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The fashionable alumni of the RCA's hallowed halls

  • @R_Gonsalves

It is in part due to the long tradition of art colleges in this country that the youthful vigour of the London fashion scene continues to thrive.

One such establishment, the Royal College of Art, is celebrating 175 years since it was first established as the Government School of Design in 1837. Originally a school for boys, it was established to train the artisans and craftsmen needed to work in the textile and ceramic industries of booming Britain.

Running until January, The Perfect Place to Grow, explores the work of over 180 alumni and faculty including student work and that of the illustrious careers that followed for many graduates. Some of the most prominent designers to have come through the school's hallowed halls include Zandra Rhodes and Ossie Clark, milliner Philip Treacy and Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey – who stages the mega-brand's biannual womenswear shows opposite the campus in Kensington Gardens.

The exhibition is not simply a wander through the archives though, as it sets out to explore the future of art and design training and questions the purpose of publicly funded art schools. These questions are extremely pertinent as the Coalition Government's changes to tuition fees risk taking Britain back to a time when art school was a rite of passage for the wealthy and firmly out of reach for those of more modest means.

The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art; until 3 January 2013, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7, free admission