Celebrating 30 Years of Graduate Fashion Week

2 June 2021 / News

Illustration of someone wearing a dress, looks as though they are walking down a catwalk. The image is made up of dark pink, blues and dark purple.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most important events in the fashion industry; Graduate Fashion Week. GFW is run by the charitable organisation, the
Graduate Fashion Foundation, who work to unite international and UK universities and put emerging talent from across the globe under the spotlight. As well as providing a platform for students’ to show their designs, the charity offers mentorship, benchmarking opportunities and guidance as they set foot into the competitive world of fashion. GFW is now widely considered the largest showcase of BA fashion talent in the world, working with eighty universities and representing students who are graduating in twenty-six different specialisms. It’s a key date in the diary for graduates and employers alike. So, with the much-anticipated event lying just around the corner, what can we expect?

Graduates, industry leaders and fashion pioneers will gather together under the brick arches of Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross. Following in the footsteps of many fashion weeks this year, GFW 2021 will be embracing fashion’s new rhythm, offering a mix of both physical and virtual shows. Set against the backdrop of the shopping neighbourhood’s heritage buildings and ironwork, they’ll be using Samsung’s latest technology to live-stream content and expose designers to a larger audience. The line-up will include thirteen catwalks, industry panel talks, two exhibitions, a GFW showroom and much more.

This year, GFW is a big one, and not just because it marks their thirtieth anniversary. Students have completed their studies during a period of global turbulence, and this has undoubtedly shaped a different look on fashion. Artists have had time to reflect on what their work means and what they want to represent. The fashion industry as a whole has been forced to face the scale of it’s environmental challenges, and what steps it can take to tackle them. The Black Lives Matter movement resurfaced across the globe, drawing attention to the importance of new designers drawing on their cultural heritage to represent Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and use the platform of fashion to tell important stories.

These societal issues are reflected in many of the students’ work. For example Ffion Martin specialised in sustainable menswear design using long-life second-hand fabrics; Rhoda Edoyibo drew on the protests against police brutality in Nigeria to create her launch, Race x Race; and Tyreece Franklin based his project on unplugging from mobile phones and focussing on minimalism and mental well-being.

It’s fair to say that graduates across the globe have faced unexpected challenges; besides obvious restrictions such as a lack of studio space and access to materials, they’re also entering an industry that has been hit significantly hard by the pandemic. Yet this is what makes this years’ Graduate Fashion Week such an important one. Hilary Alexander, president of the charitable organisation GFF, remarks that despite facing major restrictions as a result of Covid-19, ‘graduate fashion week will be there as their studies conclude to ensure their work is celebrated and elevated to the industry they aspire to work in.’ We can expect a diverse, exciting showcase from the class of 2021.

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