Regent’s University London: Behind The Catwalk

“You did it. You can rest now.” The words of show producer, John Walford – along with an affirming pat on my shoulder as the last model left the runway. I released a sigh of relief into the buzzing atmosphere. That was it. Regent’s University London’s 2017 Graduate Fashion Show was complete. My brief role as design student-turned-production-assistant, was over. The event, on May 11, at Old Truman Brewery warehouse on Brick Lane, gave the opportunity for undergraduate design students to present their final apparel collections.

Testaments to the success of the event was, of course, the student designers. Why? Because they were the heart of the show. If guests were unsure of what to expect (student fashion shows can, at times, be a hit or miss affair when it comes to quality) this term something special happened. Inside the class of 2017 lay a deep hunger for the industry; a thirst if you will, that set their desire apart from an established designer. Their careers and futures are just at their fingertips, and it was almost as if their drive could be visible, lovingly sewn into the threads of each garment…

Each designer showcased a personalized perspective of style and design. Certainly, their efforts were not in vain. Graduate Lamine Aitchegou created beautifully detailed clothing with a romantic mix of textures. The sombre mood of his designs conveyed his reference to sadness in a broken world. Melancholia was an appropriate name for his collection. Opposite to Lamine’s aesthetic was Mariam Ghazal, designer of the Pop or Drop collection. Mariam’s work reflected a more vibrant perspective. Pop or Drop was a fun mix of minimalism in the main silhouettes and surprise with chunky knits. She created a joyful collection that she said shared “the positivity brought through closing a chapter and opening a new one.”

Gabriella Wright, a 24-year-old fashion design with marketing graduate, was proud to complete another chapter in her life too. Growing up with a grandmother who created clothes, she was inspired to explore creativity through the same avenue. From learning the foundation of design to giving numerous hours of dedication, Gabriella reached the point of fruition where she could literally reap what she had sewn. She presented GF1305-93W, a military inspired activewear collection that embraced airy silhouettes and flattering shapes that gave a ready-for-action vibe on the catwalk. The innovative collection included reused army surplus materials, including parachutes and camouflage netting. The influence of sustainability was apparent and it’s something she plans to carry on as she ventures further into the design world (something that is sorely needed).

In an interview with Gabriella, her description of her emotional experience with the show was like riding a rollercoaster. Prior to the show, stress was at its peak. Getting all of the details right was essential to the aesthetic of the collection. During the show, she was actually in shock as she watched her garments go down the runway. “I had a very proud feeling. To know you’ve done it,” Gabriella happily told me. After the show, her adrenaline was on high from the entire experience. The end of the show marked a stepping stone for her. The entire process, from research to runway, was one of self-discovery for Gabriella and the other graduates. She said “we were all going through the same thing.” They planned and made over ten samples were, all done to create a collection worth showing. Surely the other designers could attest to that.

Graduate, Yemisi Abraham, was one of them. She designed the The Sands collection, which was based on interchanging architecture and the connection between men and women. Her garments consisted of impressively constructed silhouettes, which played on the idea of industrial metals and shapes. From her deconstructed jackets and trench coats, to her eye-catching bottoms, Yemisi put everything she could into her dramatic collection. Yemisi’s attention to detail did come with a time commitment. She sacrificed her holiday time, time that most students used to travel or for other leisure activities, to work on her collection. She knew that by giving up that time, by putting in those extra hours, she would create beautifully tailored works of art.

The very same drive carried into the production of the fashion show. The event teams put just as much effort into it. Everyone worked together as a team, not because we were all the best of friends (let’s be real here). It was because the desire to pursue excellence was greater than anything else. The front of house team, the dressers and the production team put communication first. Regardless of the position given, each student deemed it significant so the tasks were treated with respect and careful attention, for which I am truly thankful. Nothing is worse than a person who doesn’t take their job seriously.

The energy backstage was a mix of excitement, nervousness – and hope. The designers were focused and determined to let nothing short of greatness walk down the runway. They worked directly with the dressers to give styling instructions for their collection. During that time, the student production team checked, double checked and cross checked the organization of the show. Naturally, problems with the line-up, unexpected model replacements and the like occurred but the production team created solutions and kept moving forward. Despite any issues that emerged, and in all of the busyness, a special harmony existed that made running the fashion show worthwhile.

As a design student turned production assistant, I was humbled by the overall experience. To have witnessed and experienced the garments develop was a tremendous honour. Being able to set an example for students from different academic institutions all over the world was an even greater honour. They could see that they, too, could do the same thing; that enthusiasm for the industry could lead them to the same position and more. Overall, the production was a monument to what could be accomplished regardless of professional backgrounds.

Perhaps, the most notable aspect of the show was its ability to serve as a reminder to always think about the journey, not just the destination. Many are infatuated with the presentation, the entertainment of it all. Even those involved can get caught up in the final outcome, overstressing and even forgetting the steps that it took to reach that point. This show, and the craftsmanship surrounding it, taught us to appreciate the process. Yes, the end result is nice to see but there really are blood, sweat and tears involved in the steps to success in fashion. The road isn’t always glamorous either; there are times of loneliness, frustration and exhaustion. There are months of preparation, trying and retrying, sewing and seam ripping. Even a desire to give up can occur when more obstacles arise but students, with all their other commitments, can push that temptation aside to persevere. In the end, all of that contributed to the beautiful pieces that were in this year’s collections. Gabriella said herself “it will be hard but I’ll get there.” In the heart of the show was a fire kept ablaze by the ambitions of each student. And oh what a flame… capable of such greatness.

Tori Ford is a 23-year-old sartorialistfrom Detroit, Michigan. She is currently a design student at Regent’s University London. Her drive for fashion stems from her introduction to the design process at the age of 10 years old. With an evident love for Christ and heart for fashion, she continues to strive for excellence, making a positive impact on others along the way.

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