Fashion’s graduating class of 2020 may have had their final terms cut short because of the coronavirus crisis, but that hasn’t stopped them from completing their creations in lockdown.
Usually, at this time of the year, Graduate Fashion Week would be held in London to celebrate the brightest design, manufacturing, styling, marketing and photography talents from universities around the UK. This year we’ve had to make do with e-portfolio submissions and socially-distanced photography of final collections – but the results are no less impressive and impactful.
Students from Coventry University, Birmingham City, Nottingham Trent, Cardiff, Norwich and Plymouth College of Art make up this year’s ‘best in class’ list – as selected below by The Telegraph’s fashion editors. Elsewhere Central Saint Martins is set to live-stream its graduate fashion show on Wednesday afternoon while London College of Fashion and Royal College of Art will each launch digital portfolios for audiences to view from July.
Here are some of the highlights from what we’ve seen so far – take note of the names, as they might just be the next big thing in British design.
Georgia Lewandowski, Coventry University
BA (Hons) Fashion
Participants between eight and 1- years-old took part in creative workshops organised by Lewandowski at the start of the university year in September, which led to her colourful print designs being applied to sportswear. A paper manipulation activity inspired the unique application of pattern, and the resulting colour palette, she says, reflects “confidence, positivity and enjoyment.”
“The image was photographed at my home, I used a white sheet of fabric attached to a background stand,” she explains of how she had to improvise when her university’s facilities and studios were closed. “Due to Covid-19, I opted to use a mannequin rather than a live model. I decorated the set with coloured card, old sports equipment and second-hand ball pit balls to enhance the sporty feel and mood of my collection and give the garments some context.”
Follow more of Georgia Lewandowski’s work on Instagram @georgiaavil
Erin Doyle, Nottingham Trent University
BA (Hons) Fashion Knitwear Design
The cocooning, cosy silhouettes which Doyle creates when knitting are her USP – her collection ‘Oh, Sweet Nostalgia’ was inspired by her grandparents’ house. Her graduate collection was only partly finished when Nottingham Trent was forced to close its studios on 18th March, but she adapted to working from home and managed to complete her collection, and photographed it by recruiting family members to help.
“I never thought this is how I would be sharing my work, with myself as the model and my brother as my photographer,” she explained of the unique situation. “But you’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got.”
Follow more of Erin Doyle’s work on Instagram @erinmaeknits
Hena Begum, University of Portsmouth
BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles
Begum’s modest collection took inspiration from Islamic architecture, while utilising laser cutting and weaving techniques. The prints and colours featured directly refer to the distinct stain glass window designs which can be found in mosques.
“The idea behind the outfit was to create garments that follow modest wear guidelines but is still experimental,” Begum says.
Follow more of Hena Begum’s work on Instagram @fashionbyhenabegum
Lucas Cross, University of Portsmouth
BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles
Cross’s menswear tailoring collection was inspired by Freshwater West on the Pembrokeshire coastline, and more particularly the plastic which pollutes it. Hand embroidery with fishing wire, buttons made from plastic waste and knotted fishing ropes become textiles, contrasting with the traditional tailoring elements in organic fabrics.
“Freshwater West is a place that means a great deal to me, having watched it being slowly destroyed as the years go by,” Cross explains. “This collection looks back in time to draw from traditional tailoring techniques to create a plastic free collection. This sustainable and natural element is then contrasted with plastic pollution pulled off of the beach.”
Follow more of Lucas Cross’s work on Instagram @Jamesafashion
Anya Sims, Norwich University of the Arts
BA (Hons) Fashion
Sims’s colourful, outfit here, she says, layers four organza outfits together in a comment “on how our overconsumption of fashion could be a result of society’s addiction to seeking escapism and fantasy through fashion.”
“Prior to lockdown, I was fortunate enough to complete a photoshoot of the first outfit I had made,” she explains of how the coronavirus crisis meant she had to finish her creative degree “through my laptop and without the class of 2020 around me to celebrate with”.
“The shoot took place within one of the university’s art studios which at that point had been deserted by students who were quickly travelling home to their families. Just three days after this shoot, the university closed its doors indefinitely.”
Follow more of Anya Sims’s work on Instagram @anya_sims_fashion
Kenzi Laird, Heriot-Watt University
BA (Hons) Fashion
Laird’s graduating image, of her Picasso-inspired embroidered jacket abandoned and flopped over a bench, feels particularly poignant. The class of 2020 had designed their collections with the intention of seeing them worn and brought to life in a celebratory catwalk show – a valuable opportunity which can show their skills to future employers.
“The photograph was taken in my garden at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown,” Laird explains. “The concept behind the image was to emphasise the fact that I was meant to have a photo shoot with a model wearing the outfit but instead had to improvise the best way I could. The fact that the outfit is resting on a bench as if someone would if they had worn it highlights one of the struggles as a design student of the class of 2020 is going through – not being able to have the desired photoshoot for our portfolios.”
Follow more of Kenzi Laird’s work on Instagram @kenzilaird
Khurram Salahuddin, Cardiff University
BA (Hons) Fashion Design
Salahuddin’s vibrant collection riffs on the incredible patterns and colours found on Pakistan’s decorated jingle trucks. “The rich and diverse traditions of my culture serve as inspirations for my collections,” he explains.
Staying in halls at Cardiff university, Salahuddin and a friend were able to take photographs of his final collection in the grounds. “In a time of isolation and living in my student halls in Cardiff, it was very difficult to do an outdoor shoot,” he explains. “However, we stayed close to the halls and my student friend Sach Malsha also living in the same halls agreed to model for me. We were lucky with the weather and also with the student block being located right by the River Taff.”
Follow more of Khurram Salahuddin’s work on Instagram @Salahuddin.khurram
Scarlett Gapp, University of Portsmouth
BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles Design
Gapp’s three-outfit collection challenges typical sportswear textiles and upcycles sports equipment to make a new statement. Materials were sourced from charity shops, and friends and family, as well as donated by local sports clubs. Dismantled footballs are sewn together with astroturf panels to develop a completely innovative silhouette.
“My collection was shot in an empty skate-park centered with a miniature trampoline, with the motion shot giving the garments energy,” Gapp explains.
Follow more of Scarlett Gapp’s work on Instagram @skattygapp
River Smith, Plymouth College of Art
BA (Hons) Fashion
Smith was inspired by vintage imagery of men in suits reading newspapers and created his own newsprint print, which can be seen in a panel on this textural jacket. He describes his collection as “reconstructing archetypal articles of men’s fashion.”
“This photograph was taken in my garden by my sister a couple weeks into lockdown,” he says of how he managed to complete his collection at home. “With this being my first completed outfit, I was excited to get some images of it on a model. Unfortunately it is not the photo shoot I had planned, as it was taking in front of the garage, and with myself wearing it. However, it encouraged me to look at my collection in a different way.”
Follow more of River Smith’s work on Instagram @hesnosaint