Representing the creative future

University of Westminster BA 2024: Battling Fashion Hopelessness

The Westminster cohort of 2024 is looking for a part of the industry that is not problematic

Over four years since the clock struck pandemic times, its impact lingers despite widespread eagerness to move beyond its constraints. The University of Westminster Class of 2024 deeply feels its repercussions. Having endured a first year marked by a lack of essential resources, young designers found themselves adrift. Some struggled with the absence of hands-on learning, essential skills lost in the confines of a video camera, while others battled a profound sense of hopelessness. The insecurity from the 2024 designers can certainly be heard but hardly seen. Ranging from the relationship adults have with their childhood toys to parodies of stereotypes, the 2024 class wields their garments as narrative tools.

Bonded through their mutual struggles, designers present each other as the solution to their problems. By building relationships and creating an environment of shared growth, the Class of 2024 found its stride. This sense of community, forged in metaphorical fire, is the way forward. Even if moving into an industry known for its animosity towards recent graduates, the majority sees their position as an advantage. As Reece Sheikh, one of the young designers, summarizes, “It’s hard to find an aspect of the industry that isn’t problematic. We are the generation that has to clean up, we have to drive the revolution.”

Blythe Brunt 

“My collection is inspired by my time working at a classic car restoration garage and the beauty that can be found in the engine bays of 1960s Fiats or in taking apart vintage motorcycles, trying to return life to over 50-year-old vehicles.” Blythe Brunt’s collection has an unlikely starting point. But among the exhaust pipes and motor oil, Brunt found beauty. “I have always been intrigued by the abstract shapes and seemingly endless moving parts and wires that all work harmoniously in sync to create a functional engine and how each fault can be traced to the smallest imbalance.” From original 60s Fiat booklets to traditional mechanics’ boiler suits, the inspiration material results from an extensive research process. Her real-life experiences literally added to her academic references. “Spending time in a mechanics workshop also allowed me to collect old and discarded parts, such as headlights and used seats.” Despite the inherent masculinity associated with the profession of mechanic, Brunt reiterates her commitment to femininity. “It was important to me to address such a male-dominated field and use the imagery and beauty found in automotive design and its related industries for a womenswear collection that maintains a sense of femininity not in spite of the subject matter but because of it.”

Isabel Ealand

Isabel Ealand’s collection is inspired by Victorian circus performers. “I was inspired by the drama and jeopardy of the acrobats who drape and hang themselves from suspended hoops.” By experimenting with silhouettes and materiality, the young designer expresses dynamic movement. She describes her pieces proudly: “A long, ivory jersey dress features precise, circular cut-outs with dramatic inset Perspex mirror circles and hoops.” Dramatic is the prominent adjective of Ealand’s collection, an unsurprising fact considering her starting point. In some garments, the inspiration is taken literally, such as in a coat featuring metallic hoops that swing as the wearer moves; in others, it is more subtle, as in the pieces that use old Victorian circus posters as a colour palette.

Jamina Ziebart 

Inspired by the book Feminine Futures – Performance, Dance, War, Politics, and Eroticism, Jamina Ziebart creates a collection dedicated to the purity of line and simplicity of form. “Using my own body as a canvas, I draped the fabrics to create an intimate relationship with the garment through movement and feeling.” The young designer’s process was deeply personal, tracing the making of her collection as a performative-like experience. “I selected viscose crepe in key colours from a painting by Sophie Henriette Gertrud Tauber-Arp, who was also a dancer, to ensure the focus remains on the movement of the fabric and the form of the women wearing it.” Ziebart finds creative expression itself as her muse. “The most memorable part of my academic journey was undoubtedly when we presented our final collections. Seeing the dedication and creativity of my peers was incredibly inspiring.” In that same spirit, the young designer wants to immerse herself in the London scene. “It’s a city bursting with creativity and opportunity, and I want to be right in the thick of it. I’m itching to learn, grow, and leave my mark in this dynamic field.”

Jessica Parry 

Jessica Parry has always been fascinated by the grandeur synonymous with couture. To find her unique take on it, the young designer looked not inward, but outdoors—literally. “I have used a mash-up of waterproof coated nylons and ripstop with taffetas and traditional couture fabrics, with finishings using waterproof zips, seam tape, Velcro straps, or French seams, hand sewing, and heavy corseted construction.” With the straightforward name Outdoor Couture, Parry’s collection combines dramatic silhouettes with functional materials and details. “In several of my looks, I have created a crossover, where garments that traditionally would be in silk are instead in ripstop and vice versa.” The wilderness inspiration is not just visual but musical. “The collection is noisy when it walks, with such large amounts of fabric gathered together.”

Jessica Storey 

Certain characters live on in popular culture long after their death. Little Edie is undoubtedly one of them. Jessica Storey’s collection is an ode to the overarching legacy of both the socialite and her mansion, Grey Gardens. “My textiles were heavily inspired by the restoration of the house. Many of my laser-cut pieces, like the pink tweed suit, are made from two deconstructed fabrics that are then bonded together to create a new material.” Material manipulation is Storey’s playground. Organza, lace, acrylic, and wool transform into moth-eaten fabrics through ingenious laser-cut techniques. Despite the emphasis on materiality, the silhouettes are well-executed, most harkening back to the 1960s. For the young designer, Little Edie is not a simple reference; she is a complex metaphor. “By exploring the processes of decay, mutation, and re-use, I wanted to reanimate and add vibrancy to a life fallen on hard times.”

Joe Brimicombe 

Joseph Brimicombe’s name is already known among those who pay attention. Through his label One of One, the young designer challenges notions of exclusivity by making custom garments utilizing deadstock fabrics and textile waste. For his graduate collection, Brimicombe seized the opportunity to push beyond his limits. “I’ve sought to elevate and explore more conceptual ideas for the runway by spending the past year developing new techniques in construction, fabrication, and embellishment.” In what the designer describes as an exploration of time, his collection is a capsule of his progress. “While this collection has been developed over a year, it is far more a compilation of everything I’ve learned, lost, and rediscovered in my short time as a designer.” Beyond the familiar jersey and denim, the designer explored new techniques. “Standout features of the garments include a focus on laser engraving over print, something with far more sustainable potential applications going forward.”

Konthorn Wutthiwongangkhana

Konthorn Wutthiwongangkhana’s collection, titled “Memories of Places,” utilizes its colour palette in intriguing ways. Black and white are starkly contrasted with colourful hues. Drawing influence from the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, the young designer’s pieces are remarkable. “The clothing incorporates clever, adaptable, and functional detailing to offer the wearer numerous styling options. Perfecting proportion and fit is essential to my process, alongside an uncompromising standard of finish.” Wutthiwongangkhana traces his attention to detail to his time working at JW Anderson. His internship at the label has fuelled his passion for the industry, and he expresses his desire to integrate into a well-seasoned team to continue growing as a designer.

Lydia Pipili

Titled “Women Suffering,” Lydia Pipili’s graduate collection is a tribute to her family. According to the designer, this project “aims to offer protection, shielding, and relief to these women and also to all women.” The young designer utilizes garments as narrative devices, turning each look into a character, a smaller part of a complex puzzle. As the looks progress, the story they project evolves from childhood to rebirth. The familiar aspect of the collection is evident in its references. “My collection is fully inspired by a collection of old pictures from my family’s photo books. Fabric prints and shapes emerged from this concept and research.” Painted canvases are seen throughout the collection, a detail that speaks directly to Pipili. “The canvases are a metaphor for protection, as I always used drawing and painting as a way of expressing my feelings, and it just made me feel safe.”

Lydiah Holder

Lydiah Holder’s graduate collection utilizes visual cues from her grandmother’s home as a clever metaphor. “I aim to pay homage to the resilience and creativity that define my community. The collection intertwines Caribbean history and cultural elements, capturing its people’s enduring spirit.” Titled “Honouring Melrose,” the designer’s collection features a rich colour palette meant to evoke the Caribbean landscape. The domestic inspiration is evident throughout her pieces, particularly in a knit jumper with crochet diamonds. Family heritage is celebrated through bold prints and vibrant hues. Holder masterfully projects her personal references into a beautiful homage. “Each piece in the collection stands as a testament to the powerful narratives of the past, embodying cultural pride and the journey of the Windrush generation, and honouring the legacy of those who paved the way for future generations.”

Markos Trankakas

Markos Trankakas’ graduate project takes on an ambitious goal: “My collection strives to revive and redefine the lost elegance of mid-century style.” Despite his high expectations, he delivers. “Defined by meticulous cutting and a refined use of distinctive colour—both inherent qualities of my approach to design—I sought to explore the possibilities of form and the interplay between interior and exterior surfaces.” Inspired by constructivist, optic, and spatialist art, the young designer explores both sharp asymmetry and curvilinearity. “Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Victor Vasarely, Lucio Fontana, Josef Albers”: Trankakas masters the art of referencing. His dedication isn’t just in form; the designer takes time to consider function. “I used the finest Laurent Garigue wool in vibrant tones of plum, viridian, chartreuse, and marine blue among others, which embrace each other in unexpected unison.”

Mila Nikcevic 

Mila Nikcevic’s collection is a campy exploration of her heritage. “Belgrade Boys” is inspired by the peculiarities of early 90s style in former Yugoslavia, where branded goods were scarce, highly prized, and became symbols of success.” The designer elaborates, “I wanted to reflect on what the boys walking around Belgrade wear. The way they portray their character and personality through their dress sense has always interested me.” Contrast is essential to understanding the young designer’s collection. Extreme masculinity is juxtaposed with campiness, athleisure with formalwear. It wasn’t just fashion that Nikcevic sourced her inspiration from, Serbian culture as a whole was considered. “The pixelated prints I created recall decorative tiles from old buildings.” For Nikcevic, her graduate collection is more than an ode to her culture; it was an opportunity to reflect on her heritage. “This process led me to a greater understanding of the story of my country.”

Milla Hanney 

Named “The Lost Toys,” Milla Hanney’s graduate collection has an exceptionally appropriate title. “I explored the faded beauty of forgotten childhood toys and the comfort of beloved items. I wanted all my looks to evoke the same feeling as a toy that has been kept and loved for years.” The source material is explored in different ways. At times, worn-out teddy bears influenced textural hand-crafted surfaces; other times, bears were used as the starting point for abstract prints. But Hanney doesn’t just portray toys; she delves into their perception by adults who value them. “My inspiration is deeply rooted in childhood book illustrations and the adult fascination with collecting toys. Some pieces in the collection encapsulate the idea of hoarding these cherished items.”

Olivia Stewart 

Stranded for inspiration, Olivia Stewart turned inward to find the subject of her graduate collection. “I had solidified a concept and knew what I wanted my collection to say, but every time I went to work on it, something wasn’t sitting right with me. It got to the point where I wasn’t actually enjoying myself anymore. The inspiration for the collection came from this feeling.” By freeing herself from external pressures, Stewart reminded herself of the source of her ambition. “Ultimately, the reason why I’m doing this is because I love clothes and have since I could distinguish a top from trousers.” Her collection became a reflection of the original spark that fuelled her love for fashion. “Topshop Joni jeans, tan Uggs, Primark disco pants, Boohoo body-con dresses—that was the epitome of fashion.” Stewart’s collection reflects on translating the chic past into the chic present. Familiarity becomes a cornerstone to understanding her design language. “In the studio, a friend told me the giant sequins reminded them of being a child. I tried to take things you see people wearing all the time and subvert them into something a little odd.”

Paolo Iacobucci

Whatever way you look at it, there’s no denying, Paolo Iacobucci’s collection is funny. Playing on Italian stereotypes, the young designer crafts an unabashedly fun collection. “I’m reinterpreting stories, symbols, and traditions from Italy’s culture.” Loafers studded with candied fruit, wavy blazers, and embroideries depicting Italy’s geographical boot—all reflect Iacobucci’s playful approach. Despite the comedic tone, the designer’s garments showcase impressive technical prowess. “I love experimenting with textiles, and the collection features a variety of techniques such as ice dyeing on silk satin, which naturally melts the colours to create different shades, screen printing on fabric and leather.” Iacobucci embraces the creative process, seeing challenges as opportunities. “I aimed to create a fitted shirt with raglan sleeves, a task initially deemed impossible, but I achieved the effect through clever use of prints, digital printing from nylon to sequins, and a blend of flock and foil.”

Rachael Tyler 

Inspired by the imagery of photographer Pawel Jaszcuzk, Rachael Tyler creates a collection that makes the Tokyo salarymen its muse. “The images capture dishevelled men after long workdays and the drinking culture that follows.” Named ‘Salary Men’, the young designer explores the concept of drunk formality. Asymmetrical jacket seams and ties that defy gravity narrate the lives of intoxicated businessmen. Tyler’s work is not merely a playful reflection on work culture; she extends the narrative with pieces that question its capitalist origins. “I further developed this story, contemplating the idea of ‘what lies beneath’. For instance, one look portrays a man who left for work in his boxers and nightshirt but remembered to don his coat and tie, paired with sock garters.”

Reece Sheikh 

Reece Sheikh’s collection, titled “Armoured Damsel,” is a refreshing twist on an outdated trope. “For my final collection, I decided to explore the archetype of the ‘Damsel in Distress’.” Inspired by romantic painters like John William Waterhouse, the designer subverts the notion through their own language. “The Romantic period plays a significant role in the development of the victimization of women as a constant source of entertainment.” Her thesis is materialized beautifully. “My collection reflects on how a woman is both the Damsel and the Knight. Silhouettes inspired by a creeping shadow, represented by the villain depicted in 1930s films including Ann Darrow in King Kong and other movie stills depicting women in danger.” Masculinity and femininity intertwine in a beautiful struggle. The delicate nature of silk and lace is juxtaposed with denim and leather. Inspiration from the Shibari technique is utilized to create a suffocating twist in knitwear. For the sake of her vision, Sheikh goes as far as developing fabrics. “Hand-painted and woven leather scraps in metallic silver form a protective textural layer for my garments. Metallic foiled and hand-dyed knitwear create a chainmail effect that gives the illusion of a heavy, rigid appearance.”


Soraya Behzadi 

Titled “Bicycle Thieves,” Soraya Behzadi’s graduate collection takes inspiration from 1950s Italian photography and cinema. The source of inspiration is not hidden in deeper meanings, manifesting itself in Italian tailoring staples. “The looks are tonal and mostly monochromatic, mixing a fusion of subtle layering and 50s outerwear.” The rigor of her starting point is eased by subtle and witty twists. “I have played with fabrics in my draped pieces; lightweight wool is used in a draped shirt, and double-layer jersey has been twisted around the body,” describes the young designer. The collection is a beautiful yet playful example of craftsmanship. Behzadi recounts working on the collection: “The hardest part was toiling over one shirt twelve times. The best part was dedicating myself to the creative process, perfecting fit and my style.”

Stavri Grigori 

“My collection is a curation of things that I like and that I feel represent me.” Stavri Grigori’s work draws inspiration from the ‘Mpampougera’ (Μπαμπούγερα) folk festival. The young designer uses her culture as a foundation for an intelligent and complex collection. The event, which occurs during carnival season, features the residents of Vamvakofyto in Northern Greece donning makeshift animal masks crafted from goat and sheep skins. The folkloric inspiration is juxtaposed with elements of corsetry. “The materials and forms of modern and historical lingerie, with their often suggestive and risqué qualities, seemed like a perfect counterbalance to the rough and earthy materials associated with the Mpampougera.” The result is garments imbued with an intriguing, layered sexuality. “The fusion of these seemingly contradictory elements resonated deeply with me, as I have always grappled with my sexually liberated side and my more traditional upbringing and surroundings.”

Theo Ike

Theo Ike’s collection, titled “Open World Sewing,” is more than just a compilation of garments; it’s a design philosophy. The young designer explains, “It’s about using fashion as a vessel to process everything I see around me.” “Nature and geography inform most of my ideas; our world provides enough inspiration to fill a trillion sketchbooks — for free!” Ike’s enthusiasm is understandable; in his view, every leaf is a starting point, every flower a fresh beginning. “Some of the unique research that has inspired this collection includes dinosaur fossil sites, devastating plague events, and astrological navigation charts.” The result of the designer’s philosophy is complex, elevating garments to puzzle pieces, whose solution reveals the designer’s identity. “I draw on my own experiences of traveling; I strive to design clothes that commemorate special places, moments, and identities.

Tom Rowe 

Tom Rowe based his graduate collection on his childhood spent living by the sea. Appropriately named “Beside the Seaside,” the young designer drew inspiration from the blurred positivity of nostalgia. “I used 70’s photographs of my family when they moved there during this time to create garments with heritage and a vintage feel.” Despite the personal touch, Rowe’s creations execute their maritime inspiration perfectly. “My pattern cutting relates to amusements and piers of the British coastline.” Knitwear and embroidered shirts mimic Victorian pier railings, while spiral-cut denim replicates the helter-skelter. With a palette mainly consisting of blue and cream, Rowe’s collection is an interesting ode to the British seaside.

Tak Fung (Tommy Tak)

“I grew up in a working-class family, and my father is a bus driver who works 14 hours a day to support my studies.” Tak Fung’s collection is a love letter to his family. “I grew up in Hong Kong, and I wanted to pay homage not only to my hometown but also to my father and grandfather who work during the night.” Titled “Night Shift,” Fung’s collection subtly blends buildings with city lights. Knit sweaters feature a grid-like pattern, while pleated pants evoke a city skyline. Despite his deep passion, the young designer acknowledges the industry’s challenges. “I’m concerned about supporting myself; companies often pay lower wages to recent graduates, and I have to pay almost £3000 for a graduate visa…” Despite these fears, Fung remains determined. With a Givenchy internship under his belt, the young designer is eager to gain more experience. “I want to learn from different brands how they operate and how they design collections.”