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London is playing host to Graduate Fashion Week, highlighting the talents of the brightest young designers. Stephanie Smith takes a look at the work of Yorkshire’s future stars.

London will be swinging again this week – at least in fashion terms, with the most original, quirky, inspirational, innovative, avant-garde, exuberant and downright fun creations heading down the catwalk at Earls Court.

It is testament to the prestige and respect that we grant to design in the UK that our Graduate Fashion Week is now the largest of its kind in the world, heralded as the greatest showcase of up-and-coming talent in the global fashion industry.

The launchpad of the likes of Giles Deacon, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo and Halifax’s Christopher Bailey of Burberry, the four-day exhibition and catwalk extravaganza brings together the work of the best creative graduates under one roof to present to potential employers and the industry. Bailey says: “We have the most exceptional design talent coming out of our colleges here in the UK and I salute their energy, their talent and their well earned and deserved global reputation.” This year, for the first time, there will also be an international show, showcasing the work of students from 16 world-renowned universities.

The event will feature the work of fashion graduates from across Yorkshire, including those studying at Leeds University and Leeds College of Art, and we preview some of their final collections here

The Leeds University designs are part of the students’ Innovation module.

“It’s about being creative, but also having a viewpoint,”says David Backhouse, Fashion Design programme leader at the University of Leeds. “Rather than the derivative version of clothes that we see on the High Street.” The students spend a year working in industry and head all over the world, especially to the US, Italy and France.

The employment rate is high, David says, with students often employed by the companies they work with on placement. The fashion industry is quite buoyant, too – “Certainly they seem to be looking for graduates.”

The students also complete dissertations, perhaps looking at the topical issue of the exploitation of fashion workers in the developing worlds, or they might study the benefits of so-called slow fashion, making more expensive clothes that last longer. David says: “We do encourage individuality. Not all of our students go into design. Some go into related areas like journalism.”

David has been teaching the course for 12 years and says the most marked change in the education of students in that time to has been towards developing a business sense.

“I think companies are now looking for designers who are creative but who have the intellect to work in a very business-orientated environment, so they need other skills – writing and presentation skills, for example. You can have the most creative designer, but they can’t string a sentence togather, you’ve had it.”

Suzy Mason, BA Fashion programme leader at Leeds College of Art, agrees: “The students here work right across preparing for the fashion industry, from creative design and pattern cutting through to photography and film, because we are seeing a big change in the way in which fashion is presented.”

Graduates from the college have gone on to set up their own businesses and to work for the likes of Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Harvey Nichols and across the industry.



Graduate Fashion Week runs June 2-5 at Earls Court 2 Exhibition Centre, London. See

The Leeds College of Art graduate show will be at Canal Mills, Armley, Leeds, on June 13. for details.

The University of Leeds graduate collections will be showcased at the tenpointtwo fashion show on June 8 at Temple Works, Marshall Street in Leeds, with VIP tickets at £15, normal tickets, £10, in aid of Claire House Hospice and Macmillan Cancer Research.

University of Leeds School of Design Degree Show Exhibition will be held on June 17-20, 9am-5pm at School of Design, Clothworker Building Central, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT.

Graduate Fashion Week starts tomorrow, June 2, and runs until Wednesday, June 5, at Earls Court 2, with the Gala Fashion Show sponsored by George at Asda. Check