It is with great sadness that Graduate Fashion Foundation announces the death of Hilary Alexander OBE. Hilary died on Sunday 5th February, on her 77th birthday, peacefully in London.

The Honorary President of Graduate Fashion Foundation since 2019 and holding a Trustee role on the charity board, Hilary was the driving strength behind Graduate Fashion Week helping to grow the event to its current status of the largest showcase of BA fashion in the world from its humble begins in 1991. Hilary held a vital role in securing many of the GFF Lifetime Patrons support for the charity, including Dame Zandra Rhodes and Diane Von Furstenberg.

Hilary Alexander OBE 1946-2023

Continuing to do what she loved until the end, Hilary was a passionate supporter of emerging talent, she regularly visited universities scouting talent, reviewing portfolios, sharing vital advice and guidance. She travelled the world in her Honorary President role in support of young international designers including trips to New York, Dubai, Rome, Venice and Sweden, visiting many international educational institutes and holding guest speaker roles at global fashion weeks.

Graduate Fashion Foundation launched the ‘Hilary Alexander OBE Sustainability Trailblazer Award’ in 2017. Created to capture Hilary’s vision, by reflecting her enthusiasm for fresh, sustainable and future thinking fashion. The winning collection and portfolio of developmental research must provide a refreshing and innovative direction, addressing the important issue of sustainability; and illustrate ground-breaking, fashion-forward thinking.

New Zealand-born British globally renowned journalist, Hilary was the former Fashion Director of the Daily Telegraph and twice named Journalist of the Year (1997 and 2003) in the British Fashion Awards. In 2007, Hilary was honoured with the title Doctor of Design by Nottingham Trent University, and she was awarded an OBE by the late HM The Queen, for services to fashion journalism in 2013. In 2018 she published her book ‘Leopard: Fashion’s Most Powerful Print’ on the history of leopard following her lifelong love of the print.

All who met Hilary would describe her as unforgettable. A larger-than-life character, cherished by her fashion peers, she was known for her support, incredible writing, wicked sense of humour, respect for emerging talent and was never afraid to use her voice in support of future of the industry.

When asked what inspired her most about graduate talent and the next generation she said, “It’s always exciting because you have no idea what graduates are going to come up with next. It’s a complete revelation because the way they approach design is so completely different to anything else you’ve seen before in terms of the fabrics, silhouettes, layering and accessorises. The completely new and novel approach is what I find more intriguing and inspiring.”

Douglas MacLennan, Chairman of the Graduate Fashion Foundation said, “It was with great sadness that the Graduate Fashion Foundation Trustees and staff learnt of Hilary’s passing. From day one of the first Graduate Fashion Week event held in 1991 Hilary, first as a fashion journalist, then later as a Trustee and finally holding the title Honorary Lifetime President has been an integral associate to the event. Graduating fashion students enthralled her, their innovation and their imagination always brought her back. Right up until the end the graduates were foremost in her mind. While a fashion light has sadly now expired, the memory of Hilary’s enthusiasm will continue within the work of the charity and it’s Trustees."

The lifeforce behind Graduate Fashion Week, her legacy and impact on the fashion and journalism industry has been immeasurable and will continue on.

“Be accurate, be truthful, be passionate and be enthusiastic. And always be curious.” Hilary Alexander, 2019.