Graduate Fashion Foundation, the charity behind Graduate Fashion Week in association with UK Fashion & Textiles Association (UKFT), hosted an exclusive reception at the Houses of Parliament this week, celebrating their strong ties with leading industry experts, bringing together fashion’s brightest young graduate talent and key policy makers. 

Following in the footsteps of notable alumni including: Christopher Bailey MBE, Stella McCartney and Giles Deacon, Graduate Fashion Foundation showcased an exciting curated display of award winning 2018 graduate work, from the range of fashion disciplines including design, marketing, journalism, photography and knitwear.

The fashion industry is one of the UK’s most important industries, supporting just under one million jobs and contributing £20.9 billion to the economy*. Graduate Fashion Foundation makes a significant contribution towards this through the connections platform, promoting the industry and acting as a springboard for emerging new talent.

Over 200 top industry guests including CEOs, Founders, Directors, Buyers, HR, PR and design teams attended, alongside established designers including Oliver Spencer and Holly Fulton to name a few. The guests gathered with charity trustees, ambassadors as well as Founder Jeff Banks CBE to celebrate the past year of successes and to launch the start of the 2019 year of events and activities.

Host Damian Collins, MP, Chairman of The Culture, Media and Sports Committee, opened the reception, followed by Hilary Alexander OBE, the charity’s Industry Trustee and passionate supporter.

“It is a fantastic event to build on year on year, celebrating the launch of new talent into the fashion industry. We’re here tonight with some of the top industry experts and our accomplished graduates to advocate the significance of the Graduate Fashion Foundation charity and the year round work it does. We are gaining more support from CEO, HR and Design Directors across international and UK brands throughout the year.”

Martyn Roberts, Creative and Managing Director of Graduate Fashion Week

Graduate Fashion Foundation Chairman and Mothercare CEO Mark Newton-Jones, spoke about the importance of the annual June Graduate Fashion Week event as an international platform for creating employment opportunities for UK graduates within the fashion capitals of the world as well as adding value to companies.

Furthermore, Mark announced the launch of the second year of the Graduate Fashion Foundation Protégé Project, the charities mentoring scheme especially created to support a core selection of graduates for two years, following their graduation. This week also saw GFF run a series of nationwide masterclasses in collaboration with Ralph Lauren and partner universities. These extra-curricular professional talks provide much needed preparation for the students entering the industry and key tips on life after graduation.

During the evening, the Chairman highlighted key 2018 sponsors Swarovski, Superdry, Tu at Sainsburys, Clarks and L’Oréal Professionel and their continued to support developing talent in the UK. These companies among other partners remain committed to the charity year on year and Graduate Fashion Foundation work closely with them to ensure they secure the very best talent.

“The UK produces £9 billion worth of fashion and textiles every year and is home to some of the world’s best designer graduates. UKFT believes it is vital we support the emerging talent within our vibrant industry and for the sixth year running we are delighted to partner with Graduate Fashion Foundation to unite leading industry figures and key policy makers at the Houses of Parliament.

To ensure the industry can continue to grow, UKFT has very ambitious plans to encourage a pipeline of talent into manufacturing to allow these designs to become a reality, as well as making sure that future designers have the appropriate knowledge to work in a rapidly changing retail industry, where collaboration with manufacturing is critical to success.”

Nigel Lugg, Chairman of UKFT

Graduate Fashion Foundation is a charitable organisation which is an essential part of the fashion industry. It is the springboard for new talent, the life force the whole industry relies on. Over the past 27 years, more than 100,000 newly graduated and undergraduate students have been supported and guided by the charity. GFF aim’s remains the same today; dedication to encouraging young people, helping them find employment and get the best start possible in the fashion industry.

A charity organisation founded in 1991 by Jeff Banks CBE, Vanessa Denza MBE and John Walford to unify both UK and international universities and create a stronghold for the creative industries to find the best talent, marked it’s 25th anniversary in 2016 by announcing the first Lifetime Patrons. Christopher Bailey MBE, Victoria Beckham OBE, Nick Knight OBE, and Dame Vivienne Westwood DBE RDI, were announced. They were joined in 2018 by Internationally acclaimed designer Diane Von Furstenberg and business woman Nadja Swarovski.

Graduate Fashion Foundation celebrates almost three decades of being one of the world’s most important sources of the new talent for the global designer industry. A crucial part of the dynamic fashion industry, fuelling innovation in all parts of fashion business.


GFF annually presents Graduate Fashion Week, the largest showcase of BA fashion in the world with over 95 of the most influential and inspiring UK and international universities and colleges on show. It provides a fantastic opportunity to see the freshest talent from 26 different fashion disciplines.

The annual Graduate Fashion Week event, held every June attracts 30,000 guests, features 26 catwalk shows and exhibition stands, alongside a packed schedule of talks, masterclasses and workshops from leading names in the fashion and retail industry. It represents the future of creative design talent and showcases the work of over 5000+ of the very best fashion graduates each year.

The event attracts a wide array of top industry professionals, press and recruiters from UK and abroad who use this opportunity to discover talent, as well as offer exciting graduate employment and placements opportunities. The Graduation Fashion Foundation is proud to be a platform that makes the connections leading graduates need to fulfilling their career goals.

“The House of Parliament event has been a great showcase for both our fashion industry and the young creatives that form part of its future. We are delighted to feature this year’s outstanding graduates’ work and present how our charity, Graduate Fashion Foundation, has supported over 100,000 students to launch their careers in the creative sector.”   

Mark Newton Jones, Chairman and Mothercare CEO 

GFF believes that supporting the next generation is vital, not just to the graduates themselves but also to the future of the fashion industry. GFF organise and run events to provide employment opportunities and experiences relating to working in the fashion industries, as well as offering information on wellness, sustainability and diversity in fashion. The GFW website has key areas recommending advice from GFF Alumni and industry experts to help support graduates as they leave university and move along their career ladder.

More on the graduates that showcased:

Emma Dearling

From Arts University Bournemouth – winner of Drapers Fashion Publication Award. Emma spent a month in Sri Lanka teaching a community how to make accessories, clothing and jewellery to create new opportunities. She also recently completed work experience at Topshop.

Aurelie Fontan

From Edinburgh College of Art – winner of the Catwalk Textiles Award, M&S Womenswear Award, Dame Vivienne Westwood Ethical & sustainable Award sponsored by Levis. Since graduating Aurelie worked on freelance project for the release of Samsung Galaxy Note9, where she designed the entire collection from a smartphone with digital processes such as 3D printing and used recycled leather, she also has started full-time position in M&S as a part of the design team and is continuing to develop her own brand.

Rebecca Wilson

From Arts university Bournemouth – winner of the Christopher Bailey Gold Award. Rebecca recently started a 3-month contract with Turnbull & Asser as assistant CAD Operative in their manufacturing division and she exhibited at Fashion Scout SS19 Graduate Showcase as part of London Fashion Week.  

Saskia Lenaerts

From Kingston University – winner of the Considered Design Award sponsored by Johnstons of Elgin. Saskia’s collection was selected to be showcased at Lisbon Fashion Week; she started Instagram store where she sells leather accessories made by her. Saskia is also preparing to commence her MA at Central Saint Martins.

Hannah Gibbins

From University of Brighton – winner of Debenhams Menswear Award. Hannah started working as Menswear Graduate Designer and developing her own capsule collection, which will be available in stores next year.

Evelyne Babin

From UCA EPSOM – winner of Hilary Alexander Trailblazer Award sponsored by Swarovski. Evelyne’s collection was showcased at Africa Fashion Week London and she is currently working with a well-known African musician to create garments for his music video. She is developing a business plan and a website for her own brand which will start operating early next year.

Danqi Chen

From Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology – winner of Swarovski International Fashion Award. Danqi is hoping to start her own brand in early 2019; she is in contact with a company in Beijing who wants to invest into her collection and help her with building her brand.

Michelle McAuley

From Edinburgh College of Art – winner of People’s Choice Award. Michelle has just won Young Irish Designer Award from Dublin Town, she also designed costumes for short horror film based in Northen Ireland and started MA Fashion Scholarship at Cambridge Schools of Art under direction of Holly Fulton.

Louise Clark

From Manchester School of Art – winner of George Catwalk To Store Award. Louise showcased her collection at British Fashion Volume, Pure London and Fashion Finest; she recently moved to London and began working as a Design Assistant at Volume Clothing who manufacture for retailers such as Topshop and Debenhams.

Jennifer Healy

From Manchester School of Art – winner of Tu Scholarship Womenswear Award 2018. Jenni started Tu Scholarship in September this year, working as their ladieswear assistant and is involved in variety of departments such as print team and accessories; she will also be developing her own collection for Tu under the mentorship of designers Teatum Jones which will retail in 2019.

Molly Hopwood

From University of Leeds – winner of Tu Scholarship Menswear Award 2018.  Molly started Tu Scholarship and is currently developing their collection and presenting ideas to the company, she also went to Bangladesh to visit the factories where her upcoming collection will be made and spent a week developing garments. She will also be developing her own collection for Tu under the mentorship of designer Oliver Spencer which will retail in 2019

Sebastian Collinge

From Manchester Fashion Institute – winner of New Business Award. Sebastian has his own studio in Manchester and is working on improving his successful product range since GFW2018. His brand has new exciting formulas, packaging, products and partnership forthcoming with celebrities including David Beckham as fan.

Natalie Campell

From Heriot Watt University – winner of Size? Fashion Photography Award. Some of Natalie’s photography work has been featured in Textile View Magazine, she continues to work freelance and develop photography by exploring new techniques.

Jamie Windust

UCA Epsom – winner of ASOS Future Talent Communications. Jamie is currently a freelance writer for Cosmo UK, Times Out London, Gay Times, INTO More, Digital Spy and Lush UK, he is also a public speaker for a variety of events including Lush UK Global Showcase in Manchester and SkinnyDip in London. Jamie is currently a Graduate Teaching Aid at his alma mater with Fashion Management and Marketing students and continues his role as Founder and Editor for his award winning publication FruitCake.  

Alicia Brown

From Leeds Arts University – winner of Boohoo Social Media Award. Alicia is currently working as Social Media Manager for Surgery PR in London. She looks after clients on social media platforms, accounts, planning events and fashion week; she also created a winning project for “Anti Boy Campaign”.

Essi Peuhkuri

From Nottingham Trent University – winner of YKK Accessories Award. Essi is currently working studying Disruptive Design MA at Plymouth College of Art and exhibiting her winning pieces at the YKK London Showroom.

Daisy Ratcliff

From Northumbria University – winner of Fashion Marketing Award. Since August Daisy has been working as a Buying Assistant for Mothercare in Girlswear department at their head office in Watford. 

Charles Mein

From Arts University Bournemouth – winner of Clarks Footwear Award. Charles undertook a placement in the design office at Clarks at their Mens retail team; he fully developed the product which has been displayed at the event. Charles also creates luxury leather handbags and accessories for men and women under his personal brand “Utilitarianism” while broadening his portfolio.

Also showcased the work of three successful graduates from 2017:

Laura Gillings

Winner of Tu Scholarship Womenswear Award 2017. Laura completed her one year scholarship at Tu, working as Design Assistant on womenswear, while there she designed two collections: SS19 ‘Hype of The Stripe’ and AW19 ‘SensualCity’ under the mentorship of Designer Henry Hollans. Laura now works as Womenswear Assistant at FatFace.

Amy Vanderwal

Winner of Tu Scholarship Menswear Award 2017. Amy worked as Menswear Assistant for Tu as part of her one year scholarship, while there she designed two collections under the mentorship of Designer Oliver Spencer. She recently started at Denim LTD in Manchester as Assistant Denim Designer.

Daniel Rynne

Winner of Debenhams Menswear Award 2017. Since GFW 2017 Daniel has worked at Debenhams as a Designer on Jasper Conran and Hammond & Co by Patrick Grant. Daniel has developed his 12-piece collection. Under his own name for the store, which will be launching on 19th November in five stores and online; for the launch he collaborated with Loake, who allowed his to use their factory to create and produce shoes for his collection.

Graduate Fashion Week is the world’s largest event for BA Fashion talent and will be taking place on the 2rd -5th June 2019 at The Old Truman Brewery, Shoreditch, London.

Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins