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How will the next generation of global fashion designers reshape the industry? Some answers can already be found in the graduate collections coming out of the world's top fashion schools.

From the outside looking in, London's exceptionally high concentration of prestigious design colleges — Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and the University of Westminster — may seem like a closed-off national system. On the contrary, the 2022 graduate collections from these top institutions reveal an international melting pot of creatives with truly global perspectives. To provide a snapshot of what these high-achieving Gen Z-ers can bring to the industry, we attended the fashion shows for all three schools, selecting eight standout designers whose garments caught our eye for their outstanding craftsmanship.

These designers represent a generation that went into school during "normalcy" and came out after enduring a worldwide pandemic that's now leading straight into a recession. They represent a wide range of demographic backgrounds, influences and silhouettes. Their reference points go far beyond the scope of fashion, including politics, identity, gender and sexuality and pop culture. As you'll read in the interviews below, what they all have in common is that they're ready to take on the industry and shape it into something better. 

Get to know Bertie WellsIsabella HoelkMaya MagnayHamish GordonHawking Yuhao ChenEunYeong KimTian Qin and Michael Stukan below.

A full team of Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion graduates and students (myself included) collaborated on the imagery featured below. Scott Bowlby's photography puts the designers' distinctive garments at the forefront, while also showcasing the models in a more relaxed setting as they received makeup touch-ups, fixes to their hair, and spent time chilling between takes.

How do you feel about the state of the industry and the job market you graduated into?
Having grown up a world away from the fashion industry, I never considered it as a career option until later on. My lack of connections has left me on the back foot, slightly. Having had to work throughout my degree to pay my way, I missed out on the opportunities for internships that my peers got. It's an industry that's based on nepotism, and it's not a meritocracy. However, the industry is getting much more progressive, moving into fewer seasons and viewing gender as a less dividing factor. 

What do you think the industry is missing and/or what do you feel needs to change about the industry?
One of the main issues is the lack of equal opportunities for people. There are huge issues with class; the more you can afford to pay for your collection, the more attention it gets. Affording the basics to study is a huge setback, not to mention the countless unpaid internships that you have to accept to get the experience for your CV.

What impact do you envision your brand will have on the industry?
My brand is to have fun. It's about taking the piss out of fashion. It's there to serve as a release from how stuffy the industry becomes. I'll make political commentary but that's not what my brand is about... It's silly clothes, for silly people, in a silly industry, at the end of the day.

Did you feel prepared to enter the industry?
University doesn't prepare you for a broad and multi-dimensional industry, especially when you're working on self-directed projects and then are introduced to a more corporate structure. It comes down to your determination and being able to create opportunities for yourself. 

What do you think the industry is missing and/or what do you feel needs to change about the industry?
Mental and physical health is almost taboo within the fashion industry, but it's been remarkably advantageous to me regarding productivity and quality of work. Within creative fields such as design, there are few boundaries of what's possible. Our minds and bodies are often exhausted by this, so taking the time to re-energize and rest should be prioritized.

What impact do you envision your brand will have on the industry?
I hope that my brand will have an impact on the individual. I want people to trust in the quality, design and ethos of the brand — something that they can keep forever, pass on and share. I want to create a sense of intimacy, as this is getting increasingly rare.

How do you feel about the state of the industry and the job market you graduated into?
There's a hugely disproportionate ratio of graduates to jobs. When studying fashion, you're aware of the issues in the industry. But when you're studying and have complete creative autonomy over your work, those issues aren't something to immediately consider. Everyone knows that the industry is unsustainable, and people are struggling to find a place where they aren't actively contributing to that harm. Fashion week — which I have romanticized and idealized — is a harmful tradition: an event exclusionary for trans, disabled and plus-size people. It feels like you have to choose between causing harm to the planet and exploiting workers and financial instability.

Any lessons from school that will stick with you?
Many amazing collections weren't selected, and those people are doing well without the attention from that show. I wasted time and money trying to fit what I thought would give me a better chance with that panel or to impress my tutors, and the whole process could have been more efficient. My internships were mostly remote, which made it more difficult to make relationships with the people you were working for. I would have loved to have made more real contacts in the industry that I felt close enough to get back in contact with. 

Did you feel prepared to enter the industry?
I was lucky at LCF. It was focused on the creative side, but it taught the technical skills for when you start in the industry: sewing, pattern cutting or thinking about the production side. Doing an internship completely changed how I approached a project and how I went about creating it, while giving me an interesting eye into the industry and the skills needed for various roles and what people are looking for.

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Any lessons from school that will stick with you?
One thing I learned was the importance of having a strong theme and focal point that you can bring the project back to if you're unsure of its direction. Having this as my research made it easier to not get lost during my final year and anchored my project to something I could trace the collection back to. I don't think I had the pattern-cutting or sewing skills needed coming into my final year as a result of COVID-19 and working on my final collection.

What do you think the industry is missing and/or what do you feel needs to change about the industry?
There are many things wrong with the industry. But people can take themselves too seriously. We're lucky to be working in an industry where we get to create, and it has luxuries to it that other creative industries don't get. We need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We're making clothes. That's never worth screwing someone over for or an excuse to treat someone badly. I've luckily never experienced this, but I do know of people — particularly interns — who had experiences like this.

Did you feel prepared to enter the industry?
It's complicated to define the timing that you feel prepared for. You go for it when the opportunities come, and you will grow along the way. 

Any lessons from school that will stick with you?
Time management and planning are important. Also, having the courage to redo the design if you don't feel right about them even under time pressure.

Any lessons from school that will stick with you?
Living in London gave me the experience to think about the matter of race, ethnicity and culture. At LCF, I've been exposed to a variety of cultural references. It's important to know who I am and establish my originality in the arts. I confronted difficulties and confusion with my South Korean identity — I grew up in a westernized Korean society. Through the critical review of Korean history and cultural development, new forms of culture are created by combining heritage with a contemporary interpretation.

What impact do you envision your brand will have on the industry?
Fashion can contribute to our world more than visual and physical satisfaction. We've all had emotional experiences of shedding tears, laughing, or hearts touched by films, books or music. What about fashion? I want to set the range of audience not limited to people who wear my clothes, but each piece to have its story and give catharsis. My brand explores new storytelling fashion by communicating with audiences and bringing out something in their heart. 

How do you feel about the state of the industry and the job market you graduated into?
I don't like the industry, to be honest — all those glamorous facades, but many workers and craftsmen never get the respect they deserve. Also, since the world has entered a digital era full of TikTokers and influencers now, society in general has lost somewhat humanity and a human touch.

Any lessons from school that will stick with you?
The lessons I have learned are: Solve the problem instead of complaining, and don't stress — even if the worst has or will happen, it's important to stay in a positive mindset.

What do you think the industry is missing and/or what do you feel needs to change about the industry?
What I feel needs to change is that people need to be nicer to others, in particular towards interns or people who may not be in a high position in a company. And the industry needs more honest opinions.

How do you feel about the state of the industry and the job market you graduated into?
Graduating during an impending recession and cost-of-living crisis isn't an ideal time to enter the industry, but there's such a spirit to London for emerging designers. Putting out authentic work is my main priority. There's not much I can do about the economic trends; moving ahead with my design practice is the only way forward.

Did you feel prepared to enter the industry upon graduation?
CSM's placement year provides the most valuable lessons to ready yourself. I spent most of my time designing for JW Anderson; having pieces picked for the show and commercial collections allowed me to understand the process for industry collections. There's a difficult transition going from CSM, where creativity is cherished, to an industry where commerce is important. 

What impact do you envision your brand will have on the industry?
I hope that my work speaks to a sector in the market yet to be explored: menswear that's designed with feminine shapes and ideals. Queer aesthetics aren't seen in traditional men's and women's collections. Telling this story of queer masculinity through softness and delicacy is my purpose within my practice.

Photo Credits
Photographer: Scott Bowlby @bowlbysir
Makeup: 
Minjin Kawck @kmini.mua
Hair: Ayaka Eguchi @style_of_a
Models: Sarah Afriyie @afriyie_sara, Michael Samuel @michael.samuel_, and Luke Weston @lukeweston from PRM Agency @prm_agency
Producer and Videographers: Gabrielle Valda Colas @gabylolos and Ranji Mangcu @ranjimangcu

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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