Published on February 19, 2014 | by Phoebe White0
UAL graduates dominate London Fashion Week
London Fashion Week has once again confirmed Central Saint Martin’s reputation as the world’s leading fashion institution.
With alumni such as Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and John Galliano, CSM is seen by many as the place to study fashion design.
MA Fashion Design womenswear is currently the only course that shows on the official schedule of London Fashion Week, and MA Fashion graduates are credited with actively influencing fashion today.
Alumni from CSM to showcase this year included Christopher Kane, Matthew Williamson, Osman, Roksanda Ilincic and Antonio Berardi, who were all showing alongside industry giants such as Burberry Prorsum and Tom Ford.
Celebrities, interns, bloggers, reporters and fashionistas alike eagerly anticipated what was to come in the Autumn/Winter 2014 shows.
Amongst the chaotic muddle of eccentricity, it was clear to see that young students and emerging graduates are the backbone which keeps this famously original and unique fashion event alive.
UAL is widely considered to be central to London’s reputation for producing young talent and originality, with avant-garde designers such as Renli Su and Edeline Lee flying the flag for recent UAL graduates.
Canadian-born CSM graduate Edeline Lee’s presentation took place in the east wing of Somerset House on a Saturday morning; the graffitied underground passageways of the famous building did not disappoint, with each secretive room revealing some of Lee’s autumnal delights.
Lee told ALN her collection was inspired by “my teenage fantasy of New York; what I imagined New York would be when I finally got there.” Lee describes this collection as “experimental” and “gritty, but luxurious too”.
The first room revealed a waif-like model posing alone in a beautiful long electric blue dress – the season’s colour – with ruffled lapels.
The hue of electric blue continued as the crowd of fashionistas made their way to the second room, where a gathering of models posed for Lee’s Autumn/ Winter 2014 ‘lookbook’.
Every model wore modest white plimsoles paired with Lee’s signature sharp but feminine designs. Lee cuts all her own patterns, in a process that takes an incredible amount of skill and precision.
Lee also acknowledged the fierce reputation that CSM has for producing skilled designers. She said: “I spent my teenage years reading all about fantastic London designers in Vogue: John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo; they all went to Central Saint Martins. It was clearly the place to go.”
She continued: “I think I learnt early on that there is power in clothing. Clothing forms and defines your identity and that’s your most powerful creation.”
Lee has gained endless amounts of press attention in recent months, with magazines such as Harpers Bazaar choosing her as one of their ’10 favourite things’.
Lee puts her success down to “hard work and persistence – both from myself and all the amazing people that have helped me. It takes a village to make a design label”.
CSM is not the only UAL college to produce Fashion Week designers. World famous LCC alumnus Henry Holland showed his eagerly anticipated collection at The Old Sorting Office and recent LCF graduate Renli Su showcased at the Fashion Scout event space at Freemason’s Hall.
The latter’s presentation had a peaceful and distinctive ambiance as fashion critics strolled around the organically dressed models, all wearing knitted bonnets and oversized dresses in the centre of the grand space at the Freemason’s Hall.
Renli Su graduated from LCF in 2012 with an MA in Fashion Design and Technology Womenswear. Since then, Su has gained recognition by winning the Design Council: UK Creative Conscience Award. Su launched her brand in 2013 and achieved the status of Fashion Scout Ones to Watch for London Fashion Week 2013.
Renli Su’s Autumn/Winter 2014 collection was inspired by the work of Brazilian artist Mira Schendel, combining an elegant, feminine aesthetic with oversized silhouettes and geometric designs. The collection continues to showcase Su’s passion for texture and surface.
Su spoke fondly of her time at LCF telling ALN, “it was very good, and the tutors helped me a lot.”
However not all onlookers enjoyed the collection. Fashion devotees and prospective UAL students Calum Minuti and Hannah Riley commented on the show’ “weird atmosphere” and “bad model casting.”
“This whole presentation does not seem well thought out at all. It feels very uninspiring with no atmosphere,” Minuti told ALN.
Minuti, hopes to attend CSM for Fashion Promotion. He said: “Central Saint Martins is the best of the best. It prepares you as a designer as they have the best tutors and you are surrounded by the best people. That is why it is so prestigious.
“Compared to other arts universities, CSM have got the edge for producing womenswear designers. I see designers come from places such as Manchester, and the standard is just nowhere near as good.”
Riley, a promising fashion photographer who hopes to attend LCF, does not agree: “I think that Central Saint Martins takes advantage of their reputation. I think that because they have got such a prestigious status in the fashion world, they do not have to try as hard. “
Hannah Clarke, an official intern at London Fashion Week and currently a student at Cardiff University, described both Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion as “the hub of fashion with a lot more contacts and industry links than other universities.”
She said: “They work you a lot harder. That is why they are recognised because they take fashion seriously, this being the reason it is harder to get into these colleges.”
Providing fashion design alumni is not the only way that UAL contributes to London Fashion Week. Many UAL students volunteer as interns.
From seamstress interns, to those specialising in set design, lighting and photography, an abundance of students volunteer hours of their free time just to be part of the Fashion Week buzz.
One of the biggest employers of interns is Fashion Scout, which runs throughout London Fashion Week.
“After students graduate they are often neglected. Whilst they are students they have a lot more opportunities. However, as you go it alone and become an independent label I think it must be very hard to establish yourself as a designer.” Calum Minuti
They run shows in London, Paris and Kiev and stand as an international showcase for fashion innovation. It is a platform for emerging talent and an alternative to the expensive process that is the official London Fashion Week.
Riley praised Fashion Scout for “holding multiple competitions for graduates and students and allowing designers a chance to achieve awards and gain recognition, such as the ‘Ones to Watch’ award”.
She added: “Fashion Week is so expensive for designers once they have graduated.”
Minuti agreed: “After students graduate they are often neglected. Whilst they are students they have a lot more opportunities. However, as you go it alone and become an independent label I think it must be very hard to establish yourself as a designer.”
Many successful designers, including both Edeline Lee and Renli Su, have started their careers as young interns. London Fashion Week and Fashion Scout brings hopeful fashion-savvy students from universities across the country and sometimes even across the world.
Fashion interns are widely known to work unsocial hours and London Fashion week is no exception.
Minuti states: “You have to prepare yourself to work so hard for not much money. [Interns] are often treated like slaves.”
Camilla Ley, an in-house fashion intern for established brand Zoe Jordan described this busy time as “fun, but also very tiring. You work very long hours and weekends, but it’s all worth it when you see everything we have created as a team.”