Every year, fashion connoisseurs flock to the London Graduate Fashion Week in hopes of spotting the next John Galliano or Lee Alexander McQueen. While worldwide there is much spotlight being thrown on competitions to find the next great young designer, they’re only pocket flashlights with batteries that don’t last very long – you get a trophy, a big cheque, an internship and then no one ever hears from you again. The one and only place that can make your debut as a designer last is the London Graduate Fashion Week – and there are those lucky few that don’t have to graduate from London to get there.
In light of its 50th birthday coming up in 2014, the prestigious London Graduate Fashion Week International Show will include a new participant – the Accademia di Costume e di Moda – adding to its already impressive roster of 16 international universities. Amongst these are schools like NYC’s Parsons, the Academy of Art of San Francisco, the Marangoni school in Milan, the Pakistan Institute of Fashion and the BUNKA in Tokyo, to name a few.
The International Award, given out to the best collection presented at the show, will be given out to a winner selected by Sara Maino (Fashion Editor of Vogue Italia) and Wendy Dagworthy (board member of the Graduate Fashion week as well as a professor at the historic Royal College of Art in London). But what makes this award so different from all the others? What could possibly give the winner more than 15 minutes of fame? Presenting at the London Graduate week is part of it; the other, well, a quite small prize really – the chance to produce and present a collection at London and Paris fashion week (I hope you sensed the irony in the word ‘small’, I used italics for a reason) sponsored by MUUSE and Fashion Scout.
The Accademia di Costume e di Moda has been an institute of the highest excellency when it comes to fashion education for 50 years now, having been founded in 1964 and produced well-known and loved graduates such as Frida Giannini (Gucci) and Aldo Maria Camillo (Cerruti). As a newbie competitor, however, and only Rome-based school in the running for the prize, the Accademia will be represented by the also Roman-born Francesca Della Valle – a bright young thing, from the graduate class of 1988, who already has a couple of prizes in her pocket.
Francesca’s collection for the competition, “DEGRADE”, is composed of 6 outfits for both man and woman; it makes use of colour gradation and extensive research of particular, unconventional materials to harmoniously marry innovation and modernity with clothes of an otherwise artisanal appeal. Every single item in the collection is hand dyed and the colour palette comes from a long process of colour experimentation, the final result being a mix and match of fabrics and colours that create a delicious cocktail, both tactile and visual.
Every year, eyes are set on the London Graduate Fashion Week and everyone is waiting to be the one to spot the Next Great Thing™. This year, however, it might not come from London at all, so keep your eyes peeled and remember the foreign-sounding names – it might just be the rookie competitor taking home the prize.