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Graduate Fashion Week 2018

Muddy's Amy McCranor, a 2017 fashion design and communication graduate from Birmingham City Uni, checks out the latest collections from this year's brightest Midlands talent.

Photo Credits: Becky Mukerji (from GFW), Hannah Lewin and Pui Si Tang

Another Graduate Fashion Week has come and gone, another cohort of talented and ambitious graduates are released upon a fertile yet tumultuous industry. An industry also famous for its rapid and ever-changing nature, there are marked changes in the wide showcase of institutions – universities have expanded their portfolios and presentations, not to mention several courses (Degree and Master’s) that didn’t exist last year.

These newcomers mainly encompassed the specialized fields of art/creative direction, photography, and some a combination of both. As a sign of the times, and having graduated only last year myself, I can recognise in this the power digital and youth culture has on our goal of being multifaceted – not only in a competitive market, but by our do-it-yourself and ‘hustle’ attitude to our craft. These are also more European attitudes, having already run more eclectic courses for years; London College of Fashion being the only place in the UK offering anything similar on a large scale.

Warwickshire-based Amy McCranor, who graduated last year, modelling an outfit by Cow Vintage on a student fashion shoot. Photo by Mike Ferto.

As a graduate of Birmingham City University, I attended their show in part out of solidarity and friendship, and in part as a critical observer. Undeterred by my familiarity with the designers, I went in with an open mind – and was suitably impressed. By the end of the show, I realised that this year, with changes in staffing and the pathway structure settling in, the collections had been carefully curated; both in amongst themselves, and in the context of the week at large. By favouring classic layering, silhouettes and cuts over outlandish design (which I confess I am partial to), Birmingham has taken an unexpected return to something resembling tradition.

Even collections with strong themes of their own were influenced by the cohesion and signatures of established designers – Birmingham’s Erin Heeks akin to Jeremy Scott at Moschino, Chris Genner to that of Paul Smith. A highlight and crowd-pleaser was Hannah Lewin’s childrenswear – winner of the Mothercare Childrenswear Award – sensitively combining two trends from this year’s graduates: traditional layering and  mark-making.

Hannah Lewin’s award-winning Childrenswear collection, Photo courtesy of School of Fashion and Textiles, Birmingham City University

GFW: Mothercare Childrenswear Award winner Hannah Lewin from Birmingham City University: (above, centre) Photo by Graduate Fashion Week

Quirky animal illustrations embellished shirts and skirts from Pui Si Tang (see below), and prints resembling modern painterly strokes elevated Josephine Goh’s colour palette and Marriyah Hussain’s awe-inducing paper garments.

Photos courtesy of Graduate Fashion Week

Birmingham has always emphasised and encouraged the power of print, often taking inspiration from the city’s architecture and from its many artists that use the format in their practice – however this year, it has impact in its more sparing use.

Amy McCranor models a design by Birmingham City Uni fashion design graduate Beth Hilton, whose latest collection was part of GFW 2018. Photo by Tom Kennedy.

From experience, I know the course’s unabashed love of colour, with some of its strongest work, recent and past, such as 2014 award-winning Holly Jayne Smith, featuring bold colour-ways (see below).

Combining some of its fond features with sophisticated shaping, this year audiences were treated to vibrant yet sensitive collections – and with the calibre of courses outside of the capital growing, this year’s graduates have the support of the Midlands behind them. With ‘Fashion Communication’ becoming a separate degree as of next year (it is currently a final year pathway), I have high hopes for the course following in the vein of other universities, seeing the creativity and potential in its fashion students outside of the strict design trajectory.

Photo courtesy of award-winning Birmingham City fashion design graduate Holly Jayne Smith

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