Graduate Fashion Week – the New Media Award

Graduate fashion week 2016

While the spotlight of Graduate Fashion Week tends to shine mainly on the design graduates, it’s easy to forget all the other talent waiting to be discovered. The world of fashion media has changed beyond recognition in the last 5-10 years and I was tasked along with Jessica Bumpus (former staffer, now a freelance whizz writing for everyone from the New York Times to Snapchat’s Sweet channel) to judge the Graduate Fashion Week New Media Award a couple of weeks ago.

The pre-judging had been done for us, so our job was to focus on the presentations of the ten finalists. Their final projects ranged from apps to editorial sites to a very ambitious content-meets-ecommerce proposition that aims to let you shop the entire lifestyle of your favourite movies.

Our winner though was Vanessa Cuffy (UCA Epsom), whose site Model Issue is a destination for model-focused insights and editorial (think The Business of Fashion with a model-centric slant). We liked its simplicity and effectiveness and could see it becoming a viable commercial destination for people interested in the fashion model business and all the issues that surround it.

Model Issue
Model Issue website about the modelling industry
Model Issue website about the modelling industry

From talking to the other finalists, who presented some very creative and thoroughly-researched concepts, a couple of things became clear. First, the pitch. It’s essential to get your top line pitch down pat, so find a sentence that sums up your business/brand/app/site and learn it by heart. A name that says what it does on the tin helps. If you can get the what and the why in first, you can always follow with a few more lines that expand on the concept. E.g, “(Name of site) is an online destination that (does what?) for (who?).”

I find that if someone waffles on without going into specifics early on, my interest is lost quite rapidly. So it’s best to keep ideas as simple as possible. Some ideas had so many extra bells and whistles that it became quite hard work keeping up. Obviously, nerves do come into play but that’s another reason to keep things (concepts, presentations) pared back. There’s less to remember so you’re less likely to forget a crucial component.

The second thing is viability. Why does your product (app/zine/ecom site) need to exist? Is it really fulfilling a need or is it a vanity project? It’s a good idea to ask yourself this early on, along with the related (and equally important) question, how will this make money or help my business?

It’s an interesting time to be working in fashion media. It’s a crowded market, there is so much content out there and it’s consumed at speed. And yet, it seems the appetite is insatiable. Which is good news; it means there are definitely opportunities out there to shake things up. I do a little bit of teaching and the students (and graduates) who do well are those who are constantly curious and looking to disrupt the status quo. Now is a great time to do that.

I took a look at some of the photography and styling portfolios on my GFW rounds and I noticed certain trends. For example, Hot & Cool magazine is an overriding influence, visible in the abundance of raw ‘bad’ photography and normcore styling. That’s not a criticism, more an interesting trend that harks back to the early 90s recession and a similar raw aesthetic. It’s like Juergen Teller and Melanie Ward all over again! But now more than ever, an original point of view is valued. So don’t be afraid to push your creativity. Even if you’re still figuring out what you want to say, it pays to be bold and challenge yourself. Get the message out in some shape or form and polish it later if you need to.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
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