Graduate Fashion Week

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Features - Profiles

Gilly Staples is the BA Hons Fashion Design program Leader at Nottingham Trent University. She exclusively talks to Amita Mistry about Graduate Fashion Week and the budding designers aiming for the awards.

nott_08_ba_0569How involved are you in the run up to Graduate Fashion Week?

I'm involved right from the beginning. We start organising Graduate Fashion in October where we start putting together initial concepts which has nothing to do with students. We are thinking about our stand and how we approach and we evaluate how we felt about last year so at the moment we're actually working with an external designer to develop our stand and identity for this coming year.

How do the students get involved in GFW?

The final year students are briefed but there are conditions to it because we're only allowed to show 25 students maximum which is quite a difficult thing itself and we're two design programs so we've got Fashion and Fashion Knitwear. There are 75 students doing collections on Fashion Design and 40 Knitwear so the percentage of students who get through to that is quite small. So we get external people in to give us feedback and then the panel at the end of the selection of Graduate Fashion Week attend both shows. The panel decide who they think best represents the University as a whole and then they come after the shows to look at the garments and they put the final list together. All internal staff stay out of it because it's too hard and I don't feel I could be objective - it's better to have a fresh pair of eyes on it. These people are industry representatives, designers and they decide who goes forward so it's fair for everybody.

When does the short listing happen?

That will happen at the end of the academic year so the Nottingham shows are in May. Knitwear is on Wednesday 20th at the student union and Fashion Design is on Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd May at the Albert Hall. Even though it's at different venues, luckily it is Nottingham Fashion Week and we're still collaborating together in terms of marketing the event and look books. We have two committees one for Knitwear and one Fashion and we collaborate all the time in the progress of developing the logistics of it, like organising the show, the models, everything. It's really hard but the students do most of that and they've raised money for three years for this show from their first year and what they achieve at the end of it is just incredible.

What do you think the judges are looking for?

They always give a breakdown of the criteria that they're looking for but we haven't been given that information yet. For a student to just get selected is wonderful, even if they don't win they've still done so well to get that far, winning is tough.

Do you think Fashion courses outside of London are getting better because there seems to be a lot of winners from outside?

I think that Nottingham has always been a big player and it's not just been London that takes the spotlight every time. Some of the best designers come from outside of London.           

nicole_murray smallHow hard do you think it is for students to break into the fashion industry?

Obviously with the current climate it's really worrying but lots of our students, especially doing knitwear go abroad and they're ok at the moment. You've got to give them as much as you can to build their confidence to enable them to go and say, ‘well I can actually do this to get me on the first step of the ladder'. You're not going to run straight into working with Galliano or Vivienne Westwood so we don't let them think that, but we don't let them lose sight of their aspirations.

You've got the bonus of having Paul Smith get involved, how does he help students?

Paul is very supportive; he does scholarships so a lot of graduates do go to Paul Smith which is wonderful.

Have you met him?

Yes he's a fabulous guy, he's never in the country but he's always very supportive of us.

How much potential do you think the NTU students have of winning at GFW?

I think they've got as much chance as anybody. It is very difficult but you've got to encourage everyone to go for it and they know the score at the end of the day - they know that only a certain number of people go through. We've got the Nottingham shows they're fantastic because it's a great opportunity where they all come together to work as a unit and they all get to show their designs.