Young designers turn to romance: Graduate Fashion Week floats on to the catwalk. Roger Tredre reports

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THE DESIGNERS of the future were on form yesterday on the first day of Graduate Fashion Week, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, north London.

The vision of fashion for autumn is romantic, judging from the first catwalk show, staged by Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, London. Long, full skirts and tight little jackets made the strongest silhouette. But the variety and quality of fabrics were the real highlights - from floaty and wafer-thin to coarse, workwear-inspired materials.

Audrey Sweet, a 20-year-old from Cornwall, one of the youngest graduates at the event, showed the most impressive collection: beguiling milkmaids in sweetcorn yellow, quilted coats with haystack prints, full skirts, full-sleeved organdie shirts, and long trailing gilets.

Another name of note was Jozef Carter who showed exquisite printed and shredded fabrics layered over full skirts.

The event, now in its third year, allows students to show their final year collections on the catwalk for would-be employers.

The Business Design Centre is an imaginative venue for fashion shows. The fully fledged designers who show in the under-financed London Fashion Week could take a look at the venue.

The students have had their own financing problems. Jeff Banks, the presenter of BBC TV's Clothes Show and a co-organiser of Graduate Fashion Week, said: 'This was the event that nearly didn't happen. Our sponsor pulled out in January, and it was only the will of the colleges that made it happen.'

Last-minute sponsorship was provided by Mainetti, a Scottish manufacturer of garment hangers.

Thirteen colleges are taking part, including Nottingham Trent University, Southampton Institute of Higher Education, Epsom School of Art and Design, and the University of Northumbria at Newcastle.

Central Saint Martins, south London, and Kingston University, Surrey, which have two of the strongest fashion courses, have chosen to show separately, a decision which will lose them media coverage. Graduates from these colleges, however, are still finding work, particularly abroad with Italian and American companies.

The future is less promising for students completing less high-profile courses: jobs are thin on the ground in the clothing industry.

Fashion, page 23

(Photograph omitted)