2016 UCLan Graduate Fashion Show

Models showcase designs by all the students

Models showcase designs by all the students - Credit: Archant

UCLan’s Graduate Fashion Show at 53 Degrees in Preston gets rave reviews. Olivia Assheton went along to see what all the fuss is about.

The University of Central Lancashire has been producing graduates for all sections of the clothing industry for nearly 50 years and is recognised as one of the top institutions in the UK.

The Preston course is unashamedly commercial, as well as creative, and the areas covered are closely linked to industry needs.

The subjects covered range from practical designing, pattern cutting, ‘drape’ and other traditional skills such as studying embroidery and embellishment, to the use of the most modern computer-aided design and other technologies.

The industry links the University has nurtured over the years has meant that many alumni are now in powerful positions within their organisations and are able to help new graduates with their first career steps. Course leader Chris Molloy returned to his old stamping ground after a 30 year career with M&S, Betty Jackson, WGSN.com, Nokia London, Debenhams and Top Man among others.

‘We have between 50 and 60 students starting the course every year and they study for four years, including a sandwich year when they go on work placements,’ said Chris. ‘UCLan is very lucky to have the support of top brands in this, including Iris Van Herpen, Karen Millen, Alexander McQueen, Top Shop, Matalan and River Island and others but, with an increasingly international student base, students are also travelling to New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin and China for work experience.’

So what of the show itself? Well, I must admit to being blown away by the talent on show. Of course, there were some very wild and whacky offerings at one end of the spectrum but also displayed on the professional models were some clothes that a lady of 50+ would covet (and even wear if she had the figure for it!).

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Of the 44 students graduating this year, just 20 are independently selected by an industry expert to showcase at the Graduate event, representing the cream of the course’s output.

At Graduate Fashion Week, many of the students received some top accolades, with Mia Roberts winning the Graduate Fashion Week Creative Styling Awards and Caroline Robinson, Carrie Colaluca and Karen Lee being nominated for the prestigious Graduate Fashion Week Gala shows.

There were other student successes during the year. Hannah Bascombe was headhunted by Inditex - the Spanish fashion group that is the umbrella company for Zara and Berksha. In a collaboration between the English National Ballet and the Manchester International Festival, Jennifer Elliot, Amy Ward, Toni Gunns and Iman Espeut-Mills were finalists in a ballet design competition and their design work was selected by Oscar-winning set and costume designer Tim Yip to exhibit at a new production of Giselle in September.

Many other awards and examples of industry recognition were outlined by vice-chancellor Professor Mike Thomas in his introduction to the event.

After the show, I managed to catch up with just a few of the students whose work I was particularly taken with to find out a bit more about them.

Amy Ward showed a vintage lingerie-inspired collection featuring sumptuous fabrics and, following her work placement with Holly Fulton, wants to pursue a career in high-end fashion designing and pattern cutting.

Eleesha Preston’s art-based offering of her own hand-painting on linen was inspired by the sculptures of celebrated American artist Chakaia Booker. As for her career: ‘Anything in fashion.’

Aimi Shaw showcased a dazzling collection of outfits, one of which was shortlisted for the Lipsy Best Outfit competition at Graduate Fashion Week, and she is aiming her sights on a career in High Street fashion design.

Bubbly Tatiana Ngamba, originally from Cameroon, showed a stunning colourful collection inspired by Nigerian/African Art, Beyonce ‘and strong feminist women in general.’ Her ambition is one day to own her own business.

Nicola Ellis is another of the students who would like to develop her own brand one day. She said: ‘I want to create a street vibe for both men and women that’s not too dressy and plays to my strengths in digital design.’

Carrie Colaluca’s collection was one of those selected for the Graduate Fashion Week Gala shows. She said her highly innovative work ‘reflects corruption and decay in nature.’

The forms she created, with a glue gun onto a mannequin, invented a primitive method to 3D printing but the final outcome was inspired and celebrated the female form.