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Behind the scene at Graduate Fashion Week with four models wearing Tihara Smith Windrush Collection garments

Graduate Fashion Week 2018

Throwback to my Graduate Fashion Week 2018 experience…

My final graduate collection from my Fashion degree at UCA Epsom was shown at Graduate Fashion Week in 2018. I was inspired to start my own brand after this experience, so I thought it might be nice to reminisce and share with you my Graduate Fashion Week experience! I hope it may be useful to any current fashion students, aspiring fashion students or anyone who is just interested in what happens at Graduate Fashion Week.


Graduate Fashion Week is a charity organization founded in 1991. It showcases the work of over 1,000 students and graduates from universities around the world at its annual event every June. The event features 25 catwalk shows, exhibition stands from over 40 universities and a Gala Award Show. There is also a packed schedule of live talks and workshops schedule featuring leading names from the fashion industry.

Graduate Fashion Week bridges the gap between graduation and employment and offers an incredible platform for emerging fashion graduates.


Nearing towards the end of my three-year fashion degree course, I was given the amazing opportunity to show my final collection at Graduate Fashion Week 2018.

My final collection was inspired by the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948, which carried West Indian immigrants to the UK. I was inspired by the arts and culture of the Caribbean, as well as the Black British experience in the UK from 1948 onwards. Listening to stories from my grandfather, who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean in the 1950s, and also through viewing photographers, who documented the black experience in the UK I was able to develop my final collection. I looked too at the British West Indian front room, the décor, ornaments, and souvenirs that they bought from home. A key inspiration being raffia crafts that are often brought back from the Caribbean after a vacation.

My collection celebrates the colour and the beauty of the Windrush generation, but also with a message of the pride of the Windrush generation, who made England their home. You can read more about my graduate collection here.


After the final hand-in of my Final Major Project at university (which included my final collection), myself and my class were informed who had been chosen to show their work at Graduate Fashion Week 2018.

Once the news was shared, we were straight into show preparation. We all had to ensure that our collections were completed to the highest quality and that all the individual outfits looked good as a whole collection. We also worked with a stylist who helped us with choosing the right accessories for our collections. Along with our tutors, we worked out the order of the outfits to go down the catwalk as well as the music we wanted to have played to accompany each of our collections.

In the last few days before the show, we carefully packed all our collections and accessories to be loaded into the van and driven to the Truman Brewery on the day of the show.


As well as all the university catwalk shows, each university has a stand in the GFW exhibition displaying its student's portfolios and some final garments on mannequins. The exhibition is open to the public, so people are able to walk around and explore all the amazing graduate work.



Students are invited to volunteer to help out on their university's exhibition stand. I was a volunteer on my university's stand and helped keep the portfolio's organized and answered any questions visitors had about our work.


On the day of my university show, my class and our tutors met at the Truman Brewery to unload the van with all our collections. We had to get all the garments and accessories up in the tiny lift to the backstage area, it was hard work but we made it!


Designer - Tihara Smith with one of the models wearing one of the Windrush Collection pieces at Graduate Fashion Week

Once everything was backstage, we got to meet the models and the dressers. All the outfits had to be organized and allocated to the correct dresser and model. We then had a quick fitting to make sure the outfits fit the models they had been allocated to, and to show the dressers how to put the outfit on with all the accessories. There was just enough time to have to run through on the catwalk before the show, and then the models were sent to hair and makeup.

Once the show started, we were all backstage helping the dressers and making sure all the models were ready and lined up, because we were so busy doing this we didn't get to watch the show live, but some people had the live stream playing on their phone so we all got to have a quick look whilst our collections were on the catwalk!


After the show, we were all relieved that it went well and celebrated, but not for too long because we had to pack all the collections back up to make space for the next university and get everything back on the van to be driven back to university.

Graduate Fashion Week was an amazing experience, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity I was given. If you like the idea of discovering fresh talent in fashion, I would definitely recommend you to attend the next event.

Thumbnail image by photographer Deborah Iona

Tags: Events