For the first time ever, the UAL Chancellor will not wear the black robes which are traditionally donned at graduation ceremonies up and down the country by the heads of all universities.
UAL believes having a student design its Chancellor’s robes is a world-first for any university, given graduation ceremonies are steeped in tradition which often includes strict rules about academic dress.
“As Chancellor of the world’s biggest factory for trouble, I thought it only apt that I should break from tradition and oversee the graduation ceremonies in a fabulous outfit designed by one of our talented students.
“As well as being Chancellor, I’m also an artist and transvestite and like to wear distinctive clothes which make me feel feminine and accentuate my assets – in my case my legs!
“I have a long tradition with UAL students designing my clothes so I set the students a strict brief – to reflect my unique style whilst retaining some of the formal elements of the traditional robes. I was confident that given the wealth of talent at UAL I would be taking to the stage in a dazzling outfit, and that has certainly turned out to be the case.”
Grayson, who took up post as UAL Chancellor in August 2015, launched a competition amongst UAL students earlier this year challenging them to design him some bespoke robes. Students from UAL colleges Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion were invited to enter the competition by submitting drawings and material swatches. The shortlisted students met with Grayson and his seamstress at his studio to present their ideas in detail, after which Grayson picked his winner.
The winner was Keith Tovey, a 23-year-old student on BA Fashion Design and Knitwear at Central Saint Martins. Prior to studying at Central Saint Martins, Keith completed a UAL Foundation in Art and Design at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon.
Deemed by Grayson to be the right mix of “1970s progressive bishop, gay and cool”– Keith’s design creation has taken three months to complete from first sketch to completion.Crafted using hundreds of French seams, the gown is lined with a silk stretch satin, overlaid with an array of 10 dazzling coloured French silk organza layers, arranged to fit together like nesting dolls. Completing the look is a statement crown, interwoven with seven coloured wires.
In describing his inspiration, Keith said:
“I wanted to draw from the students that would be at the ceremony. It’s a culmination several years of hard work, learning, and emotions. The stripes and layers resemble projects they did, mistakes they made, and people they met over their years at University and they begin to build up and create something deeper and more meaningful. The bottom layers incrementally affect the outer ones, just as our experiences will affect the work in the future.
“As a knitwear student my process starts from the textile. It took 88 hours and four pairs of hands to complete the fabric – ensuring the interaction would create a kaleidoscope of hundreds of colours – creating something for everyone! But most of all, I just wanted to make something that Grayson would feel great in. It’s been really special to be able to create something especially for him.”