From slavery to tailoring, in an exclusive Great Yorkshire Show preview, Stephanie Smith takes a look at the thought-provoking designs by this year’s fashion students. Pictures by Doug Jackson.
Fashion students’ designs are attention-grabbing, even outrageous, by their very nature. It is all too easy for some onlookers to dismiss their work as youthful exuberance and flights of fancy (although what’s wrong with that?), but a closer look and a little insight will soon reveal the consideration, imagination and technique that goes into creating a graduate catwalk collection.
“For a student in the third year of their degree in fashion, it’s their opportunity to put together all the skills they have learned and for exploration and experimentation, because once they leave university, they will have to deal with the commercial world and make it saleable,” said Dr Annabel Smith, programme leader for the BA (Hons) Fashion students at Harrogate College. “They feel it’s such a small window of opportunity to show their innovation and creativity.”
Every year, students from Yorkshire colleges and universities are chosen to showcase their work before thousands of visitors on the Great Yorkshire Show catwalk.
This year, students from Harrogate College, Hull College of Art & Design and the University of Huddersfield have been selected to take part in the three-day agricultural event, alongside the likes of retail giant John Lewis and couturier James Steward.
The Hull College of Art & Design students explored slavery through the ages to the modern day for their catwalk designs. They carried out research at Wilberforce House in Hull, as part of a project to tie in with Hull’s year as City of Culture.
Bernadette Gledhill, of model agency Morton Gledhill The Fashion Team, based in Huddersfield, has been involved with the students’ work from the briefing stage.
“With some of the garments, you can’t see the hands as the sleeves are long, reflecting the lack of freedom of movement as wearers are trapped into garments,” she said.
The flip-flops are an emblem of modern-day slavery, representing people trafficked and forced to work in domestic service. One pair, created by Anthea Power, from Goole, are decorated with false nails to highlight those forced to work in nail salons.
Bernadette was also involved in the University of Huddersfield fashion project, which will also be seen for the first time on the Great Yorkshire Show catwalk.
“Every year, the students are set a tailoring project, and this year Abraham Moon & Sons has donated 50 metres of cloth,” she said.
The designs chosen here to feature in the photo shoot preview at Birdsall House use the Great Yorkshire Tweed created by Abraham Moon for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. “We’ve focused on the ladieswear, which has a quirky edge, not traditional tailoring at all,” Bernadette said.
There are also designs from Harrogate College BA (Hons) Fashion Design final year degree collections from Berenice Gilmour, Beth Redshaw and Holly Greenwood, who was described by Dr Smith as “amazingly innovative”, adding that her menswear collection was inspired by the Chinese New Year festival in Leeds and by rap culture.
“She has designed and printed all the textiles,” she said. “It’s very sporty, which is very current and commercial.”
Beth Redshaw’s final collection focuses on is sustainability. “All the fabrics are organic and ethically sourced, and she has used flowers and plants to dye them,” said Dr Smith. “She has made a range any age can wear.”
Berenice Gilmour created a collection of interplaying textiles, with brightly coloured plaids, knits and suede. A dancer by profession, Berenice damaged her hip which stopped her career. Unable to afford her daughter’s disco dancing outfits, she decided to make them herself and signed up for sewing lessons. Her outfits were so successful she set up an online shop, took her designs to Harrogate College and was accepted onto the degree course. Berenice has won Bridal Buyer Student Designer of the Year 2016 and a Yorkshire Young Achievers award.
Great Yorkshire Show director Charles Mills said: “The fashion show always attracts thousands of visitors and brings together cutting-edge fashion and agriculture, while giving up-and-coming designers from across Yorkshire the chance to showcase their work.”
And this year’s show looks set to be amazing, said Bernadette Gledhill. “We rotate the colleges every year so they all get a chance. There will be the opportunity to see very different looks, from John Lewis to independent Leeds designer James Steward.”
* The 159th Great Yorkshire Show takes place from July 11 to 13 at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate.
See the fashion collections on stage at the Great Yorkshire Show Catwalk, daily at 11am, 12.30, 2.30 and 4pm.
The Harrogate College end of year fashion show is at Bistro on the Park, Harrogate College, on June 13, from 6pm. Tickets on 01423 878274. It kicks off the college’s two-week exhibition of the work of its Fine Art, Photography and Fashion students. Visit www.greatyorkshireshow.co.uk and use #GYScatwalk for fashion show social media.
Photography: Doug Jackson Photography
Location: Birdsall House, near Malton, part of an award-winning family-run farming estate, which can now be hired for weddings and events.
Styling: The fashion show is co-ordinated by Bernadette Gledhill of Morton Gledhill – The Fashion Team with hair and make-up by the Artistic Team at Harrogate College.