Review: Student and Graduate show at York Fashion Week 2023


Dhuha Usman (she/her) reviews the Student and Graduate show at York Fashion Week 2023

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Image by Orla McAndrew

By Dhuha Usman

On 30 September, York Art Gallery hosted their first fashion event as part of York Fashion Week. Hosting a big crowd, from fashion lovers to admiring family and friends, they showcased the best of York’s student fashion designers.

The entrance to the gallery was adorned with a red carpet, a Met Gala style, 360 selfie station, and bottles upon bottles of prosecco. After  some mingling and catching up with old friends, we were ushered up to an exhibit room and seated ready for the show. We were seated in the middle of the room, creating a circular runway. This not only made for an epic runway but also blended the show into the art gallery itself.

The show began with a short speech from the event’s organisers, with a strong emphasis on highlighting impressive talent in the North, away from the London-centric fashion hub.

The first collection bedazzled the exhibit room in true 70s’ style. With bold colours and a plethora of flared trousers and bell sleeves, the crowd were amazed by the utter joy seeping out of the collection. Not only were the bright colours shining under the lights, but the  gold sparkles on each piece created a beautiful reflection on the gallery walls and made for a pleasing bit of continuity throughout the first collection.

The next collection carried on with the ‘big sleeve’ theme, but paired the 80s’ style shoulder pads with a contrast of floral lingerie and nightwear. The juxtaposition of these shapes and patterns created an interesting mix of daintier styles against combat contours. It was a modern take on two very classic and timeless eras of fashion. By pairing them together, this collection became innovative and unique.

The third collection showcased work from students at York College. For this reason, it was not the most cohesive collection of the evening but a joy to watch, nonetheless. The collection ranged from a mix of plush velvet, jewel tones, to vibrant, organza sleeves, and to the reworking of hessian mail bags into jackets. It was inspiring to see the varied talents and visions of the young fashion designers, who may well be the future of fashion.

Next up was a runway consisting of what can only be described as ‘high fashion work wear’. The classic tailored black suit trouser was taken up a notch and paired with delicate yet bold organza shirts. There was a monochromatic theme which made the collection classy and elegant, yet ending with a bold orange organza shirt. Under the long-line shirt was a two-piece, pinstripe hot pants and bralette set, reminiscent of a 50s’ style swimsuit. The throwback to an older workwear staple (pinstripe) and the 50s’ shapes was a nice nod to women’s smart-wear and how  it has evolved. This made the collection an exciting one to watch. This last piece was so unexpected but a fresh and experimental addition to this collection.

In complete opposition to this, was a collection filled with neon athleisure and dad trainers. It was probably the most ‘on-trend’ collection, but the couture twist was in the organza peplum frills paired with the tracksuit-style outfits.

Parallel to these brighter colours, the next collection saw a similar style of athleisure but with the liveliest catwalk of the evening. These vibrant colours paired with the models dancing around the exhibit room rejuvenated the crowd and was a fantastic halfway point of the show. Whilst I can’t say I enjoyed the octopus plush toys on each piece, it was definitely the most entertaining runway of the night.

The next collection showcased headwear and outerwear, with a wide range of streetwear varying from 70s’ crochet capes to ‘tent-wear chic’. Yes, this is exactly what you are picturing.

The penultimate collection was my favourite of the evening. The bias cuts and asymmetric button detailing on the deep blue satin evening dresses were an ode to trends both new and old. This modern take on such definitive materials and colours was beautiful and, ironically, show-stopping. It was both contemporary and regal, like a 2023 Princess Diaries wardrobe.I’m not sure what could be more perfect.

The final  showcase of the evening was a more stereotypical knitwear collection. It reminded me of Roksanda’s Autumn/Winter knitwear collection, as well as Jaquemus’ balaclavas. The muted toned colours mixed with the tufted heavy knits were really pleasing  to the eye. This certainly expressed the seriousness of the student designers; taking huge inspiration  from the recent runways of globally renowned fashion weeks.

The Student and Graduate show was a catwalk that showcased the promising talent of future generations, all experienced from the comfort of local towns and cities in the North. It was an inspiring and entertaining evening, a way to support local independent designers and definitely something I would recommend going to watch during the next York Fashion Week. London and Paris have nothing on York!