were very sophisticated indeed.
These gemoetric-slash-linear-slash-structured themes ran through many a collection, executed most effectively by Stephanie Price. Her futuristic collection married materials with aesthetic appeal with flattering shapes – mesh covered body-concious shift dresses had a dazzling effect, as did this dynamic jacket…
Closing the show was Victoria Kirby, who had clearly been selected for her fresh innovation and coutourier-like craftsmanship. Elegant floor sweepers made from silk and velour had the appearance of two dresses in one, cut and merged down the middle. Exaggerating the shoulders and synching in at the waist created beautiful feminine shapes that flattered.
All photography by Matt Bramford
Barbour, Bow Ties, Caroline Rowland, Digital Prints, Dries Van Noten, Elvis, Faye Chamberlain, Gemma Williamson, Gold Award, Graduate Fashion Week 2010, Hilary Alexander, Holly Farrar, japanese, Julie Perry, Kala, Lady Gaga, Louise Dickinson, Ludmila Maida, McQueen, Meccano, menswear, MIA, Naomi New, Neon, Newcastle, Northumbria, print, Sara Wilson, Sebastian Flyte, Sophie Dee, Stephanie Price, Style Savage, Victoria Kirby, Womenswear
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