The University of Salford arrived in Manhattan to showcase a mixture of its undergrad and post-grad talent in a downtown launch event, complete with DJ and flowing prosecco, to be followed by a day of sales appointments and meetings with industry professionals. The two-day event offers a complete representation of the school’s crop of talent: Freshmen presenting their work after only three months of study, second years exhibiting the result of a special workshop with Maxmara in Italy in which they were asked to design the perfect coat, and third years showing a one outfit teaser of their upcoming collection which will be presented at London Fashion Week in September.
From the North of England, close to Manchester, part of a large arts and design university, the fashion program counts approximately 130 designers among its student body. The contingent made the trip as part of an ambitious two-pronged attack on the city. “The school will be on the New York Fashion Week’s official schedule next season,” says Bashir Aswat, the Fashion Program Leader, “and then it will participate in London Fashion Week after that.”
Rated by the Guardian as 4th in the UK league table for fashion schools, the University of Salford has received international awards for its portfolios and level of teaching among other recognitions. Say Aswat, “We believe in innovation and creativity but within a professional context––it’s important that the collections our students produce are ready for market.”
University of Salford fashion program goes global
Most top design schools have a global presence and an international mindset and the University of Salford is no exception. “We have a partnership school in China, and with Bunka School of Fashion in Japan,” explains Aswat. “Our second years go to Milan and we connect them with Prada, Gucci, Maxmara. Our final year students go to China for two weeks for fabric sourcing, to five cities, it’s just one of the activities we do. Students more sustainability or ethically-minded may source closer to home but it’s important to offer them the complete picture of the industry.”
The regular graduate show calendar is in May and June but Aswat says, “We wanted to pull out from the student timeline and to do an innovative event, on a different scale, that took us out of the UK. We already have our connections in London. New York is the perfect place for us to show this new concept. We have five graduates who are all launching their labels, and this gives them a platform. The designers are already an international group––from China, Poland, Gambia, Bangladesh and the UK–– but all united within the University of Salford family.”
A post-Brexit fashion school
Unsurprisingly Brexit has to figure into the school’s strategizing, but Aswat looks on the UK’s headlining political event as an opportunity: “We need to look forward, we’re going to maintain a strong relationship with Europe, our neighbor, with Milan. Paris is easy for us, but New York is cool, exciting, and aspirational for our students. There’s a lot of pessimism back home, but we as creatives and artists we must set the tone, be positive, inspire people.”
As portfolios rest open on the table for interested parties to flick through, students stand alert, ready to engage with the American fashion industry. They appear driven and focused, not about to waste the opportunity.
“Some of our designers have come with a clear plan and have buyers coming tomorrow, others are using this as a platform but already have orders in place,’ explains Aswat. “Barbara who created all the leather pieces already has major interest in Poland as a result of saying she’s showing in New York. This is shopwindow for us, a marketing tool and a great opportunity to connect with individuals for potential job opportunities. In addition, our second years will be interning this year and several have already secured placements in New York. They all have their own agenda.”
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.Photos FashionUnited