‘The coat was made with latex offcuts’: the student designers making do in lockdown

‘My boyfriend modelled this on the hottest day of the year’

Saffron Rutter, fashion, Kingston University

Headshot of fashion student Saffron Rutter

This is my boyfriend, Fin, photographed in Wimbledon on the hottest day of the year so far – an unfortunate time to be wearing a non-breathable latex coat. My collection explores the relationship between fear and clothing, using sustainable materials. It references quilts handmade by soldiers to overcome trauma, belts embroidered by the wives and mothers of samurai warriors, stained-glass windows depicting religious imagery, and silhouettes inspired by uniforms that evoke fear. The coat (made with latex offcuts) aims to challenge typical gendered views of textiles and craft. 

In the current climate, I feel it is especially important to highlight how craft can be used to promote good mental health and wellbeing.

Melanie Wilkinson, the Guardian’s styling editor, says: “Such surprising elements make up Saffron’s elegant men’s coat – latex, a stained-glass print – and the whole look is biodegradable.”

‘During the shoot, passersby gave us compliments’

Naomi Findlay, fashion design, Heriot-Watt University 

Naomi Findlay’s design, modelled by a friend, including a jacket made from an upcycled sail.

Naomi Findlay’s upcycled sail jacket, modelled by a friend. Photograph: Dominic Manderson

Headshot of fashion design student Naomi Findlay

My mum grew up in the Scottish travelling community, which was the inspiration for this look. Hearing her childhood memories, I wanted to promote the positive side of my heritage – people can have negative preconceptions. The collection mimics an image of early traveller life by using many layers and textures, and is responsibly sourced. The jacket was from an old, ripped sail. 

My friend modelled the look in the Clyde Walkway, inspiring compliments from passersby on their daily walk.

Jess Cartner-Morley, associate editor at the Guardian, says: “There is so much going on here – the texture of the knit, the bold graphics, the flashes of orange and lime – but because the proportions are perfect, it is still elegant. The knotted ‘rigging’ drawstring sleeves nod to the fabric, an upcycled sail.”

‘I was drawn to the idea of restriction’

Taz Dorodi, fashion, Leeds Arts University 

Fashion student Taz Dorodi's design, modelled by her friend Maryam Saira

Taz Dorodi’s design, modelled by her best friend in a Leeds park. Photograph: Simon Bray/The Guardian

Headshot of fashion student Taz Dorodi

I grew up in Iran, where women who make fashion statements can break the law and risk their lives. I was drawn to the idea of restriction, and how social inequality between the sexes is reflected. Each of my pieces juxtaposes a different combination of silhouettes, exploring fluidity and structure. This outfit combines masculine tailoring with softer fabrics for a more relaxed, feminine look, and is modelled by my best friend in our local park in Leeds. The garment was a perfect fit, and we had a lot of fun.

Melanie Wilkinson says: “Taz’s mix of draped scarves and tailoring is fluid and feminine, but with a beautifully judged structured edge. The end result is classic and bold, and wouldn’t look out of place in a glossy magazine.”

‘I experiment with textiles, even using hair’

Grace Blackman, fashion with business studies, University of Brighton

Fashion with busiess studies student Grace Blackman models her ‘ice-olation’ dress and coat

Grace Blackman models her ‘ice-olation’ dress and coat. Photograph: Elliott Morgan/The Guardian

Headshot of fashion with business studies student Grace Blackman

These pieces are called the “ice-olation” coat and dress, which seems fitting for the strange times we find ourselves in. Based on sculptures of garments trapped in ice, and inspired by Deborah Turbeville and Veronique Branquinho photography, the textiles were delicately constructed by hand. My work often evolves from textile experiments in unconventional materials, such as hair. 

I modelled the outfit in the grounds of a country house near my home in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, which I discovered at a wedding a few years ago. It was such a beautiful and exciting day.

Jess Cartner-Morley says: “I love the purity and the glamour in Grace’s work. Young designers sometimes shy away from making their clothes beautiful, because they want to be different. But beauty is powerful. She looks like an angel, or a superhero, or both.”

‘My work celebrates slow fashion’

Amy Goacher, fashion, Kingston University 

Amy Goacher’s ‘slow-fashion’ knitwear, modelled by a friend in her garden.

Amy Goacher’s ‘slow-fashion’ knitwear, modelled by a friend. Photograph: Elliott Morgan/The Guardian

Headshot of fashion student Amy Goacher

Last summer I went on a 1,200-mile road trip from the south of England to Hawick in the Scottish Borders, which led me to explore the rich history of the British knitwear industry. My final collection pays homage to the humble beginnings of the knitting communities I discovered there. My collection evolved during the outbreak of Covid-19 into a celebration of slow fashion, using secondhand garments and painstaking craftsmanship to create garments that last. 

My friend Georgia stepped up as the model for the socially distanced shoot in my garden. After spending time in lockdown with only me or my mannequin to try the finished garments on, it was exciting to see everything come together.

Jess Cartner-Morley says: “As soon as I saw this knit, I fell in love with it. It’s not just a piece of clothing, it’s a piece of treasure, to be loved for ever. And that feels like a positive, hopeful way of making fashion.”

See @guardianfashion Instagram for more of our favourite designs


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