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Mix of commercial and crazy is what makes GFW a class acts comment

Caroline Nodder

It was good to see so many high-profile fashion industry chiefs at Graduate Fashion Week, demonstrating that the trade takes its new talent seriously these days – and rightly so.

It was good to see so many high-profile fashion industry chiefs at Graduate Fashion Week, demonstrating that the trade takes its new talent seriously these days – and rightly so.

In past years, the UK has been in danger of losing its talent to international shores, and indeed many of our home-grown design names have had to seek jobs and exposure abroad at the beginning of their careers as a result of the reluctance on the part of British companies to invest in them and offer proper career development.

Those days thankfully seem to be behind us and it was really good to hear from Fiona Lambert, from sponsor George at Asda, that she and many others like her have used the GFW showcase to pick up a large number of new recruits (click here for the full interview with Fiona).

This display of putting their money where their mouth is ensures the future of UK fashion is filled with the level of creative talent needed if it is to remain a force on the world stage, and it has also encouraged the graduates to consider genuine commercial issues when they put together their final collections.

In light of this it was very interesting to see how commercial the final collections were. Indeed, this year’s George Gold Award winner – and our cover star for this week – Chloe Jones showed a very commercial slant with a collection featuring some maxi skirts in a variety of grey shades that would not have looked out of place put straight onto a shop floor.

Some of her fellow finalists had likewise adopted a highly commercial angle with knitwear and kidswear in particular looking eminently sellable.

This is a great sign that graduates are aware of the challenges that face them in the business environment. But I must admit to being relieved to see two of the collections in particular – by James Walker and Xiaoping Huang – come down the catwalk. Both had chosen to inject a real sense of humour and some really crazy designs into their final shows and it felt right that at this stage in their career they were able to play around in this way with the clothes.

From one outfit that looked more like a golf bag mixed with an accordion to another that would not have been out of place in the circus, these were not clothes that you would expect to see flying off the shelves in a department store. But when else in their career will these young designers be able to experiment in this way and have some fun before the real hard work begins?

My hope is that we don’t forget this crazy side in future editions of GFW and that the judges reward ‘out there’ collections alongside the more commercial ones. There needs to be a good balance of both if the UK fashion industry is to thrive and grow.

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