by Lou Stoppard .

The Graduates

Last night saw the gala finale of this year's Graduate Fashion Week. It's the twenty-one year anniversary of the event, very apt given that most students are twenty-one themselves when they're spat out of the education system into the big, bright world of fashion - so why not celebrate that with a huge catwalk show at the cavernous Earls Court and a judging panel of industry stalwarts including Suzy Menkes, Caroline Burstein and John Rocha?

This year's showcase celebrated all faculties of fashion - including marketing, business, stand design (glamorous!) and media. The biggest excitement (and the best prizes) came with the fashion designers - who flaunted their wares in a series of catwalk showcases. Fittingly, given that this generation has been raised on Topshop neons, Patricia Field's more-is-more styling and teen-pop colour-popping, nearly all of the collections shunned the current 'adult' trend for minimalism - save for one rather lovely ode to Theyskens Theory by Rochester's Emma Beaumont - instead opting for bold prints, beads, buttons and embellishments. The effects of this visual festival ranged from the good - as with the work of Mancunian knitwear student Jousianne Propp, who's technicoloured fringed yarns cemented Britain's status as the mothership of talented young knitters - the bad and the ugly, but certainly made for entertaining viewing.

The overall winner, Bath Spa's Chloe Jones - who's treated to a handy little pay packet of £20,000 (who said students are poor?) - jumped on the Olympic bandwagon, showing off a grey-heavy run of floaty printed maxis topped off with over-sized hoodies, accentuated with some nifty hooping. This was sports day meets prom night, perhaps a slightly tired concept given the rush of sport-luxe fashions on the runways - Jonathan Saunders, Roksanda Ilinicic and Stella McCartney all pushed the trend - but nevertheless, in terms of craftsmanship, a beautifully turned out showcase.

The menswear at this year's showing was particularly strong. And while, as ever, it was the womenswear collections that garnered the loudest gasps and the biggest gongs, the printing and cutting prowess of talents such as Riona Horrox (who was noted with the judges' Menswear Award) shone. Particularly impressive was Emily Edge from Northumbria. Her impeccably tailored (and uber camp) space cowboys may have been overlooked for the top-prize by the judging panel but will open many a door on the burgeoning London menswear scene.

Other stars included womenswear designer Amelia Smith, whose Matryoshka-esque lampshade skirts could give judge Mary Katrantzou a run for her money, and Amsterdam import Yvonne Kwok who offered up an enjoyable platter of cartoonistic pompoms and pleats

All in all, at least for this year, the kids are alright.

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