The top prize at this year’s Graduate Fashion week, the River Island Gold Award, was scooped by 23-year-old Myrto Stamou from Greece.

The design student from the University for the Creative Arts at Rochester won £20,000 prize money and will see her collection displayed in River Island’s flagship store in London’s Oxford Street, after a panel of judges, including designers Matthew Williamson and Giles Deacon, short-listed Myrto’s designs from 38 collections shown at London’s Earls Court earlier this week.

She seems a bit bewildered by her success: “I’m still at University. I was not at all prepared for this. I was really really shocked and I don’t really know how to control all this - all the offers and the press,” she says, referring in part to the scores of business cards that have been thrust into her hands with promises of work since she won her “golden ticket”.

“I think I’m going to keep [the prize money] for a while because I want to invest it in starting up my own business, but not just yet,” Myrto says. After she graduates next month she’d like to spend the next year or two doing internships with some of the big name designers she admires, such as Deacon, Williamson, Christopher Kane and Marc Jacobs.

Her collection was inspired by the artwork of German Surrealist painter and photographer Hans Bellmer (1902-1975). One painting in particular, called ‘The Spinning Top’- an abstract vision of a birdlike nude turning on a spinning top gripped with clawed feet, formed the main basis for Myrto’s designs. “When I saw that painting the whole collection just came into my mind,” she says. The muted colours and unusual but superbly technical lines in her designs were achieved, she says, by drawing out the body parts, particularly hands, from Bellmer’s painting. She hoped to keep some of the “almost pornographic” eroticism of his work, she says.

“We chose [Myrto] because we felt her collection had a very strong signature style. It was a cohesive range which could easily be sold tomorrow,” Giles Deacon remarked. Another judge, Richard Bradbury, CEO of River Island, said “the clarity and focus of the collection made it hard to believe this was the work of a graduating student.”

Read more about the graduate shows in London in Monday's copy of The Independent Newspaper.