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GFW19: Meet designer Steph Starkey, who found magic in misfortune


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Graduate Fashion Week 2019 has come to a close, but the celebrations aren’t over yet - we’ve been catching up with the designers behind some of our favourite collections. Today, we're profiling Northumbria University's Steph Starkey.

With many designers at this year’s GFW opting to show their collections to an instrumental backing track, when I heard the dulcet tones of Gwen Stefani’s Rich Girl ringing over the runway, my interest was immediately piqued. The collection that followed was a level of sass and fun that Stefani herself would be proud to wear.

Image Credit: Chris Moore at

But, behind the pastels and pom poms, Steph Starkey’s collection contained enormous significance.

Steph says: “The inspiration behind my collection was my dad’s rare form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

"As a result of his illness he puts his clothes on inside out and back to front, and jumbles his speech. I used this concept to design clothing with interior details on the outside, such as back neck facings and garment labels, and alphabet bead embellishment. I jumbled up Queen song lyrics to not only pay homage to the ‘old dad’, but also encapsulate the essence of the new and (not so) improved one.

"My family try to maintain a really positive attitude and often find humour in his blunders, which is why the collection is so colourful.”

Image Credit: Chris Moore at

GFW19 was quite the week for Steph, with her collection being shortlisted to appear in Wednesday night’s prestigious gala event, attended by the likes of Christopher Bailey and Dame Zandra Rhodes.

The journey leading up to this point has been just as momentous. Steph says: “I have always been interested in fashion and loved doing fashion drawings, from being a little girl. I would say I realised I wanted to study fashion design during my art foundation year at Trafford College in Manchester. I specialised in textiles there and it seemed that a course in fashion would naturally be the next step.

“Seeing my collection on the runway was surreal, overwhelming and emotional. I returned to study last September after taking time out to have my daughter, and thought I would just about scrape through my final year, so to see my finished garments on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week was an experience I never thought I would have.”

Image Credit: Chris Moore at

Yes, you read that right: as if it’s not impressive enough that Steph is a brilliant designer who has produced a collection that many of us will be hard-pressed to forget, she has done so after taking time out to have a baby.

It’s clear that natural talent has combined perfectly with tireless hard work for Steph Starkey, and although GFW19 has come to an end this is just the beginning for her. So, what’s next?

She says: “I did a work placement year as part of my sandwich course at Northumbria University, and I went to Rebecca Taylor in New York. I interned in the embroidery and embellishment department, working on samples, technical packs and garment research. My experience there has definitely influenced my work this year, as I have developed a flair for creative embellishment. 

“I would love to move back to New York to pursue a career in fashion. To work for a brand like Moschino or House of Holland would be incredible, as they are both designers that I look to for inspiration.”

Image Credit: Chris Moore at

Jeremy Scott, on the off-chance that you’re reading this, we think we’ve found someone that you’re really going to like.  

Find more interviews and coverage from Graduate Fashion Week 2019 here.

Lead image credit: Chris Moore at

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