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Designers of tomorrow highlight their work in Huddersfield University fashion showcase

The weird and wonderful creations of Huddersfield University fashion graduates

It's often said that fashion is influenced by politics and changes in society.

So what effect have Brexit, President Trump and the rise of the far right in Europe had on this year’s crop of graduate fashion designers from the University of Huddersfield?

Audiences at the annual final collection shows on Tuesday, June 13, at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, will be able to see for themselves. As Dr Stephen Wigley, Subject Leader for fashion design, communication and costume courses, says, they should prepare themselves for designs that are “strong, edgy and a little bit in-your-face”.Audiences

Graduate collections are often cutting-edge and dramatic, but Stephen and his colleague Claire Evans,

Course Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Design with Marketing and Production, have noted that a number of graduating students have used their work to make political statements.

Stephen added: “There are some edgy themes because of the political climate. Young people are engaging more with social issues and responding to them.”

But not all the collections make a political point. Tutors have also noticed a tendency towards extravagant, statement collections with “lots of frills”. “There’s a little bit of showing off what we’ve got, like Dior did after the war,” he said.

A total of 60 final year students are graduating from Huddersfield this year and some have already found work in the fashion industry. Claire says one of the reasons the university enjoys employment success is because it offers students the chance to take a full year out on a practical work placement. She explained: “We try to get the students to focus on which direction they want to take – sometimes it relates to what they have done on placement. It’s a fabulous year for them to find their direction and results in some great opportunities for them.”

In recent years, Huddersfield students have secured work placements with top designers, including Julien Macdonald, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs, as well as with companies such as George@Asda and Oxfam Online. Some have gone on to find work with their placement employers.

The graduates also have the opportunity to promote their work at the annual Graduate Fashion Week in London, this year in early June. Stephen explained: “Graduates showcase their portfolio work and over the years we’ve had quite a few students get work through what they’ve displayed. It’s also a venue for us to promote our courses.”

While Brexit appears to have had an overall effect on applications to British universities – with UCAS reporting a 7% fall in the number of EU students – the four fashion degree courses at Huddersfield remain popular. Claire says the strong practical content is a draw for undergraduates who, increasingly, are asking what they will get out of a course and where it will lead.

Stephen added: “Applications in general have gone up. One of the things that makes us stand out is the practical skills we offer. We believe that designers need to know how to make a garment, not just design it.”

* The Graduate Fashion Show can be seen at 7pm and 9pm on the LBT main stage.

Tickets are £12 from thelbt.org.uk or 01484 430528.

Among those showing their work are the graduates whose collections are featured here. They are:

Laura Kerry, 21, a fashion design with textiles graduate, who focussed on hand-crafted garments, knitted and crocheted, for her show pieces themed around funghi. Using textures and earthy colours it’s a flamboyant final year collection. Laura hopes to find work with a London-based partywear company.

Lauren Backhouse, 22, took inspiration from confectionary for her brightly-coloured collection featuring the circular shapes and outlines of sweets. “I wanted it to be fun and flirty,” she said. Her year out in industry took her to a garment supply company in Manchester.

Emma Lucas, 23, visited London’s V & A Museum and took inspiration from an underwear exhibition as well as clothing from the eras of Marie Antoinette and the Georgians for her final collection. She’s gone overboard with ruffles and brocade to create a sumptuous collection in luxury fabrics.

Huddersfield University fashion students annual show preview. Models wearing garments from the collection of Laura Kerry (right).

Aneesa Samreen, 24, created a highly-technical menswear collection themed around self acceptance and mental health, using bright colours to contrast with what she describes as “the invisible illness”. “You need confidence to wear the clothes,” she says, “but people can dress however they want now.”

Zarina Kavazova, 26, from Bulgaria, was influenced by politics and environmental concerns for her collection Unrest and made a dramatic video to promote it. “I have put Donald Trump on one of my garments,” she said. “I have an alter ego who wanted to rebel against all these political and environmental things that are going on.” Zarina’s video can be seen at the top of this page. She hopes to work in fashion marketing but has been developing her own Covered in Gold label.

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