We’ve all read about (and experienced) the crisis in education and the funding in the arts streams. What happens once you’ve graduated is another uphill battle, with few professional openings or high cost of studio and living to deal with when launching one’s own creative endeavour. So it’s no surprise we’ve seen the rise of several funding and mentoring schemes for young creatives coming out of university to give a power lift up and the confidence to move forward.

Founded in 2015, one of the most active graduate support schemes was in fact founded in by a creative who went through their own challenging post-Graduate period. The Sarabande Foundation – a charity, set up by Alexander Mcqueen, serves as a lifeline for emerging creatives. It offers educational scholarships, mentoring, and substantially subsidised studio spaces. Another creative-founded scheme is the Self-Portrait scholarship which offers MA students at Central Saint Martins funding and mentoring. MaxMara’s recently announced fund offers aspiring students at the Royal College of Art facing financial hardship the opportunity to enrol into the MA Fashion programme, starting in September 2023.

A pioneer of these support programmes, working on a vast international scale, is the Global Design Graduate Show by Arts Thread. Celebrating some of the best end-of-year work by art and design students across the globe, the competition bridges visual communication, film, fashion, textiles, interior, architecture and more. As art students prepare to fly the nest and embark on their careers in highly competitive fields, made even harder by an unstable economy and cost of living crisis, this important scheme gives aspiring creatives a much-needed head start.

Connecting with over 950 creative institutions, and 400,000+ students in around 130 countries, the initiative is far-reaching in its efforts. Backed by Gucci, who returns as a sponsor for the fourth year on the trot and with a new partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the Arts Thread’s 2023 Global Design Graduate show is going to be a biggie

Identifying as the world’s leading digital platform for emerging creatives, Arts Thread acts as a launchpad for the next generation of artists and designers. Creating a network of talent on an international scale. Previous winners include Aviv La Oz Kalif, a former student at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, who took home the award in 2022. Aviv is a ceramicist whose work traverses art, design and music, using her background as a singer to inform her conceptual style. Aviv’s recently showed her thought-provoking collection in Venice as part of the Arte Laguna Prize earlier this year.

Ellie Perry was also a recipient of the prize, in 2021. Ellie graduated from Kingston School of Art, with her winning entry in the product design category, titled ‘Terracooler’. A sustainably-minded modernisation of the ancient ‘zeer pot’; a device, invented by the Egyptians and used to cool food and water, dating back to 3000 BC. The natural coolers save energy by absorbing water into their terracotta walls, cleverly cooling what's inside as the water evaporates. Ellie’s interpretations are a sleek take on the antiquated appliance.

Ellie has added to her practice substantially since her win, establishing her own South London-based art studio; and recently being announced as one of the Young Innovators Awards winners 2022/23 – securing a £5000 grant which she will put towards setting up production for her Terracoolers in response to the ever-increasing demand.

Fashion designer, Florentina Leitner, who graduated from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in 2020 is another triumph to come out of Arts Thread – and perhaps the most recognisable name. Her lively graduate collection is brave and bold, sewing in a confident nod to sustainability with garments made from deadstock materials with recycled compositions; including progressive cocoon silk (you guessed it, silk made from the cocoons of silkworms) which won Florentina the Germany Sustainability Award. Three years on from the Arts Thread’s Award, Leitner has shown at Paris Fashion Week for two seasons, creating collections that continue her quest to make lessen fashion’s impact on the environment, and that have s also captured the attention of A-listers like Lady Gaga and Kylie Jenner among others who have donned the brand’s vivacious looks.

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