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Backstage at Carmen Chan, Central Saint Martins BA 2016
Backstage at Carmen Chan, Central Saint Martins BA 2016Photography Lucie Rox

Highlights from the 2016 Central Saint Martins grad show

Anti-Brexit slogans, gaffa tape body suits and chain mail gowns – here are the standout collections from last night’s show

It’s fair to say that the fashion industry owes an enormous debt to Central Saint Martins. The prestigious institution is renowned for nurturing a selection of the world’s brightest minds by encouraging a fearless attitude and a willingness to innovate.

The prevalence of this mentality can be largely attributed to the charismatic Willie Walters who last night bid farewell to the school after 18 years at the helm of its BA Fashion programme. As Walters thanked the event’s various sponsors, she lamented London’s ever-increasing living costs and reinforced the importance of bursaries and scholarships in opening up the fashion industry to a diverse mix of students.

Life may have become more difficult for young creatives, but the show’s 41 designers proved that tenacity and innovation continue to overcome financial struggle. The collections on display were brilliantly diverse; there was Joe Boon, whose work was a tribute to his father and his love for fly-fishing; Adnan Jalal Salman, who presented a fusion of his Indian heritage and British eccentricity and Essie Buckman, whose models made it rain on the runway in a tribute to all-girl crime syndicate ‘The Forty Elephant Gang’. As discussions continue to focus on the state of an industry in flux, these young designers are proving there’s hope yet for the future of fashion.


Over the course of his career, Philip Ellis has racked up impressive credentials working for cult labels Meadham Kirchhoff and Vetements. The results of this experience were visible in an unapologetically political collection which touted slogans such as “Tories put the ‘n’ in cuts”. Despite brief flashes of floral, the prevailing mood was one of anarchy; latex coats and quilted jackets came emblazoned with the Union Jack, badges, patches and slogans in what Ellis described as a deliberate commentary on the upcoming EU referendum.



Perhaps the boldest statement of the BA show was Edwin Mohney’s collection, seemingly situated in a psychiatric ward. Models stumbled hysterically along the runway wrapped in outfits made of painted duct tape; their faces were smeared either in coloured face paint or entirely bedazzled with glitter. Audience members were visibly unnerved by the interactive insanity that characterised the performance of Mohney’s models, proving that there’s still potential to unsettle even the most experienced fashion veterans.



Fur, florals and giant sheets of painted acetate were amongst the textiles used in Benjamin Waters’ graduate collection. The resulting aesthetic juxtaposed tradition and modernity in a new, innovative way – perfectly-tailored trench coats were muffled underneath the weight of oversized transparent sheets, accessorised with see-through heels and colourful socks. The individual bouquets clutched by models were a beautiful finishing touch, introducing a ceremonial touch to a distinctly forward-thinking collection.



Temporary tattoos, childhood photos and hand-scrawled slogans come together to create Carmen Chan’s extremely personal graduate collection. A series of oversized patchwork quilts were a direct reference to Chan’s mum and her love for the art of quilting; Chan herself gives the practice a contemporary makeover, weaving together old photographs and stickers she collected as a child. As for casting, she admits that the imminent expiration of her Visa urged her to unite her friends for a sassy celebration of real girls – decked out in swimsuits, they strutted out to The Man-Eaters’ “Get Off The Road” decorated with the words “Kiss My Arse”.



Fashion Print student Max Luo's vision of a futuristic dystopia was one of the show’s most striking aesthetics. Models stormed the runway to a wonky sci-fi soundtrack dressed in elaborate chain-mail gowns worn over shimmering sequinned high necks and finished off with metallic facial masks. Despite tight-hugging silhouettes and flashes of rose which added a feminine touch, there was something gloriously sinister about Luo’s iridescent cyborgs and their glistening armour.


Watch a video catching the build-up to the show below: