After 25 years is Graduate Fashion Week over?

Graduate Fashion Week is a charity organisation founded in 1991 by Jeff Banks CBE, Vanessa Denza MBE and John Walford to unify both UK and International universities and create a stronghold for the creative industries.

Showcasing the work of over 1,000 of the very best students and graduates from the most influential and inspiring universities around the world, Graduate Fashion Week represents the future of creative design talent. Attracting 30,000 guests each June, the annual event features 22 catwalk shows, exhibitions from over 40 universities and an acclaimed Gala Award Show alongside a packed live talks and workshops schedule featuring leading names from the fashion industry.

However since the government has decided to cut the grants to those less advantaged at University, are we now going to see a diluted version of fashion? Those who are wealthy and powerful, seem to be more advantageous, this is seen as a good thing, but is it really?  Yes, it might mean anyone who doesn’t have access to the resources has to be careful in their spending and can push the boundaries of what we see as fashion, but what about the ability to set-up their own business?

With the rise in renting accommodation students are having to stay at home so they can afford their education, when some of the biggest names who were a success, didn’t pay any fees at all. Some even resort to taking up part-time jobs to keep afloat, so they can keep up “with the joneses”, but does this mean they get to spend less time networking and working on their collections.

It’s an unrivalled platform for the promotion of new talent, it is responsible for launching the careers of some of the most successful designers of our time including Christopher Bailey, who was the winner of the first ever Graduate Fashion Week Gold Award, Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon, Matthew Williamson and Julien Macdonald.

What does this mean for our new Graduates? With the rise in Social Media, do graduates really need this platform anymore? They can showcase their designs on their blog platforms, Instagram and Twitter, allowing them to show the world what they are capable of. Graduate Fashion Week might be a big platform that can land you on the websites of leading magazines, but does that really do anything for your future as a designer? Especially when every joe gets published on Vogues catwalk section, how does this make you special from any other designer?

The fashion landscape has changed rapidly since the previous winning designers who have made big careers for themselves, does this mean that the format needs changing? I much agree it gives the designer a chance to be exposed to a worldwide audience but what about sellability, it’s all great being able to be a visionary but who will buy your designs?

Looking at some of the fashion designers featured as “Ones to Watch” are usually the extreme ones, the one who are thinking about a more political or artistic expression of fashion. But what about the designers who are thinking about the future of fashion, who’s going to be wearing their pieces, what they want to wear and the forever changing face of fashion. Where is the thoughtfulness about the impact fast fashion is having on us as consumers, the revolution of technology and fashion, we as consumers are expecting something different – not just Avant-Garde or couture.

My final thought and question to you…

Even though this platform may be important to the industry to find the next “IT” designer, I don’t think it’s really adding anything new to what we want as consumers. I believe together we can find a new way for designers to really show their vision without the interjection of Universities and what they expect from their students to make the grade, we need more than just what “Experts” think, we need to see what customers want and listen to them.

Writer & Blogger
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