ECA Fashion Show review - Thu 5 May (4 stars)

Edinburgh college of art address body image in its annual student fashion show

ECA Fashion Show review - Thu 5 May

Design by Kirsten Wotherspoon. Photo by Nadine Yardley.

The annual Edinburgh College of Art fashion show is one of Scotland’s key creative events. The two-hour-long fashion show set against the backdrop of the dramatically-lit, neo-classical Sculpture Court of the College’s main building is an opportunity for guests and industry insiders to catch a glimpse of the best Scottish designers before they burst onto the world stage at Graduate Fashion Week in June.

This year, the audience was privy to a more intimate experience as the show was presented in a unique salon style walk-through, meaning that he models walked out at eye-level with the crowd seated around the semi-circular catwalk. This unique format is more commonly seen at haute couture shows in Paris, and this, along with exceptional production value from the lighting team added to the high-end feel of the night.

Head of fashion at eca, Mal Burkinshaw, says the level of professionalism is all thanks to the students. 'They are some of the best we’ve ever had,' he commented before the show. 'The standard has been so high, and it’s all thanks to them that we have such a professional and well-organised show this year. I think they’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks of preparation, and now we can all finally enjoy the fruits of their labour.'

As the lights dimmed and the thumping music began, the first collection to emerge was 'Tailoring: Fashion as Communication' by year 3, followed by the unique 'All Walks' project – an initiative founded by Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor, working with influential catwalk designers and top industry creatives to celebrate diversity between body shape, age and race within the fashion industry.

This courageous and refreshing collection was a delight to witness. Also, in a similar vein, each of the final year students were asked to comment on how important body image diversity was to their personal design process. Surely a sign of intelligence and integrity on the part of eca and the students not to have shied away from the negative issues which surround the industry and affect how it is perceived from the outside.

Next up came the final year students. Impressive collections included 'Where are we going? Always home' by Pamela Hill, inspired by warmth, comfort pattern and wood carvings, and David Vallance and Anna Stephenson also wowed the audience with their sexy and edgy, and feminine and floral collections respectively.

Felix Chabluk Smith, winner of eca Graduate of the Year and the British Fashion Council's Burberry competition, presented the only menswear collection of the night (entitled 'Kin') and the first eca had seen for 15 years. Definitely one to watch.

But the stand-out collection came from Kirsten Wotherspoon, with an assortment of soft, shimmering, metallic garments encased in transparent PVC jackets and capes. Kirsten told The List later she counts light, shadow and reflective photography among her many artistic inspirations.

There were hints of Celine, Calvin Klein, Erdem, Dries Van Noten, Jil Sander and Matthew Williamson in there too, but overall the collections were deeply individual and unique.

'I have to be objective,' says Mal, 'but they have all worked so incredibly hard – and it’s been very challenging. They’ve had to pull 24-hour working days to get to this stage, but I know they would say that it’s definitely been worth it.'

As the only Scottish art college invited to show collections at Graduate Fashion Week in London in June, and counting designer-of-the-moment Holly Fulton as one of it’s past graduates, Edinburgh College of Art has a prestigious reputation to uphold in the fashion world. But after this year's show, it’s crystal clear the eca class of 2011 are leaving with it firmly at their feet.

Design by Pamela Hill. Photo by Nadine Yardley.

Design by Kirsten Wotherspoon. Photo by Nadine Yardley.

Design by Anna Stephenson. Photo by Nadine Yardley.

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