Hayley Harrison by Alice Hair
Before attending my first Graduate Fashion Week show, I had a little look around the stands to see what would jump out at me without the glitz and glamour of the catwalk. University of Central Lancashire immediately got my attention thanks to full-sized toiles of Xiaoping (Fiona) Hwang‘s intricately pleated clothing on display. I chatted with UCLan lecturer Kate Ball, who gave me her tips of who to look out for on the catwalk. Xiaoping was on her list, as well as Claire Acton‘s hair-inspired silhouettes with oversized perspex hair clips, Talia Golchin who created silhouettes based on old Victorian brothel imagery and Emma Guilfoyle who experimented with large-scale prints of John Major. “It all sounds a bit mad but it’s done in a really innovative way,” assured Kate, and after flipping through student portfolios and seeing amazing use of colour, pattern and a healthy dose of illustration (always good) I was ready for the catwalk show.
Claire Acton opened the show with, well exactly what lecturer Kate Ball described, but much better than I imagined. Fun ideas are great, but fun ideas produced to this standard are amazing. Fabric was turned into strong graphic lines by clever strips cut to look like hair, pinned out of the way of the printed faces peeking underneath. Young, exciting and colourful, Claire was a perfect choice to open the show with, and the use of perspex accessories (which seemed to be everywhere this graduate fashion week) was spot-on. Claire has already been raved about in the press for her impressive collection, as well as a runner-up for the Gold Award. I’m expecting we’ll see more of her brilliantly executed work soon.
For Talia’s collection curvy, illustrated female figures balanced on top of oversized masculine boiler suits or floaty dresses printed with lips and moustaches. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I could appreciate the strength of the concept here: much like something a Vivienne Westwood or Masion Martin Margiela in-the-making would do, it was bold wearable art that challenged what you would expect to see on a catwalk.
Hayley Harrison‘s collection was full of loud, eye-popping colour, but done in an exceptionally smart way. Strong lines, crisp structured white shirts and plastic draped as if it was silk made me want to look, look, and look again at her workmanship. Lecturer Kate Ball summed up this year’s graduates by commenting on how much they all experimented with surface pattern and print, which was evident in the hazy polka-dot neon pattern used for this collection.
I love polka dots- japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, the ‘Princess of Polka Dots‘ uses them in everything, (and has recently collaborated with Louis Vuitton) and while using so many variations in one look could be over-crowded, Hayley Harrison added just enough to each outfit.
Thatcher-ite style seems to be in big favour recently, and graduate Emma Guilfoyle took it to an incredible level with conceptual fashion. The illustrative John Major print made an appearance with an Andy Warhol-like punch, framed by extended version of 80′s power shoulders. Emma made it beautiful with excellent colour combinations such as mint and white or pink and brown tweed sections, adding little touches such as iridescent pailettes or rosettes emblazoned with ‘Vote!’. I also like that she included a matching bag – a massive part of any female politician’s trademark look.
Graduate collection by Emma Guilfoyle
Trompe l’oeil digital prints with a hint of 90′s Versace: Steph Cunningham hit the mark with patterned suits, dresses and separates in an array of rich colours. I loved the gilded frame print used as an edging to the bottom and waist of a skirt or as the lapels on a coat (reminiscent of Mary Katrantzou), as well as the jumble of images that reminded me of a tapestry, echoing the feminine silhouettes perfectly.
Graduate Collection by Steph Cunningham
Xiaoping (Fiona) Huang
For each graduate’s work I saw, I would put a star next to my notes against a few who really impressed me, and Xiaoping Huang was definitely one of them. Already intrigued by the toiles on the UCLan stand and the heads up from a lecturer, I was not prepared for the incredible collection about to come down the catwalk. Incredible – and I mean incredible as Xiaoping has since been awarded the Zandra Rhodes Textiles award for her work – variations of accordion pleats in a ton of primary colours came bounding down the catwalk. Models changed from stiff structures to delicately shrouded forms in Issey Miyake-like softly pleated silks, then to bouncing, walking, jack-in-the boxes.
It was like Xiaoping Huang wasn’t just designing, she was playing with her skills, visually exploring the ways she could stretch her abilities. There was so much to see, and so many details that you could spend forever pouring over. Lecturer Kate Ball told me that Xiaoping is even involved in creating a set of ‘shrinkable furniture‘ and I began to see correlations between her work and Hussein Chalayan‘s famous collapsable, wearable furniture collections.
Seeing how successfully this collection turned out from looking over a teaser toile at the UCLan stand was the perfect end to the show. I cannot wait to see more from Xiaoping Huang, as well as the other graduates from such a talented group. Look out fashion world, there are some super-designers in waiting.
90s, Alice Hair, Andy Warhol, Claire Acton, Earls Court, Emma Guilfoyle, Gold Award, Graduate Fashion Week, Hayley Harrison, illustration, Issey Miyake, John Major, Kate Ball, Louis Vuitton, Maison Martin Margiela, Mary Kantrantzou, shrinkable furniture, Steph Cunningham, Talia Golchin, Textile Award, University of Central Lancashire, Versace, Vivienne Westwood, Xiaoping Huang, Yayoi Kusama, Zandra Rhodes
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