Sheffield’s brightest hopes of cutting it in couture are about to sashay forth.
Students from what is believed to be the city’s first ever fashion degree course are nervously awaiting their final grades and planning their next moves – steps that will hopefully take them on to illustrious careers in the global industry that shows no signs of losing its lustre, whatever the financial climate..
They are the 26 fledgling graduates of Sheffield Hallam University’s first fashion course, started in 2008 and believed to be the only one ever staged in the city.
Previously, A level, foundation and HND students had to attain their footing on Planet Fashion by heading to university courses scattered across the country.
“These are our first students ready to step out and make their mark on the world and we are really excited for them,” says senior Hallam fashion lecturer Jane Blohm.
“It’s been an incredible three years, during which time our first 26 students have done some fabulous work and got to meet some illustrious visitors – some of the biggest names in the business.”
Inspiration came this March in the form of Christopher Bailey, head man at Burberry.
Bailey, credited with turning the classic British brand into one of the hottest labels in the world, picked up an honorary doctorate from Hallam in recognition of his services to the fashion industry and his charitable work in the UK.
While on the Hallam campus, he took time to pay homage to the work the new fashion faculty was producing.
“He was really complimentary about the levels of skill and creativity the students were attaining; it boosted morale no end,” says Jane.
“The city has been crying out for a fashion course of this calibre.
“Sheffield has a strong reputaton for other branches of the arts, yet fashion was badly neglected.
“The fashion industry is huge and prosperous – unlike many industries it is not in a decline. We feel very confident that all 26 of our first graduates will go on to carve out good careers – as designers, pattern-cutters, stylists and fashion lecturers.
“The course was tailored to help them find their area of specialism and prepare them for industry. Their results are due in two weeks. Many fingers are crossed but we are expecting good things.”
Creative students have been busy picking up awards – and plaudits – along the way
Sheffielders can have a sneak preview of the Hallam graduates’ skills and creativity when they showcase their ground-breaking work at a catwalk show this Friday night.
The show is to be a highlight of the university’s Creative Spark exhibition, a celebration of students’ work right across the arts spectrum.
Lesley Campbell, leader of the fashion course at Sheffield Hallam, said: “2011 celebrates the first fashion students to graduate from the university and this show demonstrates the quality of their work. They are enthusiastic, innovative and ambitious future fashion designers.”
Pieces selected from some fashion students’ end of year collections will be modelled, along with some of the special designs students have won awards for during their time at Hallam.
One will be a dramatic wedding dress inspired by the murder of the Russian Royal family, the Romanovs, in 1918 during the Russian Civil War.
The gown in red leather and black paper silk, with a train designed to signify a trail of blood, won Kate Harrod, daughter of Ecclesfield caterers Harrods, Best Student Designer of The Year in the Bridal Buyers Awards.
Two other Hallam third-year students, Rachel Holliday and Sarah Naylor-Smith, from Penistone, were shortlisted for the bridal award, with creations inspired by places as culturally diverse as Papua New Guinea and Scunthorpe!
Their dresses will also feature in the free Creative Spark exhibition, which runs from Friday until June 25.
Kate’s win came with the offer of work experience from one of the most illustrious names in British bridal fashion, Ian Stuart.
Former Notre Dame and Hillsbrough College student Kate, now 22, plans to work on a freelance basis for a clutch of Yorkshire bridal boutiques who are interested in her style before taking up Ian Stuart’s offer.
She aims to take up offer of the Belville Sassoon-trained maestro, bridal designer of the year five times in the last seven years, in the autumn and move to London.
But she isn’t entirely sure she wants to stay in the world of big white dresses. “My absolute dream would be to work for Burberry,” she reveals.
Her final collection, a Russian military inspired, eight-piece range of outerwear in leather, wool and fur, might yet swing it with the company that made their name in trenchcoats.
Kate’s classmates have also achieved design success in their three years at Hallam. Some collaborated with the uni’s engineering students to create a wedding dress that could be dissolved after the big day and transformed into five new fashion pieces. The dress went into a Climate Week display at the Home Office to raise awareness of the impact of disposable fashion on the environment.
And another group designed and made a collection of hats to be worn at this year’s Royal Ascot at the invitation of law firm Irwin Mitchell.
Among the winners was Billy Kendall, from Sheffield, who designed an elaborate feather hat made of pheasant, magpie and jay wings.
Billy, 22, is currently awaiting news of yet another design competition he has set his cap at.
He has made it through to the first stages of a competition run by Fashshot – London-based fashion photographers. Winning the competition could kick-start his career by securing exposure and contacts within the industry.
He has to present his designs, Dragon’s Den style, to a panel of judges in London next week.
Billy’s final collection Monster will be in the Creative Sparks show.
Inspired by the ancient Pagan world and the Greek god Pan, garments are complemented by the whimsical feathered headpieces that are fast becoming Billy’s trademark.
Some of the pieces have already been loaned out to a group heading to this year’s Royal Ascot.
Billy said: “The girls wanted something different to wear. They were uninspired by conventional hats and after seeing my designs decided they were perfect for an ‘Ascot outing with an edge’.
Former All Saints pupil Billy, who now lives in Brinsworth, first studied fashion at Chesterfield College and had studied two years of a degree in Manchester before jumping at the chance of switching to the first ever course in his home city.
“Being the first students hasn’t always been easy – it’s been a learning curve for us and the university– but we had brand new equipment to work with and were give the freedom to really develop our creativity,” he says.
Billy has his his sights set on a fashion career designing costumes for TV, film and stage.
Tickets for the Creative Spark fashion show at 7.30pm on Friday at the University’s Hallam Hall, City Campus.cost £10 and are strictly limited. They are available from the Arena ticket shop on 0114 2565567/www.arenaticketshop.co.uk