The Greatest Hits: Graduate Collections

Graduate Fashion Week is upon us, which means hopeful students everywhere have been spending sleepless nights at their sewing machines and mannequins, day-dreaming they’ll be able to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and achieve greatness. To mark the occasion, here’s a look back at graduates of the past who’ve gone on to rule the runways of the world. Around 85% are alumni of the legendary Central Saint Martins, and some of them were even lucky enough to study under the scrutinous eye of the late, acclaimed MA Course Director, Louise Wilson. From rags to riches, the graduate collections below were created out of sheer talent, scraped together with blood sweat and tears…which is most probably what led to their brilliance.

John Galliano’s ‘Les Icroyables’ graduate collection, 1984.

The Italian-British designer, John Galliano, shocked and inspired audiences with his graduate collection ‘Les Incroyables’ (The Incredibles) inspired by the French Revolution. Galliano did not have much money with which to produce his final year collection, a fact which probably drove, rather than inhibited his aspiration to create a fearless and bold collection that represented the 80s Soho club scene of the time. He used friends, models and club ravers to don the collection, that would grant him a First Class Honours degree from Central Saint Martins. Within 24 hours of his first show, The Incredibles collection appeared in the boutique windows of Browns.

“I can remember charging through cobbled streets in all that amazing organdie. Jackets were worn upside down and inside out, romantic organdie shirts were accessorised with everything from magnifying glasses – smashed, and worn as jewellery – to rainbow-coloured ribbons sewn onto the insides of coats. It was a reflection of me, but sort of wild and unkempt – not like the fashions of the time. I poured my heart and soul into that collection – well you do – and I scrimped and saved and scoured all over for all the bits I needed, it was everything to me.” Galliano describes to James Anderson in a past interview for i-D.

Above: A compiled video showing John Galliano’s 1984 graduate show.

Hussein Chalayan’s ‘The Tangent Flowers’ collection, 1993.

Hussein Chalayan’s unconventional use of material, and political and social statements through his creations were apparent even in his graduate collection. Chalayan, after creating his collection buried it in a friends back garden for three months before he unveiled it for the final year show at Central Saint Martins. The oxidised garments, weathered from natural elements, were to act as an affirmation against the contemporary man’s materialism, and would be bought and displayed by Browns.

Marc Jacobs graduate collection, 1984.

The only designer who has not attended Central Saint Martins in this list, Marc Jacobs graduated from the coveted Parson School of Design in New York. His final collection was awarded with Design Student of the Year, the Perry Ellis Gold Thimble Award and the Chester Weinberg Gold Thimble Award, that included hand-knit Optical illusion jumpers created by his Nan.

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Christopher Kane’s graduate collection, 2006.

Christopher Kane’s MA graduate collection at CSM was inspired by Melanie Griffiths and her performance in ‘Working Girl.’ The collection was created using colourful, kitsch laces he sourced on Ridley Road Market in Dalston, and modeled on his sister Tammy Kane. The collection would grant him the £1,500 Harrod’s Design Award, where he was then instantly hired by Donatella Versace to create for the Atelier Couture Collections.

Gareth Pugh’s graduate collection, 2004.

A controversial graduate collection, Gareth Pugh’s fascination with balloons began here with these large striped balloons used to emphasize the models twig like limbs and joints poking out from under the heap. It’s a statement which would go on to become Pugh’s trademark technique. Senior Fashion Editor of Dazed and Confused at the time, Nicola Formichetti, would put Pugh’s creations on the cover of the April 2004 issue, a first ever occurrence for any graduate collection.

Stella McCartney’s graduate collection.

Stella McCartney’s celebrity-background could not be ignored when her graduate collection hit the catwalk at Central Saint Martin’s, worn by her model friends, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Yasmin Le Bon.

Alexander McQueen’s ‘Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims’ graduate collection, 1992.

Another protégé of Professor Louise Wilson at Central Saint Martin’s, designer Alexander McQueen left school at 16 to learn tailoring on Savile Row, before going to University. His graduate collection was influenced by the Whitechapel Jack the Ripper serial killer victims in 1888, because he had a relative whose home was previously owned by a victim. The collection, which had hair sewn in between the linings, to represent prostitutes who would sell their hair in Victorian eras, was purchased in its entirety by Isabella Blow for £5000. Blow went on to become a close friend and benefactor.