There’s nothing I love more than spotting emerging design talent, particularly when it’s from the North East. We’ve got some pretty impressive fashion alumni from Northumbria University making waves in the fashion industry right now but this time, I’m talking about a much younger set of students; the Textile students of Newcastle High School for Girls.
Students from the school in Jesmond are responsible for not only designing and manufacturing the pieces which feature in the Textiles department’s annual fashion show, they’re also charged with producing and staging the show themselves. Everything from the music, lighting and choreography is masterminded by students from years 9 to 13 and it’s no easy task given the sheer volume of students taking the course.
“We are very proud of the creative talent we have here at Newcastle High and the Fashion and Textiles show is evidence of this. So much hard work and dedication goes into creating these collections and the girls put their hearts and souls into the whole creative process from design, production, choreography and staging.” Alison Goldie, Head of Creative Arts, Newcastle High School for Girls
I was invited along to the evening show earlier this month and took my seat on the Frow in anticipation for what lay ahead….
In a show that opened with pieces inspired by the art of Piet Mondrian and the famous Mondrian dress by Yves Saint Laurent, year 9 students each showcased one sheath dress painted to reflect the style of the famous painter. With dance based choreography, students modelled their own pieces before exiting the stage to applause.
The show continued with all four year 9 classes taking a segment of the show to interpret their theme, the punk theme stood out with it’s anarchic choreography and soundtrack.
The two year 11 pupils who showed showcase collections showed how the design skill matures and progresses as students move up to GCSE level at Newcastle High School for Girls. Emilia Cooke produced a three piece capsule collection inspired by packaging and doilies which showcased her eye for design, and her innovative use of raw materials To translate household items into inspired fashion pieces. Bodices fashioned out of clingfilm and sellotape and trains made from corrugated cardboard stood out in the collection.
“I have a real passion for textiles and hope to study it at A Level and beyond. In Year 9 when I created my first piece I came into the art studio every break, lunchtime and after school to get it finished. Last night I was in the studio until about 5.30pm with my younger sister who I’ve roped in to help me create all the origami flowers I’ll need. It was actually my 13-year-old sister, Francesca who first showed me how to make the flowers! It takes about one hour to create 20 flowers and I need hundreds! I also used three rolls of Sellotape to produce one of the corsets.” Emilia Cooke, Year 11.
Lucy Baxter went for a softer, more fabric oriented approach in her capsule collection inspired by cabbages. Soft, floaty pieces accented with screen printed purples and greens showcased her talent for taking the mundane and elevating it to something beautiful, striking and wearable.
“We are very fortunate to have an exceptionally well supported department equipped with unrivalled facilities including laser, screen and 3D printing which are all at the girls’ disposal when they are producing their collections. We are also uniquely placed to be able to offer three different arts based A Levels, Textiles, Fine Art and Graphics which provides tremendous breadth of learning and great creative cross overs for those studying one or more arts based A Levels.” Alison Goldie, Head of Creative Arts, Newcastle High School for Girls.
Megan Fletcher, aged 17, closed the show with her four piece collection entitled Modern Renaissance featuring a glow in the dark exotic skeletons with full skirt and shakespearean ruffles. Fletcher has been offered one of just 25 places on the exclusive BA Hons Fashion Atelier degree course at University College of Arts, UCA in Rochester, the only course of its kind in the UK.
Inspired by Tim Burton movies and the current political climate, Fletcher’s collection focussed on the supernatural using 3D printing and thermo-chromic paint in a dramatic climax.
My favourite collection, entitled The Human Condition by student Hope Turnbull, featured a thought provoking five piece collection inspired by mental health issues and depression. With clean lines accented by straitjacket-like features and buckles, simple pieces were printed to appear like pill packets emblazoned with quotes from patients struggling with mental ill health and anxiety.
Turnbull’s collection is heavily influenced by Agnes Richter, a 19th century German seamstress detained as a patient in an insane asylum. Richter densely embroidered her straight jackets with words charting her thoughts and feelings at the time and Turnbull’s collection captures the poignancy of this beautifully.
After the show I learned that Turnbull wasn’t a Textiles student throughout her educational career at Newcastle High School for Girls and only opted to study the subject at year 12. With plans to go on to study Fine Art at University (she’s hoping for Central St Martins or University of the Arts London) I’m tipping this young designer as one to watch, my absolute favourite from the evening, I’m predicting big things for Hope Turnbull.
After watching the show, produced entirely by the students involved, I’ll be watching to see the next steps of some of the older students as they graduate high school and seek further education, it’s rare for talent to present so early and so uniquely in high school students but it looks a super though we have a couple of real gems right here in Newcastle