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After two years of not being able to cover it, I've dived straight into Graduate Fashion Week with the kind of rabid gusto that means I've spent the last few days trekking down to Earls Court, soaking up portfolios, judging collections to be put forth to the Gala show tonight and taking one too many selfies with students so that they have ample view of my double (treble?) chin.  I find it much changed for the better.  Yes, Earl's Court's harsh yellow luminous glow puts a dampner on photographing work but the stands have vastly improved in design and the catwalk shows have undergone tighter edits and overall, GFW is still a brilliant collective showcase of fashion courses up and down the country, shedding light on talent that isn't London-college-centric.  

I've still yet to go and look properly at the fashion design portfolios so I've turned my attention to the vast array of fashion communications, promotions, image-making, journalism and brand marketing courses that have really flourished all over the country, producing final year projects that are really fascinating.  There's quite the gamut on show here.  There are photographers and stylists whose work could definitely be honed by magazine commissions.  Some are even already shooting for London indie titles.  There are would-be editors journalists, who are taking matters in to their own hands, by creating magazine/website concepts that could conceivably be brought to reality, if it reached the right people.  There are fashion entrepeneurs who have come up with fullscale businesses, coming up with everything from branding to physical product to promotional ideas.  There are art direction, creative direction, brand management and promotions talent, who are displaying a number of skillsets, which fulfill the less-highlighted career paths within the fashion industry.  As someone who never formally trained in fashion at university level, I have sick fascination with all these budding talents, grappling with how to get their foot into their chosen field of specialism in the industry.  I've cheated the system with the path of blogging, accidentally falling into fashion without much design or intention.  For that, there's something of a guilty pleasure looking at these portfolios.

Still, paths into the industry are thousand-fold, as with most creative/highly competitive fields, but judging by the work seen here, these students have put themselves on good stead to go forth somehow, somewhere… 

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What was clear from the work seen was that there weren't as many digital/web based projects as one might expect and instead, there was a massive upsurging interest in specialist print such as zines and newspapers that don't shy away from specific niches – something that I've been thinking about a lot (see post on Vogue Korea's weighty approach).  

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Work by Fashion and Communication students from Nottingham Trent 

If there are discernible trends in graduate fashion design collections, then the same could almost be said for communications, promotions and branding in both aesthetics and subject matter, judging by this sampling of work from Nottingham Trent University.  A backlash against the brash and the loud resulted in projects that would cover the quieter pleasures in life – a cup of tea, gardening, slow food movement – reflecting general public interests as well as fashion's desire to branch out beyond its garment remit into overall lifestyle.  The aesthetics of art direction are similarly quiet, gentle and subtle.  Put it down the the power of the quiet, as expounded by Susan Cain.  

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At Northumbria University, there were projects by Fashion Marketing students that bordered on twee for some, but still skewed on the right side of charming.  There'd be much interest in Abigail Metcalfe's Now & Then project, presenting Yorkshire in illustrated and humorous form, asserting some people's belief that Yorkshire could/should be a separate country away from the UK.  

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More beards, rustic life and salt-of-the-earth aesthetics from Georgie Wordley who came up with a Man-about-Tea book, promotiong afternoon tea taken by rugged men.  

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Victoria Wilbraham picked up retailer interest with her lifestyle concept brand – Fable, purveyor of quirky printed wallpapers, ceramics and interior furnishing fabrics as well as clothing.  Everything was extremely well-considered and looked utterly convincing as a brand that could exist in today's marketplace.    

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Same goes for Taberou, a Japanese wabi sabi-esque brand conceived by Ayu Leung, blending food and clothing together by creating fruit-based prints and creating promotional material that sees these two once-separate fields converge in a way that is relevant today.  

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On the Fashion Communications course, Elizabeth Champ presents a beauty trend report that piques the interest of even most nonplussed of beauty enthusiasts like myself.  Colours and textures play into this evocative image-based trend project.  

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The most exciting project I found at Northumbria was definitely twin sisters Kathryn and Megan Purves' joint project, presenting an art dirction agency with very defined aesthetics.  ACII looks and feels like a living and breathing creative agency.  It says it thrives on experimentation using the latest ideas and developments in design and technlogy.  I love the way they've presented their aethetic code and without seeing any concrete work for real clients, it's still easy to see how they could work their magic on a brand.  

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At the University of Central Lancashire or UCLAN for short, their Brand Management students presented projects which were thoroughly relevant for existing brands.  Someone from ASOS should look up Chloe Proud for ideas to bring about an ASOS physical store, should the opportunity arise.  Same goes for Gabriella Sofia Lo Conte, who isn't necessarily presenting innovation for her Topshop project but looks like someone who understand the brand thoroughly.  

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UCLAN has set up a new course in Fashion Entrepeneurship and the first batch of students have come through.  Lucy Wheatley's concept for a fashion brand Urban Alchemy was thorough engaging.  Using fashion, garments highlight issues that plague the world – famine, water shortage, child labour – by creating digital prints themed around these issues and then plugging back profits into the relevant charity causes.  It's an interesting evolution of fashion activism in the 21st century, that is more subtle and more design-led than the traditional slogan t-shirt.  

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At Salford University, the Styling Image-Making students were for me, presenting some of the most personal and emotive work at GFW.  A lot of the photography and styling seen here is rooted in bygone nostalgia of Corinne Day as well as more contemporary dreamer grit photographers like Lina Scheynius or on another flipside, the humorous reality-based work of Martin Parr.  That's not to take anything away from the twenty-something students.  This is the kind of work that feels the most relevant and emotive for the Tumblr-pondering generation and doesn't seem to want to stop anytime soon.  It's no surprise that many have or are interning at noted publications and are actively making their mark.  

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Cara Peeney>>

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Vicky Olschak>>

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Ian Robert Slater>> 

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At Ravensbourne, there were a few styling talents to be seen but on a personal taste level, Hannah Bowcutt's work stuck out for me.  It's hard for me to resist a girl shrine moodboard or a pastel-hued editorial. 

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Rebecca Chambers' presentation of a magazine called Annie Online, aimed at creatively-led 14-16 year olds, has definitely got legs for me as a potential real online publication.  I love the Memphis Group-esque art direction and the idea that this much maligned market (well pre-Rookie anyway…) could have some diversity in terms of content.  It will be actively online in a few weeks so I'll report back then…   

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On the fashion journalism side, UCA Epsom continues to punch their weight with the 11th issue of Segue, a combined magazine of contributions from all Fashion Journalism graduates.  Segue will soon be available on the iPad and having previewed the app, it's definitely not your usual magazine-to-iPad bore-off format, which so many mainstream titles seem to fall into the trap of.  The articles are funny, daring and relevant, drawing you in with an array of topics from fried chicken (how will I ever be able to write a post on fried chicken on Style Bubble and get away with it eh?) to more hard-hitting issues such as the brave question that I sometimes ask – why do fashion brands continue after their namesake has died and why don't the brands get killed off?  Elina Eronen's article concludes with "If you were in charge of Chanel, would you kill it off?  Should you?  Could you?" – a question that no magazine would dare ask.  Chanel may be a poor example because of its relevant brand legacy but the pervasive culture to revive moribund brands from the past is an issue in fahsion that really needs reconsideration.  Further into the issue, Jemma Lamble sums up eclectic with biting-humour - "Eclectic: An adjective used by artsy, liberal journalist types, which has become an easy and non-original way of describing someone that is a little different.  It often sugar coats something that is really just something of terrible taste."  Guilty as charged.  Oh well, at least I can hold my hands up and admit it.  Yay, eclectic me… 

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UCA Epsom's Fashion Promotion & Imaging students also impressed with a quiet and tight edit of students that really deserve to be working in the industry immediately with the level of professionalism displayed.  Art director Aaro Murphy alongside a few other graduates put together this pristine and wonderful bound catalogue for this year's students.  His own art direction work has a stark aesthetic, without being too cold or detached.  

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Saorla Houston's final project – a publication called Lip – which reads like a younger and more leftfield version of The Gentlewoman was also beautifully laid out with its visuals and text.  

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Photography wise, Nikola Lamburov shows promise with his menswear-focused photography, combining set design and props in situ for a compelling narrative.  

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Natasha Mann and her emotive portraiture was also lovely to see, again riding along a gentle aesthetic wave, which was particularly strong in this year's set of graduates.   

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The final page in the UCA Epsom Fashion Promotion and Imaging book is a lovely anecdote by photographer Jonathan Hallem.  It illustrates how many accidents the creative industry in general can occur.  It's not disheartening to think that a certain amount of luck needs to be on your side when entering the fashion industry.  Speaking as a fellow accidental fashion occurence, rather than sticking to a pre-planned, pre-meditated path, it seems much better to go for maximal experience and see where you might end up… there after.  

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Comments (18)

  1. Meital says:

    nice photos!
    lovely creations
    Meital from Très Jolie fashion blog

  2. Louise says:

    The work of the students is so amazing! I especially love that of Hannah Bowcutt <3 Thanks for a wonderful post!
    http://www.watchoutworldfashion.blogspot.com

  3. Maggie says:

    So glad you covered this, very interesting and inspiring.
    From http://www.maggiefinejewelry.com

  4. WTNT says:

    Very cool post. Always great to hear about new talent.
    - Wear This Not That – wearthisnotthat.me -

  5. milex says:

    Dear Susie, I don’t know how you do it all but you are amazing.
    We should go for holiday together :)

  6. Ceri says:

    So much creative talent! I kind of wish I was a bit younger and could go back to uni to do one of these amazing courses.

  7. Locket says:

    Shame you did not stop to see the first set of graduates of fashion marketing from the Winchester school of art. Good journalists should always look at the ‘new’, not the expected….Epson, n.trent, Northumbria…….!!!

  8. susie_bubble says:

    I’m sorry you feel that way but I did in fact stop by the fashion marketing stand yesterday at Winchester (should have also done fashion and design but I didn’t have time to do that) and didn’t find any projects that I personally thought were interesting… and in any case, the round-up had already been done.

  9. susie_bubble says:

    More to the point, in the scheme of things – what OTHER media outlet actually rounds up the promotion/media/comms projects at GFW other than perhaps WGSN (subscribers only). I did my best to see everything but i am just one person with limited time… and there’s a lot of ground to cover at GFW, where the fashion design students are primarily the main focus.
    As for being a good journalist looking for the new – well, to the majority of the industry, all of this IS new… are any of these individuals industry household names yet?

  10. locket says:

    I think our course rocks!

  11. Great idea to profile all the other people working in the industry inc indie journos like myself- My fave was Geist magazine made by UCA Rochester. Shame I didn’t get to take a selfie with you but did spot u in the international show; http://thelaststraggler.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/graduate-fashion-week-international-show/.
    I’m still obsessed with design due to my lack of talent in this area. Glad u made GFW this time as it is AMAZING.

  12. Shug Avery says:

    As a fashion outsider but a lover of this industry, I find your post very insightful because it does not only cover designer students. For me it is an eye opener. Sometimes we totally forget that in fashion you have other areas. I was particularly interested in Chloe Proud project about turning ASOS into a physical shop and obviously about the work of journalism students. Would like to read the Segue issue to made me a proper idea of the magazine.
    By the way speaking of magazine I REALLY enjoyed your post on Vogue Korea. When I went to Seoul I bought myself some of their fashion magazines including their Vogue and found their approach to fashion absolutely intriguing. From what I understood (I do read a little bit of korean eventhough my level is kind of poor) they do love to see it as a whole, by that I mean they are able to connect it to everything. Maybe that is why you found such a variety of topics in their Vogue. Oh and another thing which can seem insignificant but korean usually buy magazines in bookshops instead of newspaper kiosks. For this reason I do think that they value magazines as much as books.
    Thank you for your always sharped and insightful posts !
    Shug Avery of Incognito
    http://www.thinkincognito-eng.blogspot.com

  13. Vicki says:

    Great coverage of Graduate Fashion Week! Thank you :)
    Vicki x
    http://itsvickiwithani.blogspot.com/

  14. Adam J Piper says:

    Nikola Lamburov will find it funny that you refer to him as a she =P

  15. susie_bubble says:

    Corrected. I didn’t get to meet all the students so read Nikola as Nicola – my bad! x

  16. Greg Norman says:

    Wow! This are really amazing! I would like to have some of these collection and have them posted in my blog as well. Keep it up!

  17. alex says:

    Really great to see post about a different array of work.

  18. Ayu Leung says:

    Hi Susie,
    Thank you for mentioned my works in, it means a lot to me^^

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