It was in the flashing blue lights, it was in the ground-shaking base note from the sound system and it was in the screaming; emotionally charged creativity was the signature tune of the Graduate Fashion Week Gala Performance. Taking place at Battersea Park Arena, the talent this year promised to be 'hotter than ever', with participating exhibitors drawn from across the UK. Graduate students hailed from institutions including London College of Fashion, Ravensbourne, Surrey, Westminster, Middlesex, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Derby and Bouth, East London, Somerset, Winchester, Central Lancashire, Nottingham, Reading and Salisbury, Northampton and Kent. Although some of these colleges enjoy richer histories and more press attention than the others, Graduate Fashion Week is an even-handed platform for each student to receive their fair share of individual expression on an equal rostrum. It is hoped that the distorting hype generated around individual colleges (such as St. Martins or the RCA) is gradually becoming supplanted by a wider outlook, and Graduate Fashion Week's imperative is to reinforce this inclusive approach.
There was a heady atmosphere in the tents. Hosted by popular Channel 4 'T4' duo June Sarpong and Steve Jones, the night was opened by the presentation of the fashion promotion and media awards. The University College of Northampton had a good year and the students were not afraid to show it: the celebrations were loud and effusive. The main attraction however, was the gala catwalk; show time for the eighteen star talents. The show opened with Krishna Jethwa's sculptural collection. From a distance, the garments resembled blown-up versions of folded paper dresses made by children. Other outstanding collections include Laura Moore with her Eskimo-esque collection with light blue fur trim and light beige suede. Romany Taylor's pink polo shirt was especially eye-catching, not only because of its candy colour, but the crafted detailing on the back. Kate Pasterfield excelled for her witty prints, Sara Eason for her deliciously juicy vintage scarf prints, teamed with blond afro hair, and Denise Antoine for his muted-colour prints, aimed at men who are not afraid to inject a little colour into their outfit. The show closed with Vicky Kerridge's cartoon-like collection, dominated by primary colour and graphic prints.
The second half of the awards ceremony followed, demonstrating a good mix of colleges, rather than pushing a sole, dominating institution, as at last year's ceremony. The intense celebrations communicated an eager sense of supportiveness, eschewing the aggressive competitiveness characterising comparable fashion festivals. Nor did a few hiccups on the sound system deter the crowd's enthusiasm. Each winner received a cash prize, while the winning college also receives financial support, to put towards the cost of putting on their own graduate fashion show. As the crowd made their way to the after-show party, one could not help but notice the relief and sheer delirium on the participant's faces. As the garden filled with moonlight, music and free ice cream, it was a moment of jubilation and genuine accomplishment for the fashion graduates of 2004.