Imagination runs wild on runway
Imagination runs wild on runway

I always love going to the Student Runway shows at Perth Fashion Festival.

I've said this before, but designers who are fresh out of fashion school often put on some of the best runway shows because they are still at that early stage of imaginativeness, risk-taking, and not having to worry about commercial imperatives, so they let their creativity run wild, and the results are always fascinating.

FULL COVERAGE: Perth Fashion Festival

They're not worrying about "toning things down" to sell to a mass market, compromising their vision, or making their work palatable to the mainstream.

They're still pleasing themselves, essentially. And sometimes the wild, loopy creativity gets blunted with time in order to translate ideas into sales, so these early days, and early designs, are enormously fun to watch.

This year's Student Runway opened with the three inhabitants, if you like, of the Carton Design Studio space at Carillon City: Celene Bridge, Jeromy Lim and Alissia Gomez, the leading lights from last year's graduate show.

I normally endeavour to be a little more articulate than this, but I have only one word for all three designers: WOW.

I'm loathe to pick out one designer for special mention, but I must state here my absolute respect and admiration for Celene Bridge, who is, I think, doing something really special.

I've written about Celene a couple of times in The West Australian already, because I think it's been clear from the start that she has had an individual aesthetic in place from the get-go and I imagine she is just going to get better and better.

A lot of the "wow" factor in Celene's work has to do with the way she styles her clothes - her signature headpieces and accessories are works of art in themselves.

And tonight she added extra drama by making her first model walk out with a live snake slithering around her neck (study the images of Celene's work in our online gallery; you'll notice a wonderfully macabre streak runs throughout her work).

Snakes on the runway have been done before (yes, really), and often it feels like one big gimmick. But tonight, with Celene's work, it absolutely made sense.

Strip away all that, however, and you have some exquisitely elegant work.

Celene said to me once that she felt closer to a costume designer than a "fashion" designer per se, but I beg to differ a little.

The gold gown that opened her segment was not costume: it was totally, utterly wearable and extremely beautiful to boot.

I also loved Jeromy Lim's menswear, which made me think of really early Vivienne Westwood.

There was a mixture of military, dandy, pirate and gothic references in there - amazing shirts that looked like very soft leather cut into skull shapes; (fake, I'm hoping) fur pants and coats; ragged-edged great-coats, and swashbuckling pants.

Whether the Perth male is ready for Jeromy Lim remains to be seen, but I imagine in his head he's already showing in London or Paris.

Alissia Gomez's work was delightfully different from Bridge and Lim's darker vision.

She excels in candy-floss colours, but what she shares with her fellow Carton designers is a sense of humour.

Fashion can, and should, be playful, and Gomez knows this.

She sent out gorgeous lollipop-pink frilled dresses, skirts made of overlapping flaps of retro vintage-looking fabrics and cute little cropped floral boleros with matching skirts.

It would take me the rest of the week to describe in detail the rest of the Student Runway show, which was divided up into five separate sections: Women's Ready to Wear, Contemporary Evening Wear, Men's Ready to Wear, Eco Design and Costume Couture.

Suffice to say we have a lot of talent coming out of our various design schools. Look at our picture galleries, and in the meantime, here is a list of the winner in each of the above categories, judged by an industry panel including WA designer Alvin Fernandez (ae'lkemi) and Dilettante owner Diana Paolucci.

WOMEN'S READY TO WEAR
Jessica Hogg (Polytechnic West)

MEN'S READY TO WEAR
Sam Donaldson (Polytechnic West)

CONTEMPORARY EVENING WEAR
Cherish Armstrong (ECU)

ECO DESIGN
Veronica Parish (CHALLENGER TAFE)

COSTUME COUTURE
Nicole Marrington (WAAPA)

The West Australian

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