Central Saint Martins BA Fashion protest CSM encore

Central Saint Martins backs protest by fashion students

Graduate shows 2015: the head of Central Saint Martins' BA Fashion course has voiced support for a guerrilla presentation staged by students who were not chosen to exhibit at the school's official press show.

Course director Willie Walters called last week's #encoreCSM protest a "fantastic initiative".

The presentation was a protest by students at the London institution – one of world's most highly regarded fashion universities – who were dissatisfied with being excluded from the end-of-year catwalk show.

"I thought that the #encoreCSM show was a fantastic initiative which allowed those students not selected for the press show to present their designs in a setting which related directly to the college and their course," Walters told Dezeen. "I was thrilled that these students were so proactive and professional in their approach."

As a result of the growing amount of students at the university, only 40 – approximately one third of the annual cohort – were chosen to present their graduate collections in front of the international media.

The group of students who weren't selected staged their protest in Granary Square, the public space outside the Central Saint Martins King's Cross campus, during the press show on 3 June.

"Our aim is for equal representation in support of current and future students on the BA Fashion pathway," read flyers handed out by students taking part in the protest.

The students dressed models and friends with their garments and stood them in a line around the square's fountain, in front of visitors arriving at and leaving the press show as well as members of the public.

"They may well be disappointed not to be chosen but we find that this makes very little difference to their employability," said Walters. "It also has no bearing on their degree marks and this is made plain to the students."

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The 40 designers in the press show were selected by a panel of judges and examiners following three fashion presentations that included all students, held two weeks before the official event.

"The work of 40 students takes usually just over one hour [to show] and we know from experience – whilst still being extremely long in terms of a fashion show – this is an acceptable time duration from an audience point of view," said Walters.

Magazines including Vogue and i-D covered the protests. Prominent journalists who attended the official show – including the Telegraph's Hilary Alexander – also posted photos of the guerrilla show on Instagram.

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The number of students in Central Saint Martin's fashion department has grown over the last 20 years. Approximately 110 students are now accepted onto the BA Fashion course's Womenswear, Menswear, Fashion Print, Fashion Knit and Fashion Design with Marketing pathways each year. 

"Up until 1996 all final year students showed their work in one single show but when these numbers rose to above 80 the result was that no matter how exciting these collections were, no audience could take it in," said Walters.

"The press show is for the press and although it may be attended by fashion business, most employers come to see the work of all the students at our exhibition which is held at the end of June," she added.

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Many of London's top design institutions have also been growing the number of students taking their courses. In 2014, a record number of international students applied to study architecture and design courses in the UK, up 14 per cent on the previous year.