GFW: The Gala Show

Lauren Smith bags coveted prize

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The agenda was set from the minute presenters Zara Martin and Henry Holland took to the stage: the Graduate Fashion Week Gala – sponsored by George at Asda – was all about celebrating commercial, wearable design. And it did, in an explosively colourful showcase in which print, texture and bold accessories dominated.

The winners stood out for their eclectic yet cohesive looks. Lauren Smith was the evening’s happiest girl: the winner of the George Gold Award (meaning a £20,000 prize and the chance to design a range for George), she had transformed whirling seascape doodles into structured, voluminous dresses and coats. They were commended by Roland Mouret, no less, and cheered on by guests including Zandra Rhodes, David Gandy and Mary Katrantzou.

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Knitwear award winner Thea Sanders’ 70s-inspired collection was startlingly accomplished, her skirt suits and dresses accented with boxy feather shrugs and amazing, intuitive colour clashes. Shauni Douglas and Olivia Creber - the menswear award winners - sent out tartan flashes and imperial coats accessorised with absurd stick-on beards.

Overall, the show was a curiously wearable dressing-up box, seemingly seasons away from the calm, sculptural looks that reigned at the Central St Martins show last week.

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And it wasn’t all about the winners. Chen Yu Wang presented voluminous jumpsuits adorned with pastel bobbles and child-like nursery patterns, and Josephine Pettman’s collection nodded to host Henry Holland with its Americana-kitsch prints on voluminous silhouettes.

Nolwenn Faligot sent out an army of 80s Boy Georges, complete with porkpie hats, baroque sleeves and exaggerated eyeliner. Nothing revolutionary, but you could imagine it reinterpreted for Topshop or Zara.

Festival chic was an unsurprisingly popular look. Kim Philips presented floral macs over plaid, and jelly boots (now a thing) with neon soles and laces: coming soon to a Glastonbury near you. Kirandeep Bassan’s abstract, painterly layers were a more sophisticated nod to bohemia (think Latitude) – though we’re not sure how the playfully mismatched platform wedges would fare in the inevitable mudslide.

Suzy Menkes, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, praised this year’s crop of graduates for creating experimental but highly wearable collections.

From what we saw, the high street has a fun few seasons ahead.

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