Liverpool John Moores University: Fashion Graduates

Amid the bustle of degree show preparation, final year students from the Fashion Design and Fashion Communication courses at Liverpool John Moores University take time out to tell us their hopes, dreams and inspirations

Feature by Mona Lisa MacLean | 28 May 2015

It's that time of year again when the fashion world waits with bated breath to scope emerging graduating talents. End of year shows are a huge highlight up and down the country, so here The Skinny takes a peek at the work of one of our favourite institutions, Liverpool's John Moores University – better known as the LJMU – ahead of its highly anticipated annual catwalk show showcasing the best and the brightest of the Northwest of England. LJMU will also be participating in the much-renowned Graduate Fashion Week: one of the most prestigious and highly anticipated graduate fashion events, not just in the UK, but worldwide.  

Showcasing some of the UK's very best contemporary fashion design, the collections are extremely varied in concept, drawing inspiration from themes such as gender identity, 80s football culture, dolls' tea parties and the Renaissance.

Although the LJMU Graduate Show is super exciting, we also wanted to focus on the unsung heroes of the fashion world, so as well as fashion design students, we also caught up with fashion communication students, who make up half of the course at LJMU, to talk about their work and future aspirations.

Fashion communication is an area that can be overlooked, generally garnering less attention than its design counterpart, but in the past few years the number of students has skyrocketed. As LJMU put it simply, “Fashion Communication focuses on visual and creative skills ranging from advertising, branding and media, fashion analysis and trend prediction, events and public relations as well as styling and photography.” How we interact with and view fashion is just as critical as the designs themselves, and these interactions are delicately curated by these students. 

Engaging in self-initiated projects, the students represent the next generation of stylists, photographers, editors, art directors, trend forecasters – the list could go on. From editorial experience to working with PR or event companies, these students will at times work alongside their design counterparts to create bespoke imagery. This year they even created their own publication, titled Unfold Magazine, focusing on editorial themes from culture and diversity to sustainability and the environment.

Each student's experimental and individual creative flair is encouraged, and it's reflected in both the fashion design and fashion communications students' work, making the LJMU show a must-see.

The LJMU Degree show opens fully to the public in the John Lennon Art and Design Building from 29 May until 12 June. If you are unable to make those dates then you can also check out the talent from the LJMU at GFW (graduate Fashion Week) in the Truman Brewery in London between 30 May and 2 June.
Rachael Plows (Fashion Design)

The Skinny: What were the inspirations for your collection?

Rachel Plows: An exhibition called Picturing Science in New York triggered my inspiration – it looked at space objects and sea creatures through new technology. This made me look further into deep sea and space and its connections to earth in the future.

What is your trademark piece?
My trademark pieces are the two knitted jumpers, as I wanted to showcase my print and shapes in different types of knit. I thought it would be interesting to have a contrast of a hand-knitted jumper with jacquard knit. The jacquard incorporates my print whereas the hand knit reflects the print within the shapes of the knit.

What is the biggest lesson you learned while studying?
I've learnt that it's important to stay humble and take every opportunity no matter how big or small and learn from it, and to always put your all into everything you do.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to someone interested in studying fashion what would it be?

If you're not desperate to work in the fashion industry and work day and night to get there, it isn't worth going into. If you're motivated and are willing to push yourself to work as hard as you possibly can it's the best experience you could imagine.

Sophie Pittom (Fashion Design)

The Skinny: 
Tell us about your collection?
Sopie Pittom: My Faded Grandeur womenswear AW16 collection is a composition of deteriorating extravagant interiors, decaying foliage, and injections of bold neon. Vintage lace becomes new and fresh with modern elements of bright neon plastics, while extravagant embellishment and hanging threads link decaying and ostentatious ideas together to form innovative tactile garments. These are placed with carefully considered classic shirts with masculine details to contrast the relaxed feminine silhouettes.

What are your inspirations?
The inspiration for my collection emerged from my visit to Brodsworth Hall, as I was drawn to lavish interiors being carefully preserved contrasting with aspects that had fallen away over time. Details such as fading wallpaper and fraying upholstery influence my distressed textile elements, that are then transformed with the addition of bright neon plastics replicating bold electric wires. This heaving textile element is partnered with relaxed, 1920 style feminine silhouettes with a hint of masculine details such as shirt collars and plackets.

What are your 

My textile elements and attention to detail. Different processes including machine embroidery, applique, embellishment, hand embroidery and beading are brought together to form heavy couture-level surface decoration that takes hours to achieve.

What is your trademark piece?
My 1920s-style slip dresses with a heavy use of lace as I am entering the Sophie Hallette lace competition, and have taken a variety of different lace designs and explored combining them with different techniques. The lace in Faded Grandeur has been felted, over-layed, appliqued, fresh cut, painted, stiffened and embroidered to really push the boundaries of how lace can be presented.

Sinead Russell (Fashion Communication)

The Skinny: What are your inspirations?
Sinead Russell: Ken Grant and Alexander McQueen.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
Social documentary.

What area of fashion do you hope to be involved in?
Art direction, photography, styling and graphic design. That's a lot. Maybe more than that as well.

Tell us about your graduate collection?

I made two graphic publications, one was a youth culture magazine based on Boyhood & Girlhood. The other was a Northern Ireland mural and troubles inspired zine. I wanted to make my work as broad and as approachable as possible, but still personal for me.

Anna Higson (Fashion Communication)

The Skinny: What drew you to study Fashion Communication?
Anna Higson: I originally started on the fashion design pathway, but soon realised my interests lay with the drawing, illustration, graphics, layout and the making side of fashion so I switched to fashion communication. In the last few years I've really developed my photography, I take my camera everywhere with me trying to find places, people and textures that bring a fresh eye and a source book I can use for my fashion imagery. The career opportunities in fashion communication are broad and if you are freelance you can work for a range of clients to keep your ideas fresh.

What are your inspirations?
My dream is to one day have a successful zine that combines everything I love: textures, music, culture and stories told through photography. I am inspired by many photographers and hope to have a name for myself working on high profile projects from music to fashion and lifestyle.

Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
I really want to stay in the North, I love Liverpool and the Northwest as there is there is so much culture and [so many] places to draw inspiration from. There is a movement away from the South that particularly centres around the arts and I want to be part of this. Using Liverpool as a base I hope to travel in Europe and beyond to extend my visual language.

Tell us about your graduate collection... 

I have two final projects, one is a zine concept called Wander which is about exploring a city and documenting all its little and overlooked stories mixed with fashion photography and music I've seen in the Northwest, combining typography and illustration.
The second was a trend-package based on the Outland, country workwear mixed with found textures and photography. I loved gaining inspiration from farming; it's often overlooked but I was so inspired. It's been one of my most enjoyable projects.