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Preview: Alternative Fashion Week 2010

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Alternative Fashion Week (AFW) has been taking place in the east end of London annually since 1993. It’s organised by Alternative Arts, a publicly-funded arts organisation that was founded in 1971 by Maggie Pinhorn and Liz Weston as part of a campaign to rescue Covent Garden market from being demolished to make way for office buildings, so it’s fitting that the venue for AFW is Spitalfields Market, itself the subject of a controversial redevelopment during the early 90s.

“I came up with the idea as a way to help regenerate Spitalfields and put a fresh face on fashion in the East End which has always had a garment industry,” Maggie told us. “As an arts organisation we invest in new artists and new ideas, and give opportunities and exposure to emerging artists, helping them to establish their careers.”

Amongst the designers whose careers received a kickstart from  AFW are Gareth Pugh, whose debut at AFW resulted in an invite from Fashion East to show at London Fashion Week in Autumn 2005, and Jasper Garvida, who won Sky’s Project Catwalk in 2008.

Unlike most fashion showcases, AFW is completely free for designers to participate in and is open to the general public, also without any charge. We asked Maggie how the event is funded. “Our major sponsors are Hammerson and the Spitalfields Estate and then we aim to attract further commercial sponsors. Last year we had Rescue Remedy and this year we have Garmin, who make sat-navs. Cash sponsorship is very difficult to obtain, especially in the current economic climate, but we always remain optimistic.”

The catwalk models are unpaid volunteers. For many of them, it’s their first time on the catwalk so Alternative Arts runs a training course over the six weeks leading up to AFW. The course is taught by Rosie Whitney-Fish, a trained dancer with a Masters degree in choreography. She explained that choreography is applicable far beyond the world of dance. “I’ve done a lot of assisting for theatre, film and television, and I’m slowly finding that my career is going more towards choreography for fashion, particularly still fashion and photography.”

Rosie’s career has included experience of assisting with the choreography of shows at the London and German Fashion Weeks. We asked her what was involved in preparing novice models for the catwalk.

“Definitely, you can tell people who have no experience [of modelling] and I think it’s just a self-confidence thing,” she told us. “So on a course like this, it’s about boosting self-confidence and bodily awareness – having an idea of how you stand, how you hold yourself, how you present yourself, those kind of things which are hugely important in the fashion industry and in the dance world as well.”

The opportunity to showcase their designs for free means that slots on the catwalk at AFW are massively sought-after. Over 500 designers applied for this year’s event, from which 70 have been selected to show, hailing from all over the UK, Europe, Russia, the United States, India and Japan. The Alternative Arts team look for innovation and original ideas. “They may not always be perfectly formed but they will get there, one day,” says Maggie, who started her own career working for the BAFTA- and Oscar-winning production designer Ken Adam on the Bond movie You Only Live Twice.

The music for the catwalk shows is provided by a group of contemporary improvisational jazz musicians who call themselves The Really Tight Coresettes.

As well as the catwalk shows, more than 60 designers will have stalls, as befits the market venue. It all happens from April 19th to 23rd at Spitalfields Market (nearest tube/train is Liverpool Street). The full line-up of designers is below but don’t worry if you can’t make it – we’ll be providing full coverage of all five days.

Monday 19th April – Lucie Ashworth, City & Islington College, Amy Cossins, Richard Evans-Lacey, Chantal Gibbs-Jones, Charlotte Haggerty, Chloe Haywood, Kensington and Chelsea College, Sini Moilanen, Beatrice Korlekie Newman, Olga Shishkina, Laura Theiss, Lisa Tran, Heidi Wikar, Anna Wilkinson

Tuesday 20th April – 4.2morrow, Charlie Chambers, CoolTan Arts, Dorota Damian, Hackney Community College Art Dept, Hanna Kille, Prilly Lewis, Pavel Merxuz, Georgia Nash, Stacey Richards, Tanya Smith, Kimberley Startup, Hayley Trezise, West Thames College


Wednesday 21st April – Alq Associates, Adel Andic, Yeshaswini B.K., Colchester School of Art & Design, Amy Day, Elisabeth Hamlyn, Havering College, London Printworks Trust, Maartje de Man, Mary Ratcliffe, Nicola Sawyers, Gemma Wadsworth, Amanda Wai Yin Ng


Thursday 22nd April – A Team Arts, Alice Barcham, Barnet College, Nicole Gill, Alex Seroge Ignatian, Jayant Kumar, Thomas Lovegrove, Sara Goodwin & Lucy Hunter LuaSarcy Ltd, Gemma Maher, Elif Muzaffer, Tijana & Mila Popovic, George Strood, Renata Suchanova, The University of Derby, UCreative at Rochester


Friday 23rd April – Cristiane Chaves, Chelsea College of Art and Design, Laura Fox, Viveka Goyanes, Olivia Grogan, Toni Ann Haines, Sarina Hosking, Astrid Amalie Juliussen, Newham College, Laura Panter, Wilfried Pletzinger, Kim Seoghee, Imanni Da Silva, Waltham Forest College, Elizabeth Wilcox

If you’re one of the trainee models, click here to access other photos from the evening.

Written by Myles

March 29th, 2010 at 11:24 am

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