With 39 universities, over 1000 applicants and 20,000 visitors to the site, the success of this year’s Graduate Fashion Week is plain to see. And last night’s Gala Awards and catwalk show - held at London's Earl’s Court - only served to crystallize the event as the most successful in its 21-year history.
An exceptionally starry line-up of judges dishes out prizes to an impressive line-up of hopefuls. From bright young things Daisy Lowe, David Koma and Bip Ling to heavy hitting names such as Matthew Williamson and our own Lorraine Candy, the stage was aglow with success.
The most covetable award of the night, the £20,000 George Gold Award,was scooped by Chloe Jones of Bath Spa University, whose pagan-druid-meets-nineties-raver collection (think gossamer maxi gowns topped with embellished sports hoods) impressed judges Daphne Guinness, Suzy Menkes and Fiona Lambert of George.
Chloe also pipped the other contenders to the post by winning the overall Womenswear Award, while the Menswear Award was taken by Riona Horrox of Edinburgh College of Art.
Fiona Xiaoping Huang from UCLAN won the Zandra Rhodes Textiles award, for her exuberant Jack-in-the-Box collection bursting with bouncing accordion pleats and crayola-bright colours. Riotous colour and intricate detail won out over pared back and minimalist in both the International Award, taken away by Karen Jessen of ESMOD Berlin, and the Knitwear Award, jointly won by Josianne Propp from Manchester and Caitlin Charles Jones of Kingston.
Livia Firth, bright and beautiful in a tangerine top, presented the Ethical Award (‘The most important awards of all,’ she insisted) to Sarah Murphy of Northumbria University.
Perhaps the most riotous applause of the night was awarded to veteran catwalk photographer Chris Moore, who received breathless praise from Jeff Banks and Suzy Menkes before battling his way out of the photographer’s pit to walk the length of the catwalk and accept the Lifetime Achievement Award.
But the hum of applause from the audience played second fiddle to the crescendo of noise from backstage, where excitement, according to Julien Macdonald, was paramount: ‘It’s all a bit crazy back there,’ he said, ‘lots of models running around naked, lots of very excited students and lots of very famous people waiting to meet them.’
And for many of these students, things are only going to get better.