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UAL Student’s graduation robes for Sir Grayson Perry on display in Edinburgh

A person is adjusting details on a colourful robe on a mannequin in a retail store
  • Written byYana Kasa
  • Published date 11 August 2023
A person is adjusting details on a colourful robe on a mannequin in a retail store
Alternative graduation robes designed by University of Arts London students for Sir Grayson Perry, installed in Jigsaw, Edinburgh - Photo by Kat Smith

Three stunning and alternative graduation robes, worn by Sir Grayson Perry in his role as Chancellor at the University of Arts London (UAL) are on display together for the first time at Jigsaw, Edinburgh from 11-13 August. Designed by UAL Students, the robes showcase the creativity, imagination, and ingenuity of this generation of artists and designers.

UAL first launched its ‘Grayson’s Robes’ competition in 2017, challenging students to create an unconventional alternative to the formal black robes traditionally worn by Chancellors at graduation ceremonies. Winners of the competition worked with Grayson throughout the making process and witnessed their designs celebrated on stage during UAL’s ceremonies.

The robes on display at Jigsaw, Edinburgh were designed and worn in 2017, 2019 and 2023.  Keith Tovey, BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Knitwear, Central Saint Martins, created the first robe for Grayson in 2017. Keith’s design culminated in 500 hours of labour, and the robe was constructed from 31 meters of fabric and 15,000 meters of thread.

The second was designed by Rachele Terrinoni, MA Costume Design for Performance, London College of Fashion, UAL (2019). The robe features a custom-made petticoat, a Swarovski crystal encrusted coat and a hand-stitched ruff, spanning 8 meters of linen. Grayson described himself wearing the robes as a "rogue, transgender Renaissance princeling".

Fresh out of the design studio, 2023 Yinfang Wang’s impressive robe won this year’s competition. A first-year student studying BA Fashion Jewellery at London College of Fashion, Yinfang’s garment is constructed from interlacing hoops of wire and paper. Her design is born from a desire to recycle and focus on sustainability in fashion. Floral motifs are made from recycled bottles and packaging; and Grayson noted that he thought “it was the robe that addressed sustainability in the prettiest way.”

This display also celebrates Sir Grayson Perry’s contribution to UAL and his commitment to the advancement of student’s creative work as he prepares to move on from his 8-year role as UAL Chancellor at the end of 2023. It also coincides with the biggest ever exhibition of Grayson’s work (Smash Hits) at National Galleries Scotland

The display is a collaboration between Jigsaw Foundation and University of the Arts London (UAL). The Jigsaw Foundation is Jigsaw’s charitable organisation dedicated to supporting British Arts and Culture. The Foundation has launched a UK-based programme of initiatives and sponsorships, supporting everyone from undiscovered creatives at the start of their careers to larger national institutions, in order to promote a greater awareness of arts and culture within the community.

"I cherish and respect the trust I was afforded to create this robe. It was an honour to show my ability and to gain the experience of designing Sir Grayson Perry’s graduation gown. It's so gratifying to now see my work and name appear together for this event in Edinburgh and I’ll continue to build upon these incredible experiences throughout the rest of my time studying at UAL."

— Yinfang Wang 2023 Grayson’s Robe designer
“UAL created this competition to support and showcase our students’ incredible creativity, provide them with an opportunity to work with acclaimed artist and Chancellor Sir Grayson Perry. The quality of work we have seen over the last few years is truly a testament to our students and it’s a joy to see three of the robes brought together here at Jigsaw, Edinburgh. It’s amazing for our students to have their work shown in such a way and this supports our commitment to providing our students the opportunities and skills needed to flourish and thrive in the creative industries after they graduate."

— Bunmi Ekundayo UAL spokesperson and facilitator of the Grayson's Robe competition

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