By Drusilla Beyfus:
BA Fashion Show 2014 paid homage to the late Professor Louise Wilson OBE. Former BA and MA student Matthew Harding of the fashion label Palmer/Harding formally dedicated the show to her memory. At the conclusion of the runway collections, Professor Jeremy Till, head of Central Saint Martins, paid tribute to the inspiring educator. He alluded to the high expectations that Louise Wilson had for her students. The remark had particular meaning that evening. Few of us who saw the show that had just taken place could of, would of, in any way doubted Louise Wilson’s hopeful stance.
The winners of the L’Oreal Professional Talent Awards by definition have high hopes attached to them. In naming Gracie Wales-Bonner (Fashion Design with Marketing) as the winner of the first prize of £1,500, the judges picked up on a Seventies vibe spiced with Nigerian street style. Wales-Bonner’s collection, shown on male models, is influenced by boy/girl ambiguities that currently flow through Menswear and Womenswear at CSM. Her design of a canary yellow long jacket, embellished black pants, bold jewelled necklaces and bare body exposures seem to belong to either gender. As too does her pants suit in pink boucle with its cropped tailored jacket, peach pink silk shirt and jewelled bracelets.
The second prize went to Asai Andrew Ta (Womenswear). His regal looking assemblage of fringed and ragged fabrics beneath a gorgeous green and scarlet wrap spelt A for attitude. The designs, stripped of heir razzmatazz, contained very wearable elements for either sex, an attribute that applied to many of the collections. Fiona O’Neill (Womenswear) is the recipient of the third prize. Her free form, reconstructed shapes are made in a stiff stand- away fabric with a painted surface. The abstract designs on the pieces are done with a nod to their purpose as dress.
The year yielded its own reasons for optimism as far as Willie Walters, Course Director, BA Fashion, was concerned. She told me:
The strongest collections reflected a home grown attitude of irreverence, wit, exuberance, and a plundering of history for excitement, humour, artistry.’’ She emphasised the homegrown side, naming Charlotte Tydeman and Harry Evans and the three L’Oreal talent award winners as“ sharing a sensibility which was bred through their experience of British culture in the 21st century.’’
To Anne Smith, Dean of Academic Programmes, the collections were marked by a surface interest in materials and in the variety of finishes. She emphasised that many of the fabrics are hand crafted, and not products of technology. Among examples I noticed are the following: Quoi Alexander’s (Womenswear) monumental broad- shouldered ensemble which has an almost baroque splendour to the weaving, boasting a complex design of laterally threaded coloured ribbons and cottons; Kiko Kostadinov’s (Fashion Design with Marketing) (Dr Martens Bursary) white coat for his blue trousered piece is of gossamer fine material, loosely woven and suggesting a swansdown finish and Tracey Lewis’s (Knitwear) folkloric outfits modelled by men that combined a mix of fabrics with bi-gender design.
A front- buttoning classic tweed jacket is embroidered in roses and styled with an ankle length patchwork pattern skirt and an apron- style overskirt in Prussian blue knit. Gold and silver lame, sackcloth and silk, wool and customised plastic, distressed cottons, resins and ostrich are among the wide range of materials and finishes seen on the runway.
Some trends emerged in the 40 collections. There’s an across- gender emphasis on the following: broad, rounded and padded shoulder lines and cropped sleeves, a core shape that is elongated and slim, waistlines gently indicated or by passed. For the female gender the enormous skirt held up strongly. One such (Daisy Collingridge- Womenswear) is in vibrant yellows, the top skirt with a dancing wavy hemline and multi underskirts in the key colour of varying lengths. Another of its kind, a mega scale piece in black (Amie Robinson-Print) has a surface that offers a virtual garden of three dimensional, solid, larger-than-life flowers.
For men: divided skirts cut to just below the knee in snazzy materials (Paulina Edvall- Knit), top coats in interesting colours such as midnight blue (Eleanor McDonald-Menswear) and classic tailored coats to the ankle such as the model in scarlet with matching flares (Ed Lee-Menswear . Gender neutral details: gold lame and silver lame, enveloping wraps in exotic materials, long fringes on fabric, white pants laced in black, black combined with pale grey-were also in evidence.
Perhaps because of the sober circumstances surrounding the show, the usual celebratory tone was in a minor key. But the applause was no less heartfelt.
Drusilla Beyfus was a Senior Lecturer on our Fashion Communication and Promotion pathway for 19 years. A former features editor of Vogue, she continues to work closely with CSM on special projects. Drusilla’s new book Vogue On Hubert de Givenchy has recently been published by Quadrille
Visit the BA Fashion Static Show at Degree Show Two: 18-22 June (Wednesday to Friday: 12 to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday: 12 to 6pm)
– BA Fashion course page