Kingston University designer brings childhood memories to life in catwalk collection unveiled at Graduate Fashion Week

Posted Wednesday 31 May 2017

As a young girl, Kate Clark revelled in a world of fantasy princesses, dressing up and playing with her beloved toys. These childhood teddy bears and dolls have now been given a new lease of life, lovingly incorporated into the Kingston University fashion student's latest collection, that has just debuted on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week.

Kate's striking garments blur the lines between work and play, featuring tailored dresses and suits with oversized sleeves - some even stuffed with her own soft toys. The young designer has sewn some of her favourite teddies and unicorns into the see-through organza netting of one of her skirts, weaving the precious souvenirs into the fabric of her womenswear collection. Other pieces are emblazoned with pastel pink, green and purple toy motifs embroidered or digitally printed onto yards of white duchess satin.

Kate's garment was featured as part of the official Graduate Fashion Week promotions. IMAGE: Task PR"My garments are covered with drawings of toys I used to play with and sketches of my dog, Sally. It's very personal work," Kate said. "The merging of my early fantasy world with the real world as I grew up has been distressing at times, so I feel there's a dark undertone and a hint of madness to the pastel coloured artwork that covers my garments."

The 21 year old stored her childhood keepsakes in her bedroom at her family home in Bolton, near Manchester. She etched the characters in her notebook throughout her three-year course at Kingston University – and as her illustrations took shape, she was struck by the idea of using the toys in her final collection.

"I shaped my collection around my own feelings of leaving childhood behind unwillingly and entering an adult world that felt like it was crumbling around me," Kate explained. "When I started my final year of university, my dog Sally had just died and it was a very dark, emotional time. I instinctively wanted to return to something I knew and loved as a child, in order to cope."

Kate's princess-like puff sleeved dress suit and headband adorned with Barbie dolls epitomise the tussle between the fantasies of her childhood and her late-teenage anxiety.

"Throughout my Graduate Fashion Week collection, I've played with the idea of dressing up as a princess in an exaggerated way, as children do. In my dress suit, this playfulness is then challenged by hemming the princess in with a grown up suit over the top - representing my worries about getting older," she said.

Fashion student Kate Clark models one of her garments, an organza netting skirt stuffed with her own teddy bears. Kate's collection was chosen to feature in the official promotional photoshoot for this year's Graduate Fashion Week event. "It's a real honour for my work to be highlighted," she said. "My collection is so personal that it feels like the industry is saying yes to me, as well as my work."

Senior lecturer in fashion at Kingston University Satyen Patel said Kate had flourished in her final year with a distinctive style. "Her character is written all over her collection," Mr Patel said. "It's a very confident aesthetic and she is destined for great things."

"Her garments feel like Pandora's Box meeting Clarks Closet, bringing dolls and princesses to life with hints of a reality we all face – growing up and leaving our childhood fantasies behind," he added.

The latest work by Kingston University's final-year fashion students was showcased on the runway at Graduate Fashion Week. The event comes at an exciting time for the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, as it prepares to return to its original name of Kingston School of Art in September to celebrate its art school ethos and heritage as one of the country's leading providers of art and design education.

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