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Leeds College of Art – foundry of fashion design

June 18, 2014
Design by Sonia Sohal at the Leeds College of Art Graduate Fashion Show,

Design by Sonia Sohal at the Leeds College of Art Graduate Fashion Show.

Are we aware of just how much creative talent we have in our country? Do we understand exactly what a wealth of it we have in Yorkshire?

I am not at all convinced that we are aware or do know. I am certainly guilty of taking it for granted, maybe even forgetting from time to time. And then something happens. I go to a gallery or a graduate show and it hits me – there are some astonishing talents right on our doorstep, and sometimes we are blessed to be there at their birth.

 

The work of Ellen Harker on the Canal Mills catwalk.

The work of Ellen Harker on the Canal Mills catwalk.

And so it was that when I attended the Leeds College of Art Graduate Fashion Show last week to witness 21 students take off and find their wings when their final collections were modelled on the catwalk before an audience of press, industry scouts, their lecturers and peers and proud family and friends.

Statement shapes and tailoring by Samantha Dunn.

Statement shapes and tailoring by Samantha Dunn.

That’s what I love about these sort of events, the eclectic mix of people, from all backgrounds and walks, but all united in a common appreciation and pride in the creative endeavours of the young and the gifted (although not always very young).

All the collections were impressive, some sport and streetwear looks, others tailored and high-octane and statement. The inspiration and the workmanship were astonishing, and there were whoops of delight and sighs of appreciation throughout. It was also heartening to see the support given by the other disciplines at the college, including art, furniture and interiors, graphics, photography and advertising.

The collection by Bethany Dawe on the Leeds College of Art catwalk.

The collection by Bethany Dawe on the Leeds College of Art catwalk.

The venue was a revelation in itself for me. It was Canal Mills, not far from Wellington Street, on Brandon Street, off Armley Road and just beside the canal in Leeds. It’s atmospheric, stripped back brick and girders decorated with artworks and bright paintbox bars and is used as a multi-purpose venue for events, art shows, food and drink … lots of stuff. Check it out on canalmills.com/

 

Inside Canal Mills, the venue used by the Leeds College of Art for its graduate fashion show.

Inside Canal Mills, the venue used by the Leeds College of Art for its graduate fashion show.

Leeds College of Art sends out former fellows and graduates all over the country and the world to spread their creative genius and spirit. One former fellow is Mary Benson, who studied there as she started her own label and found level after level of success, on the Mary Queen of Shops TV programme, on pop-ups at Clarence Dock, showing at the Great Yorkshire Show, developing her own label with her holographic designs worn by the likes of Rita Ora and Ellie Goulding, and then completing her training this year at the University of Westminster.

Rita Ora wears one of Mary Benson's designs.

Rita Ora wears one of Mary Benson’s designs.

She has just graduated and her collection was chosen for the all-important finale in central London. It’s a mesmerising, wonderful body of work, using fantasy prints based on her own dreams, Kate Bush’s look in 1979 and her boyfriend’s old record collection. She’s a name to watch, and she’s not the only one. We are darned lucky to have the Leeds College of Art.

From former Leeds College of Art student Mary Benson's final collection at the University of Westminster,

From former Leeds College of Art student Mary Benson’s final collection at the University of Westminster. Picture by Simon Armstrong.

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