the graduates: london fashion week autumn/winter 17 begins

Central Saint Martin's MA show kicked off London's women's shows on Friday night.

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18 February 2017, 10:45am

Gabriele Skucas

For any graduate from the class of 2017, the real world must be a daunting place right about now—let alone graduating as a fashion designer. More than anyone, all eyes are currently on those in the creative fields: the designers and artists, whose flourishing creativity will save us all in the end, like it did in dark political times of the past. Right?

For the next generation of designers, who had been picked out for the Central Saint Martins MA show on the first night of London Fashion Week's autumn/winter 17 presentations on Friday, expectations were high. You could easily see their work as a reaction against the social climate. Gabriele Skucas, who won the L'Oréal prize alongside Stefan Cooke, presented a muted wartime-era collection of sculptural plissé in impoverished secretary skirts worthy of Traudl Junge, while Cooke's terrific menswear prints breathed new life into the idea of trompe l'oeil in a fashion context—the world as we see it now, the eternal optical illusion.

Central Saint Martins graduate show at London Fashion Week

Gabriella Sardeña

But what was refreshing about CSM's parade of new ideas was actually the opposite of cultural commentary. Rather than imbuing their brief stage time with a bunch of literal statements, the graduates focused on their craft—their young and unaffected ideas of what fashion should be, untainted by the surreal state of affairs that surrounds us. Gabriella Sardeña's freaky, feathery glam rock didn't read like colourful escapism, but simply as unadulterated fresh energy: the kind of fabulous fun fashion people love to see, like that one yellow fur coat covered in plastic that everyone instagrammed from the Calvin Klein show last week. Putting something wild and attention-grabbing on the runway may seem like an easy task. Getting it right is not—but Sardeña did, much like how Stefan Cooke's jeans prints on trousers and argyle prints on jumpers weren't inventing fashion's first take on trompe l'oeil, but very much took it to new heights. It was great.

Central Saint Martins graduate show at London Fashion Week

Stefan Cooke

Peter Movrin is the son of a butcher, rumour had it, and fed the family business reference into a collection of foil and butcher's paper, ticking that slightly creepy box that's really missing in the fashion landscape at the moment. If anything, these times of upheaval and huffing, puffing, orange presidents have prepared us for something a little off-kilter. The astonishment factor Lee McQueen once brought to fashion is nowhere to be found today, but desperately needed in an age where the daily news on CNN is more grotesque than most of his shows ever were. That doesn't, however, mean that bin bags in a CSM graduate show are mildly interesting, thought-provoking or cute—even the recycling kind--and there were too many of them in some of the collections. Some us of were unfortunate enough to graduate in the middle of the Recession and had our share of that.

Central Saint Martins graduate show at London Fashion Week

Peter Movrin

To some graduates, however, world affairs are more personal than the reactionary cloud hovering over the collective Western world. Oliver Thame's collection was based on Liberian boy soldiers in a multi-textured patchwork of tattered opulence that could easily land him a gig at Dries Van Noten HQ. And speaking of future careers, Tom Guy's dramatic silhouettes and embroidered tulle seemed like a big wink to Maria Grazia Chiuri should she happen to have a vacancy on her Dior team. Time will tell who becomes the unicorn of the class of 2017--which designer manages to ride this strange zeitgeist like Michael Halpern did last year. In just twelve months, the London-based American, whose Studio 54 sequins were part of last year's MA show, has established a budding fashion business and sold to some of the biggest stores around the world.

Central Saint Martins graduate show at London Fashion Week

Tom Guy

Photography Mitchell Sams