What unites 115 students, endless trips to London’s fabric shops and Madonna sitting on the FROW? The BA CSM fashion show, of course. It’s May, which means it’s nearing the end of the academic year for students – but with graduation still a couple of months away, there’s one big event that they have to make it through first: the grad show.
Providing the opportunity to show the culmination of their hard work and debut their collection to the world, this show is arguably the most important night in their degree, and forms one of the most anticipated nights in the fashion industry’s schedule – with press, buyers and company scouts all on the lookout for the next saving grace of fashion.
There are big shoes to fill here, too. CSM BA and MA Fashion alumni include some of Britain’s finest fashion talent: Lee Alexander McQueen, Phoebe Philo, Grace Wales Bonner and Charles Jeffrey, to name just a few. Each year, the student designers use the show to introduce the world to their style of design, and each year there are standouts, award-winners, and pieces which challenge perceptions of what fashion should and could be.
This year, the 100+ strong cohort raised the bar (and the catwalk – which was split in two levels). The collections touched on a multitude of references, inspirations and commentary – spanning everything from heritage to fantasy, A.I to motherhood. The latter took the form of a model carrying a realistic baby doll down the runway, and another constructing a transparent ‘womb’ as part of their piece.
Elsewhere, kineticism was a major element of the pieces. One dress looked and moved like a dandelion, giving the impression of being fragile enough to be blown away if someone in the audience had tried hard enough. Another piece featured what resembled two boiling flasks full of red wine held up over each shoulder, which sloshed around dramatically as the model made their way down the catwalk. Other pieces restricted movement entirely – like the first silver rigid dress look, which resembled an Yves Saint Laurent’s 1969 breastplate.
Another memorable moment came in the form of three QR codes sent down the runway by designer Christie Lau – if you were quick enough to scan them, you would be directed to an Instagram filter of their designs, allowing users to try them on in real time. Blending the digital and physical, this was just one example of the innovation and creativity displayed by the cohort.
Material was equally as varied: knitwear had a serious moment, with designer Alice Morell-Evans’ taking home the top prize of the evening. Having previously designed for Bethany Williams and Molly Goddard, runners up were Emil Dernbach and Diana Sträng, the former of which designed in response to the digital and deep fake environment that keeps growing.
Still awaiting final hand-in and, ultimately, results, the designers for the specialist prizes awarded last night were chosen for their “strong personal points of reference…upbringing, families and culture, twisting it with what they want to present and what current fashion means to them”, as one of the judges told WWD. If the industry had anxieties about the future of fashion after the last two years of relative shut down, the BA CSM show proved that creativity, innovation and exploration is far from being snuffed out – in fact, it may just be getting started.
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