Where It All Began: GFW


The fashion industry alone supports 797,000 jobs domestically, contributing an incredible £26 billion to the economy. An integral part to the dynamic of the industry is the annual Graduate Fashion Week (GFW). Through welcoming and embracing innovation in all areas of the trade, GFW showcases developing talent that will shape the way fashion works as well as it looks in the future. Recently celebrating their 25th anniversary, we take this opportunity to look back at some of the most inspirational designers to emerge from the institution.

Let’s start with one of the most successful talents to have emerged from Central Saint Martins; Alexander McQueen, CBE. A true revolutionary, McQueen remains one of the most important designers of our time. His sudden passing in 2010 sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Aside from being incredibly talented, McQueen also understood the power of fashion and its unique ability to communicate meaning. Almost all of his creations carried with them an important social message and perhaps none are more memorable than those from the collection he presented in 1992 at his graduates show. The series was entitled Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims. Not only did McQueen grow up in the area where these crimes were committed – London’s East End – but one of his relatives allegedly rented a room to one of the Ripper’s victims. Each garment in this collection had a lock of the designer’s hair entwined between two layers of acrylic, paying respect to the Victorian custom of exchanging hair with lovers. This was the collection that concluded McQueen’s MA course at Central St Martins — overseen by the great professor Louise Wilson, OBE — but also that which kick started his relationship with renowned fashion stylist Isabella Blow.

Another star to arise from the instituion was the print maestro herself, Mary Katrantzou. Born in Athens, Greece, Katrantzou attended the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied Architecture before transferring her degree to London Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design where she enrolled in both a BA and MA in fashion. Working for Sophia Kokosalaki and freelancing for Bill Blass, Katrantzou immersed herself in the creative ambitions of the industry. In 2008, her collection opened the Central Saint Martins graduate show. The digital print trompe l’oeil dresses paired with matching giant wooden and metal necklaces captured the imaginations of the audience and her work was nominated for the Harrods and the L'Oreal Professional award. Katrantzou has since been dubbed "The Queen of Print" by press due to the enormous influence of her work in the medium. Katrantzou's work changed the face of twenty-first century fashion, inspiring high fashion and high street designers alike.

Last but definitely not least, a true insight into the changes in fashion in the last decade, Stella McCartney, OBE. Known for making sylish clothes that real women actually want to wear, McCartney is a household name upon the fashion industry. Born in Lambeth in London, Stella is the second child of Beatle Paul McCartney and American photographer Linda McCartney. Despite their fame, the McCartneys wanted their children to lead as normal a life as possible, so Stella and her siblings attended local state schools in East Sussex. From here, after showing a distinct love for fashion, designing her very first jacket at the young age of 13, McCartney studied a foundation course at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, followed by Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins in the early 1990s; she graduated in 1995. Her show was like any other student production; there were models and her parents supported in the front row. The only difference being the models were supermodels and best friends Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon and Kate Moss and the front row consisted of Paul and Linda McCartney. The collection was shown to a song penned by her father, called "Stella May Day". The show was printed across the front page of every newspaper in the UK, with the collection being bought in it entirety by Tokyo, a London boutique. The designs were stocked in Browns,Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus – an accomplshment that would catapult her career for years to come.

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