From the 23rd to the 25th April, the Sculpture Court at Edinburgh College of Art was transformed to showcase the collections of this year’s Fashion, Textiles and Costume Design students, including group projects by second and third years to accompany the full collections of those graduating. Over the course of an hour and a half, 38 different collections walked the catwalk, ranging from dance performances to serene silhouettes, encapsulating every period of history imaginable. The scope of creativity was astounding, as was the sheer quality of work that went into every single piece.
Particularly exceptional were the Costume Graduates’ collections. From two to five costumes shown per designer, each individual element was impeccably finished and showed an incredible eye for, and attention to, detail. Stand-out pieces included a gown of sheer bias-cut perfection from Holly Prescott, whose inspiration was The Golden Bird by the Brothers Grimm. Opulent and fit for a starlet, her use of silk and velvet was sumptuous and decadent. A similar textural richness was seen in Tilly Jones’ triptych for the burlesque duo, Fevvers and The Maestro, from Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, who were joined on the catwalk by a Meadham Kirchoff-esque Princess Pirlipatt from The Nutcracker by E.T.A Hoffmann.
Julia Black showed three pieces that summoned images of 1950s Dior in the Scottish highlands, as she took on costumes for Robert McLellan’s Mary Stewart, leaving every woman in the audience clamouring for her exquisitely cut dresses. Meanwhile, the more Ashish-oriented onlookers lusted after Imogen Woolley’s Belleville Rendezvous interpretation of a grandma with a serious taste for neon and sparkle. The final two costume designers to show their work, Emily Bates and Izzy Gibbs, both presented intricate headpieces, the likes of which made Philip Treacy’s work seem less avant-garde than usual.
Of the collections from fourth-year fashion students, there were more than a few of note; from opener Andrew Dhesi to the final ensemble by Melissa Villevieille, the vision and story behind each was breathtaking and took the audience through a range of references, worlds and times, bringing them together in fresh ways unlike anything seen before. Straight off the bat, Andrew Dhesi - who himself walked in his creations - opened proceedings on an ethereal note with a collection in aqua and white. Barefoot and poised, the male models were draped in delicate swathes of effeminate, raw-edged fabrics that lent themselves to the natural feel of his collection. They drifted down the catwalk like butterflies, complete with incredible plastic headwear and glasses. From here, we dove into a late eighties/early nineties disco-on-acid vibe as Kiki McKenzie upped the pace with sequins, fur, colour-galore, and then even more sequins. Think House of Holland meets Ashish, takes LSD and dives into glitter, and then you may get close to the vibrancy of You Do Not Have To Be Your Mother.
Rebecca Bowman’s collection Long Live the Explorer blended utility with femininity and grace by incorporating bright cord and carabiners onto a neutral palette of pleated silhouettes. Noteworthy was the beautiful weaving and a white shirt with an asymmetric crumpled detail below one shoulder. Next came the suit of dreams by Fernanda Goodship, from her rhapsody in blue The Walk of Wonder. Amongst flamenco-style ruffles was a modern suit, cut to perfection, with a twist: down the midsection of the back, delicate appliqué flowers with royal blue and red edging – beautiful clothes we want to wear.
Constanze Bachmann’s The Compression of Space/Lord of Trash Mountain was an ode to the avant-gardes, with stark shirts and layering, while Bachmann’s collection led into Kate Cockburn’s space age Hawaiian motocross world Outer Space, Outer my Mind. One for the boys, she paired long shorts, sliders and socks with rounded shoulders, volume and primary colours in a neoprene collection of prints and fun. The light-heartedness continued in Heather Dooley’s wonderful La Vie Parisienne, which transported us to a Victoriana velvet hedonistic vision of Paris, where everyone is beyond elegant, dressed to the nines and adorned in tassels, impeccable trims and deliciously rich fabrics. The shoes almost stole the show with their Rochas-esque adornments: La Vie Parisienne - c’est plus que chic et fancy-free.
From the past to the future, the final four designers all presented strong work, but arguably the best came from Nina Cutler with her golden vision of a modern ghetto eighties. Volume, chains - both in print form and reality - and the most street version of the Virgin Mary ever seen, all came out to play. The collection had a coherent personality. It made you smile but it was also new, off-beat and truly proved that all that glitters is gold. Where Cutler’s silhouettes stood out from the body, Genetic Metamorphosis by Eleanor Paulin was a Valentino-style collection of flattering and colourful pieces – particularly impressive given that the main material used was thin strips of leather. Whether she hand-cut or laser-cut each item, there’s no denying the dedication to her craft.
Rachael Eustace, the penultimate designer to present, who showed her collection, The Blind Spot, was the only one to create for both men and women. What she had produced was a multitude of outstanding outerwear pieces, styled supremely. Where the clothes were perhaps not the most out-there, (that is no bad thing, they were absolutely gorgeous and Eustace clearly has a talent for coats), the styling presented an interesting new way to wear them: rather than put a coat on, why not attach it to another one with a huge bulldog clip and have it drape over one shoulder, à la cape? Or, perhaps you’d rather have two bulldog clips attached by a chain around your neck with your coat hanging from there? It really truly worked.
Last, but definitely not least, was a collection with a splash of humour, a dash of volume and a smorgåsbord of beautifully striped confections in lavish fabrics. Fauve, moi? by Melissa Villevieille was wearable, covetable and exciting. Stripes were interrupted at the derrière by a bulls-eye style target on each cheek, emphasising the body part of the moment. There was beading, there was glitter, there were raw edges, structure and softness, which somehow Villevieille brought together into a coherent collection that closed this section of the show wonderfully.
From start to finish, there was not a moment of the College of Art’s Catwalk show that disappointed. The wealth and breadth of talent from both the upcoming graduates and those in their second or third years was overwhelming. Graduate fashion, in particular, is important as a hub of intense creativity, a place where individual vision is fostered and does not have to be limited to fit a commercial aim as so often happens when they are working in the corporate fashion world. Such talent and potential gives you a frisson of electric anticipation at what’s next in store for these young designers, and where they may end up on the international fashion playing field. Wherever it may be, they deserve every success.
[The Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2015 is due to take place from May 30 – June 7 2015. To find out more, click here.]
Words: Charlotte Sutherland-Hawes
Photography: Gareth Easton