update: Smirnoff fashion awards

How would you interpret this brief: bring to life your interpretation of the exhilaration of liberty? This was the task set by the people who organise the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards. The 15 fashion design students who got through to the British final let rip in a futuristic visual feast last Thursday at a London nightclub. They showed the kind of clothes that take as much imagination to wear as they do to design.

The judges at the event included Caryn Franklin, Pamela Blundell (who won the award in 1988) and Abe Hamilton. As well as judging the finalists on their finished creations, including hair, make-up and accessories, they paid close attention to individual interpretation of the brief. The winner, Karen Phelps, from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, took the imagined sensation of free-falling from an aeroplane as her starting- point. Her three outfits were in primary shades of cobalt blue, yellow and orange, and shapes were ruched and flowing. She says: "My exhilaration would be to fly, to feel the wind gushing through my lungs, to be free- falling but looking at the beauty all around me."

She will be travelling to Cape Town to compete in the international finals on 17 November with 35 other students from around the world. The winner will claim $10,000 to be spent on a business initiative or further education. John Rocha, Alexander McQueen and Sybil Buck (from MTV's the Pulse) will be among the judges there, and competition will be fierce.

Congratulations also go to Kate O'Dwyer, who came second. Her designs were a modern take on the Japanese kimono, using silk dupion with a delicate feather print in shades of rich saffron and flame red. She used wire to achieve a geometric, three-dimensional effect. Rachel Wells, who showed neo-Gothic woven pastel layered dresses, and Tina Brett-Deans, with her hand-painted figurines on silk, came joint third.

MELANIE RICKEY

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