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The University of Southampton

Russia inspires fledgling fashion stars

Published: 21 February 2005

Two fashion students at Winchester School of Art have made it to the finals of a national competition to find the fashion designers of the future.

Eleanor Brooks (21) and Lydia Crook (20) are among just 15 talented students from across the UK showcasing their designs at the finals of the fifth annual graduate fashion competition organised by leading charity Fashion Awareness Direct.

The prestigious competition offers students an opportunity to express their own style within a given conceptual framework. This year's competition brief is based on Russian culture. Students were asked to produce designs inspired by St Petersburg and Moscow, two cities with dramatically differing heritage and culture, and the Ballet Russes, an art form which has communicated much about Russian culture to the West.

Lydia and Eleanor initially submitted a sketchbook with detailed drawings of their designs and once short listed were asked to turn their ideas into reality for a catwalk show in London.

The main inspiration for Lydia's design was a quote from Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird which led her to research secret gardens and princesses. Her dress has a corset bodice and full-netted skirt in natural creams with dusty pink accents, worn with a rabbit fur-trim coat. She has used embroidered gems, sequins and beads on top of silk satin appliqué.

Eleanor has also designed a dress with a very long train which when pulled up is worn as a coat. It has a secondary coat which is attached at the cuffs. The garment is in organza with metallic leather and muslin strips. She was inspired by Rasputin and his and Russia's sense of illusion, the idea that all is not as it seems.

John Hopkins, fashion programme leader at Winchester, comments: "It's terrific news that we have two students in this year's final and it underlines the high-quality of the fashion students and teaching here at Winchester School of Art. I'm delighted for both Lydia and Eleanor at the success they've achieved and wish them lots of luck in the final."

Lydia added: "The competition has been an amazing experience so far and I've learned a huge amount, in particular about how a fashion show comes together. It's great being able to show my work and I'm looking forward to seeing my design coming down the catwalk."

All 15 finalists will present their designs to the judging panel at a catwalk show on Tuesday 15 March at the prestigious Delfina Studios in London. The judging panel is chaired by Hilary Alexander, fashion editor of the Daily Telegraph and includes British designer Paul Costelloe and Alexander Shumsky, the producer of Russian Fashion Week. Three winners will receive cash prizes and work placements at leading fashion houses including Tata Naka and Selfridges.

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors

  1. Digital images of the original drawings of the students' designs are available from Media Relations on request.
  2. For more information about Fashion Awareness Direct visit
  3. Winchester School of Art merged with the University of Southampton in 1996.  Founded in 1860, WSA has an international reputation for research and teaching in art, art history and design, and has links with many other institutions in Europe.
  4. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.  The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5000 staff.  Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.
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