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Student union

The hottest student designers were on show at last week's Graduate Fashion Week, crowned by the annual River Island Gold Award. Charlotte Marrion rounds up this year's extravaganza

Now attracting attention from the international press, celebrities and talent scouts, UK Graduate Fashion Week has grown over the past 16 years into a fully-fledged, vibrant event. This year's extravaganza included 26 catwalk shows hosted by colleges and universities all over the country, as well as a runway-focused gala evening sponsored for the third consecutive year by River Island.

High-profile judges included self-styled fashion pundit Victoria Beckham; Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz; Harpers Bazaar US editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey; and River Island managing director Richard Bradbury. The panel presented Gold Award prizes totalling £22,000 to joint winners Jasper Chadprajong and Nicolas Thomas for their innovative menswear collections, as well as to runner-up Kelly Shaw for her witty womenswear take on pop culture.

As anticipated, students presented a kaleidoscope of differing styles and techniques, but it is clear that the famously avant-garde style of British students now has a more commercial edge. Of particular importance this year were sports and knitwear in both men's and women's collections. Julia Ison-Steiner and Kirsten Bridgewater at Westminster University showed strong nu-rave and utility-inspired ranges, while knitwear from Kate Atkinson at Northumbria University and Krelsmata Elidom at the University of Central Lancashire was beautiful, innovative and technically dextrous.

Menswear was particularly strong this year with two men's designers winning the River Island Gold Award, and a more varied men's tailoring and casualwear offer across the board. At the Royal College of Art, Adam Rice wowed with his feminine-cut men's trench coat, while Pete Pongsak's twisted styling brought something new to tailoring. Aaron Dowie at Nottingham Trent played with colour and texture, while Ross Stephens at Manchester Metropolitan University paraded dandy-esque high-waisted trousers, New Romantic-inspired bow ties and metallic yoke tops suitable for superheroes.

Last week's graduate event not only triumphed in terms of PR success, but more importantly showcased a sophisticated round of graduates who ticked the boxes for both creativity and commerciality. Roll on the future of UK fashion.

HOLLY FULTON, ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART

KEY LOOK: A bead-encrusted A-line dress in shades of blue and white.

TARGET MARKET: Heavily beaded styles suit the high end, but laser-cut pieces translate to mainstream.

SILHOUETTE: Space-age A-line skirts sit with circular-skirted dresses and rigid leather coats.

FABRICATION: Heavy beading is used alone or as applique.

COLOUR: A clean palette of black, white, cobalt and tangerine.

JOHANNA AV STEINHAM, CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS

KEY LOOK: Home-made styling and applique on rustic dresses.

TARGET MARKET: Knits would suit both Boden and Toast crowds.

SILHOUETTE: Knee-length dresses, long knits and puff-sleeve boleros.

FABRICATION: Lightweight knits with applique flowers and ribbing.

COLOUR: Earthy, yellow and blues.

CECILIA MARY ROBSON, LONDON COLLEGE OF FASHION

KEY LOOK: Sculpted scarlet wool bubble coat.

TARGET MARKET: Couture lovers.

SILHOUETTE: Streamlined and space-age, with voluminous petticoats of clustered fabric cones.

FABRICATION: Brushed wool, sheeny taffeta and duchess satin.

COLOUR: Tomato, orange, grey and black in dramatic, bold blocks.

NICOLAS THOMAS, CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS

KEY LOOK: Flag-inspired knit intarsias.

TARGET MARKET: Most levels- his strength is in his democracy.

SILHOUETTE: Close to the body using pattern to create shape, knits and trousers were more remarkable in design than silhouette.

FABRICATION: Mid-weight and fine- gauge merino wools.

COLOUR: Unashamedly bright: red, white and blue stripes and snowflakes all featured.

TIMOTHY JAMES ANDREWS, ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART

KEY LOOK: Aztec meets techno.

TARGET MARKET: Nu-ravers will love the colourful, eclectic styling.

SILHOUETTE: Body conscious or slouchy cardigans, ponchos and tunics over skinny trousers or jeans.

FABRICATION: Lightweight knitwear and jersey.

COLOUR: Bold, clashing scarlet, orange, lime and cobalt blue.

WILLIAM TEMPEST, LONDON COLLEGE OF FASHION

KEY LOOK: High-gloss dominatrix.

TARGET MARKET: Those looking for classic with a twist.

SILHOUETTE: Conical corsetry, handkerchief draped skirts, catsuits and voluminous frill-tiered dresses.

FABRICATION: Black leather, deep pleated silk, wool, flannel.

COLOUR: Black with vibrant fuchsia.

ADAM ROGERS, CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS

KEY LOOK: A new hero for colourful modern dandies.

TARGET MARKET: Real men looking for a quirky take on retro glamour.

SILHOUETTE: Dapper jackets or waistcoats with pleat- or flat-fronted trousers, rounded collar shirts and belted ribbed cardigans.

FABRICATION: Corduroy, light wool, brushed cotton shirting.

COLOUR: Intense mustard, navy, claret and terracotta.

JASER CHADPRAJONG, CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS

KEY LOOK: A white raincoat with a structured hood.

TARGET MARKET: Urban urchins and streetwear devotees.

SILHOUETTE: Layered parkas, zip-up hoodies and lightweight raincoats.

FABRICATION: Ultra-light PVC, heavy jersey, canvas and waxed cottons.

COLOUR: White and silver with navy, turquoise, yellow and dove grey.

PETE B PONGSAK, ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART

KEY LOOK: Twisted take on immaculate tailoring.

TARGET MARKET: European styling junkies and modern dandies.

SILHOUETTE: Ultra streamlined mid-calf shorts, 1980s-feel bombers, square or low crew-neck knits and pleat-front flood-length trousers.

FABRICATION: Flannel, dense cotton, stiff denim and fine-gauge knits.

COLOUR: Pale and interesting shades of bone, chalk and dove grey.

KELLY SHAW, UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON

KEY LOOK: Playful pieces replete with witty pop culture slogans.

TARGET MARKET: Victoria Beckham, who bought the strawberry mac.

SILHOUETTE: Cartoonish circular skirts and multi-layer petticoats.

FABRICATION: Cotton jersey, light plastic coated cottons, lace frills.

COLOUR: Red and white deckchair stripes, blue and white oversized gingham, canary yellow.

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