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Although the crowd was warmed up with the commercial sounds of Flo Rida and Ellie Goulding at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, the Free Range Southampton Solent Graduate Show 2012 was anything but commercial. Twelve collections were presented, all daringly innovative and refreshingly different, yet each 6-model show boasted impressive tailoring and mastered craftsmanship. Designer Myla Chea won the award for the most innovative design collection ‘Transformation’. Using epic concertina folds and origami structures, Myla created bags that morphed into hats, and miniskirts that expanded into a floor-length column. Multi-functionality at its most cutting-edge.

Chloe Dorman’s ‘Tailor’s Maid’ collection gave classic and modern looks a utility edge. An evening gown cut high to reveal some leg with an asymmetric ruffled train was given a casual and futuristic slant by using synthetic fabric with a bold, gold zip. The rest of the collection consisting of 40s-style pencil skirts and modern carrot trousers and crop tops, were reminiscent of safari-meets-glamour hues of black, mustard, and gold. The bug-eyed models wore blackened lips with wet-look, combed-back hair for a fresh, albeit slightly grungy look. An abomination of the classics.

‘The Myth of Time’ collection by Emily-Jane Harris is what you would expect if Van Gogh went to a Dubstep night in China. Strutting against a heavy bass line, the models blazed in cobalt and orange, navy and tangerine, eastern-inspired high-necked blouses, adorned with expressive paint-stroke like prints. Focussing on favourite staples of playsuits, high-waisted hot pants and straight-legged, 7/8 length trousers, this collection was bright, bold and totally brilliant.

The craftsmanship displayed by Lucy Sheppard in ‘Rook 22’ was truly breathtaking and and fantastically intelligent. Each ensemble could have been a different outfit with every turn, sway and pose. One model wore a blazer from the back, a coat from the front, and then posed and turned to reveal an ice blue, Grecian-style dress panel. Complicated yet minimal, classic yet edgy. Another wore a jumpsuit sculpted out of a shirt, jacket and pair of trousers. Talent? No. Genius? Yes.

Other highlights of the night included Royah Moharrer’s ‘East Meets West’ sport luxe collection for men inspired by American jocks and Eastern brocade prints as well as Hannah Kopec’s futuristic and minimal padded cocoon shapes. The majority of the Solent designers saw the beauty in tailoring and voluminous shapes, and the sexiness of sheer panels and drapery. At the end of the show, the Vice Chancellor of Solent, Van Gore, commented on how the “Designers [fused] aesthetic and commercial practice” to create wearable yet high fashion looks that were “wonderfully stimulating demonstrations of the talent of the students”.

– Serina Sandhu

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