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Fashion Atelier student impresses top industry names at London awards

A Fashion Atelier student from our Rochester campus was named the winner of the Merchant Taylor’s Silver Shears 2017 award, after impressing some of the industry’s biggest names with his Japanese-inspired tailoring.

Matthew-Erik Beale, a third-year student at UCA Rochester, showcased his work on the catwalk at Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London, and was up against tough competition, including Savile Row apprentices and some of the country’s most talented tailoring students. His design, which plays on features of traditional British women’s tailoring combined with Japanese ceremonial dress, also earned him the Rising Star award on the night, which included a prize of £2,000.

“To be shortlisted as a finalist was an incredible enough achievement for me, but to win was a new feeling altogether,” Matthew-Erik says. “It sounds incredibly clichéd to say I wasn’t expecting it, but I can’t say this enough. Hearing my name was surreal and the compliments given to me by members of every level of an industry I admire so much was humbling and overwhelming at times.

“The garments after all are the first fully tailored garments I’ve made and the experience and exposure all the finalists are given is definitely a huge privilege and I’ve no doubt we were all as grateful to be there as one another.”

The competition was judged by major fashion names including Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood Bridgitte Stepputtis, Head Cutter at Kilgour Will Adams, and Philip Parker from Henry Poole. Guest judges on the night included David Gandy, Jodie Kidd and Oliver Spencer.

“Looking at the other contestants’ entries, most of whom are Savile Row apprentices, there is a definite influence of the house style on many of them,” Matthew-Erik says on why he feels his work stood out to the judges. “The fact that I don’t work in a professional tailoring environment, but am a student looking from an entirely design point of view, probably did me a lot of justice. The second round of judging was carried out on the evening of the competition and assessed the visual impact of the garments. I think the mesh of my graphic design aesthetic and the level of execution expected from Savile Row garments was probably a massive influence on my win.”

The successful garment was created by Matthew-Erik during the second year of his degree and he praised the passion of his course leaders and the opportunities that have been available to him throughout his studies.

“I love the breadth of the course compared to other craft skill degrees which focus solely on one aspect,” he explains. “We cover a lot of detail for the time given and it has definitely helped me approach the way I design in a much more pragmatic way. It really allows you to think more ambitiously knowing that you have the technical skill to execute an idea.

“The passion of the course staff is something I value more than anything, especially that of our technical team. They get so excited about our work which is constantly inspiring and motivating.”

The awards saw hundreds of students and apprentices submit work, of which just 25 were shortlisted to display their garments on the catwalk for the final round of judging.

BA (Hons) Fashion Atelier Matthew-Erik Beale