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GFW19: My favourite designers...and they all happen to be from UCLan


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It's hard to believe that Graduate Fashion Week has come to an end - the week flew by and for a few days, Shoreditch was filled with the very best talent from the UK's university fashion departments. After sitting through countless shows and seeing a huge array of different collections, it's time for us to pick our favourites.

For me, they incidentally all come from The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) - purely a coincidence, I haven't be paid to say this (I promise.) Their show debuted on the very first day of GFW, and was full of innovation, colour, sustainable designs and very extra looks from start to finish.

From left: April Unsworth, Melanie Eccelson and Charley Parr // All images courtesy of the designers

April Unsworth: Taking ceramics and making them fashion

From the first moment the models stepped out on the catwalk, April Unsworth's collection was a standout. For her inspiration, she turned to antique household objects, which - once you realise - is very clear to see running through the collection's DNA.

April says: "My collection is inspired by antique ceramics and advanced style attitudes towards fashion, then focusing on three objects: a floral bowl with a black and white border, a candle tray with 3D flowers, and a tapestry seat cover." These objects are creatively woven through her designs in subtle ways, from the bright colours to the retro prints.

GIF credit: Ruby Naldrett via GIPHY

Checkerboard prints and exaggerated sleeves aplenty, April wanted to take nostalgic older styles and prints and put her own modern twist on things: "I was inspired to mix florals and geometric prints, developing old patterns into new. Gold trims around chinaware inspired me to use exaggerated trims of gold. Women of advanced style inspired me to be bold (and) daring but ultimately have fun with my collection."

April chose to study at UCLan because of the sandwich year course. She says that "they let students be individual, passionate about their own work and creatively independent. Also, the placement year allows students to get a real insight into the industry, which is essential for both your CV and your first interviews once you graduate." 

During her placement year, she focused on knitwear and turned her hand to Christmas jumper designing. Her designs and innovation paid off - she's the one who's responsible for that  Tesco double jumper that had everyone talking last year!

GIF credit: Ruby Naldrett via GIPHY

Charley Parr: Creating perfection from imperfection

With models waltzing down the catwalk with embroidered masks covering their faces, it was hard not to be intrigued by Charley Parr's collection. Her designs were influenced by the scrutiny that women face day to day when it comes to their bodies.

She says: "My concept is based around the “imperfections” of a woman's body, with a strong focus on the ‘lumps and bumps’ of the figure; the parts that normally get airbrushed or hidden. These elements have been the strongest influence on my silhouettes and I have incorporated my own machine-knitted pieces to represent this."

Charley Parr's portfolio // Image credit: Ruby Naldrett

Her collection also had a big focus on sustainability, something we're hugely passionate about here at The National Student. Being conscious of her design process and the fabrics and elements she used was a big part of her collection. She says: "I have been conscious of the sustainable elements and practices whilst developing my collection, as this is something that I am passionate about.

"The bulk of my materials have come from donated knitwear pieces from my placement company, recycled cones of yarns that have been abandoned in the university that would overwise go to landfill, and 'imperfect' tights that have been kindly donated to me from the brand UK Tights. This stage has also helped to reduce their waste as a business and highlighted the fact that something beautiful could come from items headed for the landfill."

During her placement year, Charley worked at Jo-Y-Jo, a knitwear specialist, and this has clearly influenced her collection. This chance to take a year to work with industry professionals was one of the main reasons that Charley chose to study at UCLan: "UCLan encourages students to do a placement year to gain as much experience as possible in the industry that will then enhance our chances of getting a job after we graduate," she says, "as well as getting the professional knowledge we need to help us with our final collections."

Image credit: Ruby Naldrett

Her work was selected to appear in the Talent of Tomorrow campaign, and there's no denying that Charley Parr is definitely going to be one of the talents of tomorrow... but what are her plans for the immediate future? 

"I would love to get a design job within the fashion industry," she says. "To be able to continue to push my creativity as much as possible and to learn new knowledge from other creatives."

GIF credit: Ruby Naldrett via GIPHY

Melanie Eccleson: An Irish inspiration

The idea behind Melanie Eccleson's collection was very close to home, "inspired by my personal passion for traditional Irish Dancing, which my family and I had great success when competing (in). The authentic elements from the costumes inspired my contemporary silhouettes and details, such as scrolling Celtic patterns, poodle sock knit structures, couching techniques, and laser cutting." 

Her portfolio shows images of her Irish dancing days, with sweet childhood photos juxtaposing with her more contemporary designs.

Melanie Eccleson's portfolio // Image credit: Ruby Naldrett

Like her peers, the inclusion of a placement year was what swung Melanie's decision to choose UCLan, and like Charley she also spent the year at Jo-Y-Jo knitwear, where she had the chance to design knitwear for a multitude of high street brands including Next, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins. 

"I chose UCLan as the course offered an industry placement year as part of the degree and for me this was essential," she says. "The year-long internship period allows you to get an insight into the fashion industry and how to perform professionally."

GIF credit: Ruby Naldrett via GIPHY

Melanie's plans for the future are to become a junior designer and in turn become "a valid member of a team actively contributing to a brand/company's success." 

Whatever these three young designers choose to do in the future, it's clear that they've got bright futures ahead of them. Hannah Morley, who we featured earlier this week, is also a UCLan student - so it's clear that talent is in the water up in Lancashire!

The UCLan show was full of innovative and exciting designers, with interesting back stories behind each of their collections. 

Follow April Unsworth on Instagram @aprillouisecollection_

Follow Charley Parr on Instagram @cparrdesigns

Follow Melanie Eccleson on Instagram

For more interviews and backstage stories, visit our GFW homepage.

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