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De Montfort University Shines at Graduate Fashion Week with Innovative and Nostalgic Designs

by Tia Janowski

Last week, the vibrant streets of Brick Lane in Shoreditch buzzed with excitement as Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) took over Truman Brewery.

Fashionable guests, industry experts, and excited students gathered to see collections and projects from fashion graduates across the UK.

On the second day of GFW, De Montfort University took over the runway, presenting a colourful and innovative catwalk show. The School of Fashion and Textiles at De Montfort University, ranked in the top 10 for fashion and textiles by the Guardian Subject League 2020, proved why it holds such a prestigious position. 

Showcasing the work of 33 students, the university’s ethos of inclusivity, sustainability, and technical innovation was evident in its 2024 GFW showcase. The catwalk was a show of knitwear, ruffles, and structural designs, with many pieces being inspired by the past and the designers’ personal lives. Amongst the standout designers presented were Abbi Turnbull, Elle Cursor, Emma Joyce, and Josephine Sutton.

Abbi Turnbull: Love Letter to Liverpool

Abbi Turnbull’s collection, “Love Letter to Liverpool,” drew inspiration from the glamorous girls of Liverpool and their getting-ready routine. 

Turnbull transformed everyday objects typical of a beauty routine into prints for her garments, allowing the collection to be cohesive and tell her story. Her main design featured a detailed two-piece with appliqué wiring on the bodice and a matching patterned fabric for the skirt. A dark purple patterned jacket with oversized, ruched sleeves added volume and drama to the skin-tight outfit. The design as a whole highlighted not only Abbi’s inspiration but her talent as a designer and storyteller.

Elle Curzon: Teddy Bears and Ruffles

Elle Curzon’s dramatic collection consisted of three cohesive, feminine, and trendy looks that used an abundance of ruffles in white, pink, and pale yellow. 

A standout piece was a mini dress covered in ruffles and ruching that resembled a teddy bear. The design of the dress brought the inspiration to life, bringing a playfulness to her design that was completed with the model carrying a teddy bear down the runway. 

Another notable design was a high-to-low dress with a heavily ruffled skirt that showcased dark pinks, purple, and yellow at the back. The white bodice was adorned with teddy bear prints and childlike text, complemented by a large ruffled veil. Curzon’s collection as a whole combined modern, form-fitting styles with playful elements that evoke childhood memories.

Emma Joyce: Ode to Childhood Dress-Up

Emma Joyce’s collection was inspired by the carefree attitude of childhood when you are unproblematic and unbothered by others’ opinions. Joyce created this collection as an ode to the childhoods we wish to return to, using the colours and shapes familiar from childhood. 

Influenced by her childhood pictures of playing dress-up, the collection featured big skirts, ruching, and metallic synthetic fabrics to reflect our favourite childhood dresses. The colour palette of pink, purple, and gold reinforced the nostalgic theme, combined with modern shirt fabrics to represent the transition from childhood to adulthood. 

Styled with mismatched socks and plastic handbags, this collection was a trip down memory lane for many in the audience.

Josephine Sutton: Dinner Parties and Valium

Last but not least, we saw Josephine Sutton’s collection, “Dinner Parties and Valium,” which explored the pressures on women to be the perfect wife. 

Sutton’s designs combined traditional 1950s styles with chaotic modernity, reflecting the pressure to maintain a pristine home and appearance and how that is enough to make anyone go crazy. She wanted to represent the idea that if a woman stays stuck inside doing housework for too long, she will slowly start to feel like a piece of furniture, which can be seen in her use of lampshade shapes and floral patterns reflective of a 1950s home. 

Inspired by her grandmother’s house, craft projects, and old housekeeping manuals, Josephine’s garments featured many ‘50s-style floral patterns in bright colours that clashed in a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing way. With a large use of ruching and formal gown silhouettes, her collection was a cohesive blend of bright colours, big shapes, and a nostalgic yet modern aesthetic.

The De Montfort catwalk was a modern and refreshing display, despite many designers drawing inspiration from the past. The vibrant designs brought the runway to life, with the audience expressing their appreciation through loud cheers and focused attention. 

The show presented a new generation of designers, who drew from personal experiences to create relatable and wearable fashion. The De Montfort catwalk demonstrated the university’s commitment to fostering future-facing, responsible designers who are ready to make their mark in the fashion industry.

Edited by Emily Duff

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