The bright stars of the UK’s fashion industry debuted at Graduate Fashion Week, held at the Truman Brewery on London’s vibrant Brick Lane. Trying to find the handbag designers of the future in and among the many fashion courses on show wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. However, the results are 5 stand out designers.
In preparation I did visit the event’s website to find which of the 36 leading UK fashion universities would be featuring accessories in their exhibitions. However, I couldn’t seem to find a filter. Thankfully the event guide received on arrival came to my rescue. The four universities I needed to seek out were De Monfort , Northampton (UON), Nottingham Trent and London’s Ravensbourne.
The young graduate accessories designers of 2017, in particular, those designing handbags, I suspected might require a bit of seeking out but top marks went to Ravensbourne, who had clearly marked destinations on their stand for their graduates’ portfolios, all laid out, open and waiting to be enjoyed.
Nottingham Trent took a less directional approach to displaying their graduates’ works. Thankfully there was a low table with a display of the bags manufactured. It was delightful to see the portfolio sketches and graphics come to life in all their glory.
Upstairs on the first floor, UON had highly functional displays – vertical slots for the portfolios to stand neatly with a display shelf in front to lay them open. However, it was a bit of trial and error in finding the footwear and accessories graduates – more signs or labels on this stand would be helpful.
Before I reveal my shortlist of the graduate handbag designers of the show, I did visit the impressively sized exhibition stand from De Montfort. The shame here was the only accessories were footwear. An engaging display it has to be said but disappointing to hear that the other accessories were not featured.
So, without further delay on to the designers that stood out for me:
- Ellen Brown. Her oversized red and black ‘discs’ bag looked youthful and commercial
- Katrina Benina. Her graphics for a rectangle shoulder bag with colourful threading disappearing in and out of holes on the front caught my eye. Could see this as a sought after bag to add colour to a casual outfit for weekend dates
From Nottingham Trent University
3. Kate Lloyd. Her detailing on her soft backpack and travel bag I could see as being commercial winners for a department store collection
4. Olivia Harris Jenkins. Her striking black and copper ‘O’ collection
5. Rebecca Rodgers. Her portfolio was a delight to peruse with clear visuals and articulate commentary for Skeleton Dance. The colourway was fresh and Emily, Enid and Cara bags all caught my eye.
Overall, from my ‘finalists’, the designer that stood out on top was Olivia Harris Jenkins. The black and copper design of her collection was bold, dramatic and fresh – I felt like I was getting a sneak preview of an AW2018/19 designer handbag collection.
I hope established handbag designers or leading department store buyers are taking note – I’m sure these five graduates from 2017’s Fashion Week will be ones to watch. Here’s to 2018 and the respective fashion universities showcasing the talents of more accessories designers in even bolder ways.