Fashionable tale of the unexpected

Creepy-crawly:Insect-inspired styles from Roxanne Jarvis, of Sheffield Hallam University.                            Pictures: amie Parsons
Creepy-crawly:Insect-inspired styles from Roxanne Jarvis, of Sheffield Hallam University. Pictures: amie Parsons
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Our morbid fear of creepy-crawlies and 45 metres of old rope; surely the least likely sources of inspiration for haute couture?

But fashion graduates in Sheffield saw inner beauty in the unexpected - and turned it into striking and highly individual, walking works of art for their end of year collections.

The incredible garments on this page have sprung from the creative minds of Sheffield Hallam University students. What is even more incredible is that it is just four years since the university began teaching fashion.

The course has come a long way in a short time, says fashion course leader Lesley Campbell.

“As each year group grows, the quality of work grows. That’s really exciting. There is an awful lot of talent in our students and I hope they will go far.”

Students had their eyes opened on work experience placements at the British couture houses of Alexander McQueen and bridal specialist Ian Stewart plus up and coming designer Mary Kantrantzou, and renowned high street names Jigsaw and Mamas & Papas.

“The garments they created for their end of year collections were stunning and very diverse in style; they ranged from striking art pieces by Hannah Flynn to very wearable clothes from Emilie Arnoux.”

Sheffielder Hannah fashioned cheap black plastic into cubist stage wear. She has been surrounded by dramatic costumes for most of her life - her dad runs the Upshot Circus Arts company in Nether Edge,

The 22-year-old former Girls’ High and King Edwards student put some of that drama into her pieces, inspired by the shapes of broken TVs and boxes she found in skips.

“I like to find potential in the humblest of objects,” says the girl who hopes to set up her own bespoke fashion business after travelling Europe.

Emilie’s collection of dainty, high-neck dresses trimmed with chiffon frills and contrasting, mannish-cut peg leg trouser suits was her interpretation of retro Parisian cafe culture.

Her inspiration came from her roots - her father is French.

Emilie, 21, from Derby, currently works at Topshop in Meadowhall but hopes to become a magazine or celebrity stylist, or land a design job with esteemed old British fashion house Jaeger.

A career in theatre as a costume designer appeals to former Eckington Comprehensive pupil Roxanne Jarvis, of Renishaw, who created a buzz with her insect-inspired collection, A Beautiful Creature.

“I took people’s irrational fear of insects as my theme. I wanted them to see them as beautiful little things. I hate spiders, but when I looked at them really closely I was fascinated by the texture of their bodies.”

Roxanne, 23, replicated the patterns and colours of butterfly wings and the texture of insect fur onto leggings and tights, shorts and a dress fashioned from shreds of hand-printed voile. The finishing touch? Masks she made by enlarging images of insect heads millions of times.

Grasshopper, bee and fly faces were attached to spectacles so they could easily be worn by her models.

The sea has always fascinated Geraint Jones, 22. He went back to the beach near his North Wales home for both theme and the stunning photographic shoot of his final collection.

A model in a gown inspired by seaweed and the fan coral sold in Conway souvenir shops is pictured clinging to the hull of a decaying boat; a fluttering, ethereal chiffon and sequin dress named Fish looks about to be ripped to tatters on rocks and garments made from coils of rope seem to defy convention. The rope was not some mouldering beach find, but 45 metres of new stuff he found in a fabric shop in Goldthorpe.

“They were glad to be rid of it. I made it look weathered by fraying it and spraying it with car paint,” says Geraint, who recently won Student Bridal Designer of the year at the Bridal Buyer Awards in Harrogate and an internship with bridal supremo Ian Stewart in London.

Last week, the public got to see these designs in the flesh when the 37-strong class of 2012, innovative and ambitious future fashion designers all, staged a sell-out fashion show as part of Creative Spark, the university’s 18-day art and design exhibition.

But it wasn’t only the garments that turned perception on its head; the setting was the university car park.

Car parks are becoming de rigeur in Sheffield. The Q Park on Rockingham Street has twice been the setting for a fashion show. Last Friday it was the turn of the giant concrete Stoddart building park to be transformed into a giant runway spectacular - and hopefully, the students’ road to success.

Getting a creative spark

Now in its seventh year, Creative Spark gives the public a chance to see the innovative and imaginative work produced during the year by art and design students studying everything from fine art to photography, engineering to architecture.

“The event celebrates and showcases the final projects created by our students. It takes you on a journey, capturing the moment when a creative spark hits, following it through to its execution,” says an organiser.

Creative Spark 2012 runs until June 23, 10am-4pm, Monday-Saturday at venues across the Sheffield Hallam University City Campus.

Fashion students’ work can be viewed at the Sheaf Building.