There are few -- if any -- student shows in the world so highly anticipated as that held by London's famed art school, Central Saint Martins, for its MA fashion students at London Fashion Week each February. That's thanks in large part to CSM's most famous graduate, Alexander McQueen, who was "discovered" at the 2002 show by stylist Isabella Blow -- a move that brought McQueen a great deal of early attention and helped kickstart his own label. Other graduates who now run their own fashion houses -- Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders and Mary Katrantzou among them -- also made their debuts at this same event.
On Friday evening, 11 graduates showed their final, eight-piece collections at Central Saint Martins, and it was a strong outing. While the quality and craftsmanship of the collections varied, they were ripe with fresh ideas and, especially, with materials not found in your typical runway collection, manipulated to great effect. (That's in part because these collections were not designed to be commercial or, in some cases, even wearable.)
We've highlighted what we think are the four strongest.
1. Drew Henry
Drew Henry's MA collection was easily the most wearable and commercial of the show. Drawing on his internship experience at Céline and his South African heritage, he juxtaposed simplified military and workwear-inspired coats, dresses and separates, rendered in army green and navy wool, with deer hides, worn sewn together as skirts, attached to coats or made into gloves, heeled boots or uber-chic mules. The tailoring and materials were excellent (impressively, it was all done in CSM's own studios, he says) and the collection was both luxurious and stylistically distinct. We can't help hoping that Henry will start his own label, though he says he's not sure he's ready for that yet.
2. Graham Fan
Oversized sweaters and full, calf-skimming skirts were made interesting again in Graham Fan's MA collection, thanks to his creative use of materials. Fan, who was born in Canada and raised in Hong Kong, worked with Chinese wicker weavers to produce his collection, which combined mohair, plastic and wicker to create a semi-structured, metallic surface.
Like Henry, Fan says he's not quite ready to branch out on his own yet, and is actively seeking design jobs post-graduation.
3. Ondrej Adamek
Ondrej Adamek, a Czech designer who has already showed at Prague Fashion Week, sent some of the most ambitious designs down the runway: colorful, oragami-like creations that often towered above his models' heads or obstructed their faces entirely. He was one of two designers to be awarded the L'Oreal Professionnel Creative Award, whose judging panel included designer Christopher Kane, at the end of the show -- and indeed one can see an affinity for some of the same shapes in Adamek's and Kane's designs.
4. Michael Power
Perhaps the most original of all of the collections was shown by Irish student Michael Power. He trapped "thousands" of glass beads between layers of soft tulle to make it look as if his garments -- ever so delicately constructed and yet street-cool -- had been covered in strange markings. Power, who studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and interned with Vivienne Westwood before completing his MA, says he was inspired by Native American kachina dolls, Juggalos and the work of artist Jean Dubuffet. He was the second designer to take home the L'Oreal Professionnel Creative Award.