Sunday, 8 May 2011


**Bumper Post Alert!**

SO, on Thursday night some friends and I went along to the Edinburgh College of Art fashion show to see our best pal Kirsten and all her friends show their final year collections.

Believe me, bloggies, I have been WELL aware for months of how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into these collections. Kirsten and her friends had been pulling 24-hour days and working right through the night regularly in the weeks leading up to the big event, so needless to say I was on tenterhooks as I took my seat, ready to finally see what they had all been creating...

Oh my goodness, it was nothing short of spectacular! Not just the collections - more on them in a moment - but the production value of the show itself was utterly outstanding.

As one of Scotland’s key cultural events, the two-hour long fashion show set against the backdrop of the dramatically-lit neo-classical Sculpture Court of the College’s main building is an opportunity for guests and industry insiders to catch a glimpse of the best Scottish designers before they burst onto the world stage at Graduate Fashion Week in June.

The audience were treated to a slick show of collections in fashion, textiles and performance costume, and as I've said, the production value alone could rival anything seen at London Fashion Week in September. Head of fashion at ECA, Mal Burkinshaw, says the level of professionalism is all thanks to the students: They are some of the best we’ve ever had, he enthused before the show.

The standard has been so high, and it’s all thanks to them that we have such a professional and well-organised show this year.

I think they’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks of preparation, and now we can all finally enjoy the fruits of their labour.

As the light’s dimmed and the thumping music began, it became clear we were going to be allowed a close look at the collections, as the first model walked out at eye-level with the crowd seated around the semi-circular catwalk. This unique salon-style format is more commonly seen at haute couture shows in Paris, and facilitates an atmospheric and intimate effect.

The first collection to emerge was Tailoring: Fashion as Communication by year 3, followed by the unique All Walks project - an initiative founded by Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor, working with influential catwalk designers and top industry creatives to celebrate diversity between body shape, age and race within the fashion industry:

All Walks
All Walks

All Walks
 Seriously, what a refreshing concept. It's very easy to talk the talk about celebrating diversity in fashion, but when all that comes sauntering down the runway is gamine giraffe after waif-like 14-year-old, it can be very disheartening. I was so glad to see a special project dedicated to walking-the-walk about this issue. Also, in a similar vein, I found it quite inspirational that in the show programme, each of the final year students were asked to comment on how important body image diversity was to their personal design process. It shows great intelligence and integrity on the part of ECA and the students not to have shied away from the issues which surround the industry and affect how it is perceived from the outside...

ANYWAY, next up, the one we were all waiting for: the final year fashion design students’ sumptuous spectacle!

Impressive collections included Where Are We Going? Always Home by Pamela Hill – a knitwear collection inspired by warmth, comfort, pattern and wood carvings:

Pamela Hill

Pamela Hill

David Vallance and Anna Stephenson (winner of the i-on Graduate Fashion Prize 2011) also wowed the audience with their sexy and edgy, and feminine and floral collections respectively:

David Vallance

David Vallance
 I love the tailored shape of David's collection (entitled Flirting With Conformity, the rope embellishment and the contrast between the fabrics used. The collection was inspired by a recent period of time spent living in La Dune du Pilat in France and the clean lines and muted colour palette definitely says edgy French sophistication to me!

Anna Stephenson

Anna Stephenson

Anna's collection was just beautiful - really simple and stunning, and showed that no matter how obvious and done-to-death floral prints can occasionally be, a truly creative mind can always find something unique, distinctive and personal to do with them.

Nicola Paxton's Blue Sky Thinking collection of laser-cut dresses and coats were another highlight. I found this one of the most contemporary and ready-to-wear collections of the lot - I could actually picture myself in some of those stunningly intricate garments:

Nicola Paxton

Felix Chabluk Smith, winner of ECA Graduate of the Year and the British Fashion Council's Burberry competition, presented the only menswear collection (entitled Kin) of the night and the first ECA had seen for 15 years. I was impressed again by the intricate nature and sophisticated lines of the collection. Definitely one to watch.

But OF COURSE, for me the stand out collection of the entire night came from Kirsten Wotherspoon herself, with an assortment of soft, shimmering, metallic garments encased in transparent PVC jackets and capes:

Kirsten Wotherspoon and model
 The collection called It’s Better With the Lights On, is inspired by light, shadow and reflective photography. I don't want to say too much about it at the moment as I am planning another post about this particular collection, but it is definitely safe to say that even although Kirsten is a friend, had I not known her I am dead certain this collection would still be a personal highlight. Keep your eyes peeled over the next week for a post all about it...

Of course, needless to say all 20 of the final year students’ collections were stunning.

In terms of key trends, I'm glad to see I wasn't chatting mince when I entered that ELLE competition prophesising wildly that bold and bright colours would be everywhere for spring/summer. The majority of the collections were exactly that - bold and bright, with a vivid tangerine ORANGE utilised to its full eye-watering potential in several collections - Sarah Ho and Fiona Sommerville's in particular.

There were hints of Celine, Calvin Klein, Erdem, Dries Van Noten and Jill Sander, and I'm sure I spotted some Matthew Williamson in there too, but overall the collections were deeply individual and unique.

I have to be objective, says Mal, but they have all worked so incredibly hard – and it’s been very challenging. They’ve had to pull 24-hour working days to get to this stage, but I know they would say that it’s definitely been worth it.
 I view any student who has made it this far, got a degree and created a collection from scratch, as a huge success.

As the only Scottish art college invited to show collections at Graduate Fashion Week in London in June, and counting designer-of-the-moment Holly Fulton as one of it’s past graduates, Edinburgh College of Art has a prestigious reputation to uphold in the fashion world.

But after Thursday's show, it’s crystal clear the ECA class of 2011 are leaving with it firmly at their feet.

Finally, I'll end this monster post with some more stunning shots from the night:

All the photos in this post are by my amazingly-talented friend and photographer Nadine Yardley who owns the copyright.

They have been used with her express permission and cannot be reproduced from this blog without prior consent. Click on her name for her Flikr, or contact her at


Anonymous said...

wow, some of these look AMAZING! I love your friends metallic slinky numbers, so so good. xxx

Rachelous said...

Wow looks like quite the night! Love the look of the second dress and your friend's second look is amazing. Hope they all go far! x

Ayden said...

I know I mentioned on twitter but I was so proud to hear you liked nicolas stuff :) Like I said she is davids cousin but I have never met her before, but heard lots about her and her work from his aunty. and how bloody expensive a course it has been in terms of materials etc, madness! xx

are you dressing up or dressing down said...

lly great talent here. Looks like such fun.

Helen, X

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