Trendsetters from Kingston University’s internationally-renowned Department of Fashion are banishing bling in favour of more timeless garments made from ethically-sourced products. The young designers, who will showcase their final collections at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday 28 May, have placed a strong emphasis on global issues and the environment. Drawing on organic cloth and vintage denim, students are hoping their collections will grab the attention of fashion executives searching for the next Stella McCartney or Ralph Lauren.
Fashion department head Elinor Renfrew said there was a definite sea-change taking place in the type of creations hitting the runway this year. “At Kingston University our students have devoted a huge amount of time to finding out how to put together responsible collections,” she said. “This is a new type of luxury which is less about bling and much more about producing good quality, long-lasting garments that can become classic signature pieces for their owners.”
One such collection is 21-year-old Kasha Crampton’s menswear range which was sparked by a trip to America. After winning a Kingston University competition, Kasha spent last summer working with Brooks Brothers in Manhattan and became fascinated by the homeless people living on the streets near the famous designer’s store. Kasha, who has also benefitted from working with JJ Hudson famed for his customised clothing including shoes made from reworked materials, said the show was a chance for students to let their imaginations run wild. “I’ve chosen to include a lot of outwear inspired by my time in America,” she said. “I became fascinated with the peripheral figures who roamed the streets and had made themselves garments from bits of clothing discarded by other people. I did some research and I was struck by the fact that one person’s waste can be another’s treasure and this is what really inspired my collection. I’ve used material from some of my old coats to add details to collars and cuffs on new clothes.”
Also set to grab the audience’s attention is a childrens wear range dreamt up by 23-year-old Laura Harvey. Drawing her ideas from outfits worn by environmental protesters, Laura gathered snapshots and information from Glastonbury festival-goers and traced eco-warriors’ clothing preferences back right back to their roots. “I was interested in how, despite the fact that they were trying to put across serious issues, they often opted to wear laid-back, casual clothing,” she said. “I decided to take my research back a step further and look at where the styles originated from. I found that there was often a military influence with hardwearing, outdoor items and there were lots of chunky knits and ethnic clothes. There was even a fun element with some clothes reminding me of those you might see in a carnival.” This particularly fired Laura’s imagination and she decided to explore costumes in Bolivian carnivals and create her own take on these styles. The result is a vibrant, striking collection boasting three knitwear pieces, personalised prints, vintage denim, jumpsuits, hats and jewellery.
Children and parents at St John’s Primary School, in Kingston, also helped Laura to research her collection. “I wanted to hear about what interested the children and get a feel for what they liked wearing,” she said. “My collection is about treating children as individuals and not as mini adults. They loved bright colours so I’ve used lots in my range. I’ve also been conscious about the issues the environmental protesters’ are concerned about – so I looked carefully at whether I used manmade or natural products. Where I could I’ve used organic cotton, vintage denim and reworked fabrics that I found on market stalls.”
During the past few months, Harriet Carp could often be found in Portobello Market hunting out materials for her womens wear range entitled Dutch Courage. Some old family photographs discovered in her home in Holland were the inspiration for Harriet’s collection. “It’s based on nostalgia and is quite child-like so there are a lot of pompoms, knit pieces and vintage effects,” she explained. “I wanted to use a special kind of fabric called Brussels Embroidered Lace but it was very hard to source so I went to Portobello market and scoured eBay looking for old nightdresses and fabric I could use,” she said. “I’ve incorporated lots of details such as gathering the back of the dresses and I’ve twisted fabrics and woven them together.”
Hot on the heels of winning the British Fashion Council College Portfolio Award, sponsored by Drapers fashion magazine, the eye-catching collections from this year’s crop of final year students are sure to turn industry heads. The University, in South West London, which has recently been creating a stir in the industry with the slogan Kingston is the new black, has teamed up with Brooks Brothers and Dewhirst are sponsoring the show. Talent scouts from Burberry, TopShop, and Maxmara are expected to attend the 900-capacity Queen Elizabeth Hall. “Displaying their work at such an impressive venue really reflects the confidence we have in their individual collections,” Mrs Renfrew said. “There’s an explosion of colour and much more exaggerated cutting thanks to our new cutting team here at Kingston. These designers are definitely ones to watch for the future.”