Young masters on show at alma mater to British fashion's biggest stars

Susie Rushton
Friday 20 February 2004 01:00

London fashion week closed yesterday with a gala catwalk show from Central Saint Martins, the art college that is a driving force behind international designer fashion.

The 21 young hopefuls who presented their master's collections may still be students, but their creativity often exceeded that seen on professional catwalks.

The audience expected nothing less. After all, Central Saint Martins is alma mater to Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan and Stella McCartney. It is fair to say that without the London college, British fashion would hardly exist. Fourteen of the designers who showed autumn/winter collections in the capital this week are graduates. Hundreds more work in key behind-scenes design positions at revered labels around the globe.

The overall winner at yesterday's show, Yong Fong, presented a slick collection of black and flesh-coloured jersey minidresses with inserts of ruching and silken rosettes that was sexy and well-executed.

There are glamorous Milanese fashion brands that could do with talent such as Jennifer Lang's. The knitwear graduate presented show-stopping knitted dresses created from complicated festoons of natural-coloured yarns.

Another knitwear genius in the making is Claire Tough. Her ragga-inspired collection of string vest knits was clever and colourful.

A textiles design student, Petra Lundblad, showed beautiful prints of layered doodles and whimsical cartoons. Her superb technical ability was typical of the general standard.

However, this was a student fashion show that was overall low on the kind of awesome invention for which it is famed. But there were some adventurous types.

Christina Burke fused glamorous goddess frocks on to suburban sportswear garments, to beguiling effect. Also experimenting with visual jokes was Steven Hoffman, who showed a curvy tweed suit that then became a black taffeta coat as the model turned back up the catwalk.

The MA fashion course is led by Louise Wilson. She is notorious for brutally frank tutorials. Thanks to her survival-of-the-fittest approach to design education, the majority of students on the MA course do not even make it onto the final catwalk.

Wilson admitted that this year, however, there were more showing collections than she would normally allow. "Maybe I haven't been hard enough. Perhaps I stopped being a bastard," Ms Wilson said.

But she is optimistic that Central Saint Martins can keep up its prodigious output of success stories. "I think we should be able to carry on. "It's up to the students really."

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