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Evan Phillips
Evan PhillipsPhoto by Giovanni Corabi

Is the graduate show dead?

A group of fashion students hosted their own guerrilla show, hijacking a years-old system

Last week the students who were not chosen to display their collection at Central Saint Martins’ legendary annual press show took matters into their own hands and created their very own guerrilla show in the courtyard of CSM. They called it '#encoreCSM'.

Every year around a third of students on the BA Fashion course at CSM are told they cannot show their collection at the press view. This is purely out of practicality: putting on 100 separate shows is pretty much impossible, and the press are keen to only view the tutors’ selection.

Statistically, being part of the show doesn’t mean you’re set for a career in high fashion, nor does it mean that being left out is the end of the road for those who tried their hardest but didn’t make it. But for students whose experience at university is about solidarity, companionship, inspiration and togetherness, does CSM’s winner/loser approach really champion that?

To get a better picture of this changing tradition, we spoke to four people involved in this aspect of CSM: Head of Fashion BA Willie Walters, 2014 graduate and designer Richard Malone, and 2015 graduates and the brains behind #encoreCSM, Sam Adair and Dilara Findikoglu.


"The students that don’t make the cut may well be disappointed not to be chosen but we find that this makes very little difference to their employability."

We educate approximately 105/110 students across five design pathways. Up until 1996 all final year students showed their work in one single show but when these numbers rose to above 80 the result was that no matter how exciting these collections were, no audience could take it in. 

We hold three fashion shows in our Platform Theatre at Kings Cross two weeks before our Press Show. During these three shows the work is assessed by examiners and judges who make recommendations to help choose 40 students whose work which will go forward to represent the themes and directions in that particular year.

The students that don’t make the cut may well be disappointed not to be chosen but we find that this makes very little difference to their employability. It also has no bearing on their degree marks and this is made plain to the students.

The Press Show is for the press and although it may be attended by fashion business, most employers come to see the work of all the students at our exhibition which is held at the end of June.

I thought that the #encoreCSM show was a fantastic initiative which allowed those students not selected for the press show, to present their designs in a setting which related directly to the college and their course. I was thrilled that these students were so proactive and professional in their approach.


“#encoreCSM was a way to solidify the community within CSM and to support one another as well as a way that we could proudly show our work amongst our peers. It’s about being respectful and proud of each other.”

We all came together after hearing we weren’t going to be in the press show and were disappointed. We decided to come up with a way that would mitigate the divide created from not being in the press show. It was originally supposed to be a surprise because I think we were all feeling slighted by the school and even the media attention we have gotten refers to us as the other students who weren’t good enough for the press show.

There are a lot of talented people in our year and we are all proud of what we accomplished. We came up with an idea that would not put down our peers who were being shown in the press show – we are proud of them too – and still allow us to show our work.

In fact, I think the initial idea was sparked from a from a student who was in the press show and was so angry his friend was not in it that he proposed the idea to his classmates. It’s nice because it really turned our disappointment into a positive community pride. #encoreCSM is about being respectful and proud of each other.


“You shouldn't ever design the collection for the show or for attention, I think that's really where people go wrong.”

I don't think you ever can expect to be chosen. You kind of understand that the press show is a curated runway show that does its utmost to represent the whole year. It doesn't count towards your degree or grade at all so it's like an added bonus after the internal show.

There were a few that I expected to be chosen but weren’t, but there are never any hard feelings about it. Sometimes people get really upset about it but there's really no use in that, you shouldn't ever design the collection for the show or for attention, I think that's really where people go wrong.

For me it was great. It meant such a lot to me. It was also the first time my family had seen my work. It was exactly what I wanted, I got a lot of job offers of the back of it and I have since established my own label.

CSM is about becoming an individual and having a voice going forward afterwards, so I think #encoreCSM can only be a good thing.


“Find a strategy to make a change, starting with #encoreCSM.”

We didn't want to make any distinctions between the students who participated in #encoreCSM, equality was a core idea of the event. Mentioning specific students goes against the ethos of encore csm, its main aim is bringing everyone together.

After I've graduated I don't want to be dependent of any companies. I would like to have an independent platform to change the current situation. I want to help raise awareness about things in the industry and help the future generations be less shallow but thoughtful about the mass production and be less about the surface like fashion in general is.

There was a shift in fashion since that time we all started being "fashionable." It's less glamorous and luxurious now because of the problems in the third world, their massive production market and the ambition of big conglomerates to produce more and make higher profits. I hope that I can help to reduce the massive production and exploitation of people in every field. Find a strategy to make a change, starting with #encoreCSM.