York College fashion students take to the catwalk next Friday for their annual fashion show. ZOE WALKER has a sneak preview of the daring designs.

THE wild and wonderful designs of York College fashion students have caused a stir in recent years, and this year's budding Donatella Versaces and Alexander McQueens will be treading in their footsteps next Friday. The occasion is the York College Fashion Show, the venue is the catwalk, the Macmillan Sports Hall, York College, Tadcaster Road.

York College has received acclaim in recent years for being the only non-university course to participate in the prestigious Graduate Fashion Week, and this year the college sent HND students down to the fashion week with a stand at which they displayed their designs.

The upcoming fashion show at the College's Tadcaster Road campus gives students a chance to display their wares on their own turf.

"We feel very strongly that regional employers should have a chance to view the students' work and we value the links we have with regional employers," said Jill Sissons of York College.

The event has two main sponsors - Oxfam and Marks & Spencer. In addition, the Company of Merchant Taylors and York Hairdressing salon CUT will be giving prizes for commerciality and innovation.

Many regional employers will be at the show, and in total around 400 people are expected to attend. So it's a big night for the students. Collections on display range from Punk Couture to 1960's Bollywood and there is even a collection enticingly titled Fairies And Nightmares.

"It was inspired by Arthur Rackham," says the designer, Kate Gardner. Rackham was a late 19th-century illustrator, famed for his otherworldly illustrations of children's' books such as Grimm's Fairy Tales and Alice In Wonderland.

"I looked at illustrations of the Rhine Maidens in particular for my idea and was really interested in the shading there. That's the basis for my dress here which has a muslin lining - at the moment it has to be pinned up but by the fashion show it'll all be totally ready to wear!"

Lara Proctor's Futuristic Fifties collection is described by its creator as "Monroe meets clubwear with a print sort of like a 1960s tablecloth!"

It's certainly a colourful creation, but not for shrinking violets. "I really like it," says Lara, "But no, I wouldn't wear it out like this. I'd probably wear a pair of jeans underneath it."

There are some creative and unusual ideas for the show and among them is Ferdhusi Jhahan's 1960's Bollywood collection. Ferdhusi was disappointed by the lack of clothing that spliced Indian cultural influences and western fashion ideas and came up with a denim outfit with a traditional Indian feel to fill the gap.

Another unusual entry is The Drowned Maidens collection by Niki Boyes, which uses lyrics from Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River to get its message across - the lyrics have been ironed on to the design.

Anne Hepple-Wilson's Luxurious 1920s collection takes the art deco period as its creative jumping-off point. Only one entry - Alice Watson's Vintage Sportswear - tackles menswear. And that, say the students, is because it's generally easier to be more creative and flamboyant when designing for women.

Rebecca Elliott's Punk-Couture collection plays with the image of punk, making it appear more feminine, using a draping tartan shawl and printed bag.

"I've been inspired by designers such as Vivienne Westwood," says Rebecca. "But this is not as confrontational as the original punk and street wear. The old punk was really anti femininity, but this is much more elegant."

It's obvious that the students have been working hard on their designs, and the finishing touches are yet to come. They started planning their collections at Easter and since then have thought, bought, cut and sewn their way to their final show entries. And in the tradition of fashion designers the world over, they will be worrying and tinkering with their creations right up until the last minute.

"The designs are exceptional this year," said fashion tutor Marie Neal Smith. "Each collection is very individual and covers an array of specialist areas including tailoring, day wear, evening wear, men's, ladies and children's wear. All the students hope to work in the fashion industry or stay on to further their education with top-up degrees."

- There will be two performances of the York Fashion Show on Friday, June 20 - a matinee for schools and an evening performance at 7.30pm, which friends and family, as well as regional employers will attend. Tickets cost £5. To book, telephone 01904 770281.

Updated: 09:05 Saturday, June 14, 2003