Alpaca knitwear, bulletproof lined clothing and cement-inspired dresses provide unique fashion collections at Derby’s final degree show

1 June 2015

A fashion student at the University of Derby has returned to her roots by using fibre from her family’s alpacas to create her final degree knitwear collection.

Hannah Keenan, 21, has produced nine garments from some of the 50 animals her family keep at their smallholding in Darlington.

Her women’s AW15 collection, called Huacaya – a breed of alpaca – will now be showcased at the University’s graduate fashion show at Derby Theatre on Wednesday, June 3.

Hannah, who studies BA (Hons) Fashion at the University, said: “At first I was unsure what to design but knowing I had this amazing raw material right in front of me which was so luxurious and comes in 22 natural colours, I knew I had to take advantage of it.

“My collection features knitted trousers, a poncho, jumpers, a dress and more. Geometric shapes, inspired by Peruvian culture and landscapes, are a key element within my designs to create pieces that are modern with a twist on classic design.”

Hannah’s family has been breeding the animals for nine years at Auckland Alpacas, in Darlington.

Hannah said: “It feels such an achievement to be able to say that I knitted all of the alpaca fibres because, until this collection, I had never knitted before.  

“My family thinks it is pretty amazing what I have done and they are all very proud of me.

“For the future I hope to use yarn produced from the Auckland Alpaca herd to design a range of garments which can be produced and sold for the business. I want to continue working on the brand Huacaya and will be taking commissions.”

The University’s Big Show will also feature the work of award-winning fashion student Nicole Wells.

The 22-year-old, who scooped the title of Young Designer at the St Andrews Young Designer Awards in February, has created a menswear collection based on Japanese military wear.

The collection, which features jumpsuits, pleated trousers, a lambswool blend jumper and a waistcoat with a knitted Dyneema (bulletproof) lining, is called Shuhen, meaning peripheral in Japanese.

Hannah with her fashion designs

Nicole said: “The inspiration behind my collection came from a fiction book I was reading about kamikaze pilots in Japan during World War Two.

“The idea was to create an alternative uniform of urban wear. My garments are very utilitarian and are all adjustable.

“I’m really excited about seeing my collection on the catwalk. I don’t think I will fully appreciate and realise what I have created until I see it in front of me on the models.”

Student Rachel Butler, 22, has created an AW16 womenswear collection called Minimalism.

The concept for the range, which features nine items, is based on the textures of cement and German architecture. 

Rachel’s collection features tailored jackets, trousers and coat as well as a knee-length knitted dress.

She said: “The garments are all grey in colour and feature asymmetrical patterns and panels. I really wanted to show the gravelled texture which is done through the textures of the wool fabrics, in the colour palette and in the great attention to detail.

“The aim of my collection is to show that women can wear structured androgynous pieces as well as men. The image of the modern woman in the city is the idea I have focused on.”

Colin Thompson, programme leader for BA (Hons) Fashion at the University, said: “This year we are especially pleased to have a diverse range of intelligent concepts at work behind the final year collections. In particular, we have very strong menswear statements responding to market need for progressive men’s fashion. Technically, we have achieved consistency and increased sartorial precision.

“We have sophisticated print and knit applications fully integrated into many collections, which successfully showcases the University of Derby's holistic approach to ready-to-wear fashion design that works to accurately reflect industry practice.”