Fantastic Fashion comes to Blackpool Winter Gardens

Fashion.  It’s a tricky beast. We all have a tale of a disastrous clothing purchase. I once bought a pair of cherry red patent platform shoes because I like Marc Bolan. This was in the 1990s though and I looked a proper Charlie wandering round Camden three inches higher than everyone else and stumbling at the curbs.

The gurus of fashion are always at the wings waiting to make the next big trend happen. Turn-ups, narrow lapels or boot cut – are they in this season? Well, Blackpool’s very own fashionistas got their turn to answer that and to show what the next generation of designers have planned for us. A lavish fashion show complete with catwalk, cameras and wincingly thin models awaited us at the Blackpool and the Fylde College Fashion Show

The Winter Gardens‘ newly refurbished Grand Foyer was the venue for the evening’s event. After a very professional welcome at the door and a personal guide up to the bar area, a quick glass of wine was drained and we went into the Grand Foyer which was filled to capacity. Music blasted and a huge screen stood at the far end of a catwalk. The room looked almost designed specially for the event; long, elegant and ornate. It was an inspired venue.  This is a room that will we will be seeing a lot more of, I feel.

I should point out at that the students who were showing their unique creations are the graduating class from the successful Blackpool and Fylde School of Creative Arts’ BA in Fashion and Costume for Performance. So with this in mind, the catwalk creations on show were not so much what we will be wearing next year (unless you are very bold) but the best in what the stars of stage and screen could be garbed in. This was in important aspect to remember during the show as there was some quite outlandish clothing parading the catwalk. Photography courtesy of Colleen Jones.

Avici blasted out as the lights dropped and a superfluous sideshow of the students at work was projected on the giant screen. It might have been a nice touch for the friends and family of the designers, but it reinforced that the designers were students, which was a shame as the rest of the evening was of a professional level throughout.

The many designers’ creations started their parade. Models both male and female were bedecked in clothing that was sometimes so complex and imaginative that it could be described as wearable art. The nature of the fashion for performance aspect of the show was evident. There were the odd one or two costume designs that touched on the ludicrous, within the confines of the performance agenda, though they became simply visually arresting and summed up exactly the remit of the degree course. The Blake’s 7 style post punk Wagnarian collection with its eyepatches, pomp and 1980s feel was a perfect example of this. Garish and bold, it really captured the feel of what a post apocalyptic opera could be.

There were so many incredible and varied designs that to start to list them all would take a review ten times the size of this one. Photography courtesy of Colleen Jones.

A mix of diaphanous transparent materials that exposed both the models’ and the designers’ careful intentions glided down the catwalk. Free flowing capes and trailing accessories billowed confidently. One revolving door and half of the models would have been garrotted or torn in half. This again spoke of the fact these clothes are designed for the stage and not for an evening in Walkabout. Steampunk Alice in Wonderland elegance, then rustic Eastern European charm, then wedding dress fairy tale wonder. The collections, eclectic as they were, were so varied that each pass of the models down the catwalk was different from the next. Electric coloured Lycra-clad male models were as far from the bright green goblin man as he was distant to the 1950s style coats and dresses. It was an incredible show.

The odd rough finish, shaky hem and trailing thread can be overlooked as the sheer number of items these young designers have created must have been a logistical challenge to complete. To dress, style and hair tweak the roster of models must have been a near military exercise. A word of admiration must go to the many models involved. There were, as well as the professional models, some plucky volunteers in evidence, but all acted with aplomb and it looked like it was great fun to be involved. 

Overall, the designs had the volume turned up for extravagance and for spectacle. Dazzling the eye with flair and innovation, many of the creations could sit alongside the best in stage costume I have seen in my far too many years of theatre work and viewing. The students, who are very soon to be fully fledged designers in their own right, are assured of great success if this show is their touchstone. Freed from the constraints of academic requirements and term-based deadlines, it will be interesting and exciting to see what they do next. Most likely we will see it, not in a fashion show like this, but on stage or screen.

Images courtesy of Colleen Jones Photography.

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