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Graduate Fashion Foundation launches new initiatives to support universities

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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With Graduate Fashion Week cancelled in June, the first time in its 29 year history, the Graduate Fashion Foundation charity which runs the biggest display of BA fashion talent has launched a series of new partnerships and support platforms to aid its UK and International member universities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The four-day event, usually held annually on the first weekend in June featuring work from 38 UK universities and 40 International universities across all fashion disciplines from design and styling to photography and marketing, was cancelled in March due to Covid-19. At the time, Graduate Fashion Foundation stated it didn’t want the “magic” of Graduate Fashion Week to be lost and was working to produce a plan that meets the charity’s mission statement and objectives to offer advice and guidance, to bridging the gap to industry and showcasing, as well as rewarding and celebrating the best new talent.

With that in mind the charity is launching a series of supportive activities and opportunities for UK and International member universities which it states will “continue promoting graduate’s work and increase employment opportunities in the UK and abroad”.

The new planned series contains elements that the charity states can be delivered on both a fixed time scale, plus new industry and media event opportunities on a “moveable autumn schedule”, with the autumn projects designed to be flexible for social distancing restrictions and government guidelines and have currently been reserved for September, but can be delivered up to December when possible.

The elements include a revision of the Graduate Fashion Foundation 2020 Awards, a new webinar series, an autumn portfolio and design Showcases for industry, and a digital portfolio platform partnership with The Dots.

Hilary Alexander, president of Graduate Fashion Foundation said in a statement: “I share with all universities and the Class of 2020, the disappointment that we are unable to run Graduate Fashion Week this year. But I am thrilled with and excited by the innovative projects and platforms that have been devised to launch the creativity and skills of our graduates for the attention of the fashion world. Difficult times bring difficult challenges.

“However, necessity is the mother of invention - and we can and will rise to the challenges with the brilliant adaptability that has made our fashion industry the envy of the world.”

Graduate Fashion Foundation 2020 Awards to be moved online

The annual Graduate Fashion Foundation awards, which usually take place during Graduate Fashion Week, will now be done digitally. The categories have also been amended, with the five catwalk awards removed due to the halt in manufacturing and the closure of university studios and facilities, reflecting the national change to all UK member’s final year student’s delivery of their final degree projects, now being completed from home.

The catwalk awards have been replaced with four new awards - Fashion Illustration Award, Fashion Range Plan Award, Technical Drawing Award and Fashion Concept Award. In addition, for the class of 2020, they have introduced the Adaptation Award to celebrate a student’s resourcefulness and problem-solving skills during this unprecedented time.

These awards will sit alongside honours, including, Accessories Award, Footwear Award, David Band Textiles Award, Fashion Photography Award, the Childrenswear Award and an Innovation Award supported by Samsung KX, all of which feature new criterias, updated to reflect a solely digital submission and allowing for smaller quantities of work required for the submissions.

The top ten student shortlists for each award will be announced on June 10, with final judging taking place in July, with winners expected to be announced in the autumn, explained organisers, with the hope that a physical celebration can take place later this year at a venue in London’s Coal Drops Yard.

Graduate Fashion Foundation launches webinar series

As part of its pledge to offer guidance and advice, the Graduate Fashion Foundation has launched a new webinar series for final year students to hear from industry experts across multiple disciplines of fashion including journalism and marketing, makeup, photography and creative direction.

Speakers include former editor-in-chief of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman, British photographer Rankin, fashion director of Red Magazine Nicola Rose, hair and makeup artists Ben Cooke and Mary Wilks, specialist consultants Jan Miller and Pam Wright, plus author and journalist Viv Groskop and creative director at Label Mix Gemma Metheringham. The webinar series will allow for up to 1000 final year students to take part in at a time.

Class of 2020 to receive portfolio support, with an event planned for autumn

To assist graduates in showcasing their portfolio to potential recruiters, the Graduate Fashion Foundation has teamed up with professional network The Dots to allow the Class of 2020 to host their collection portfolios digitally.

The Graduate Fashion Foundation has also stated that it is planning on hosting a portfolio and design industry showcase in London this autumn, which will celebrate the 2020 graduates’ achievements and work. The industry-focused event will feature all 38 UK members with an additional area for international, with each university able to showcase portfolios of work, with tutors in attendance to speak with industry attendees about the work on show.

The aim of the event is to offer support to the 318 design students who have “lost out on the chance to finish their collections and showcase on the GFW catwalk” with new opportunities, including showcasing their portfolios and taking part in a fashion presentation and catwalk. The showcase will conclude in an evening VIP reception with award finalists, members and industry, where the 2020 GFF Award winners will be announced.

The charity was quick to note that these events for industry, buyers and media would be either physical or digital, depending on social distancing restrictions.

In addition, the Graduate Fashion Foundation also confirmed that the support for members and the Class of 2020 has been extended, from November - July to November - September 2021 to allow for more time for media coverage and celebrating the shortlisted award students.

Acting chair of Graduate Fashion Week, Douglas MacLennan added: “Out of adversity, comes innovation. The Graduate Fashion Foundation rose to the unprecedented global challenge, by placing an emphasis on listening to the 2020 graduating student needs and those of our academic members. In order to create the Foundation’s most innovative and exciting series of launch activities to date. The annual ‘Graduate Fashion Week’ launch period was historically held over a few days, in 2020 the activities will now be held over a number of months with a series of exciting new style activities.”

Images: courtesy of Graduate Fashion Foundation

Graduate Fashion Foundation
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