Queen to judge in design row

July 26, 2002

A rising star of haute couture will ask the Queen to adjudicate on claims that his career has been damaged by unfair treatment at the hands of a top design college, writes Phil Baty.

Jan Bertelsen, whose one-off dresses have sold for as much as £17,000 and have featured in Hello! magazine, was banned from last year's Ravensbourne College graduate fashion week show. He also received only a third-class degree despite plaudits from top international fashion houses.

He will ask the Privy Council, acting on behalf of the Queen as Ravensbourne's visitor, to examine his allegations that he was treated unfairly and then victimised for complaining.

The THES reported a year ago that Mr Bertelsen attempted to hijack the fashion-week show in East London to highlight his concerns about his exclusion by staging his own impromptu show, complete with models. He was ejected by security guards.

Mr Bertelsen, who last month launched a range of men's underwear at a show in London's St Katherine's Dock, was also threatened with legal action by the college's lawyers for circulating leaflets at the time alleging unfair treatment. Shortly after the debacle, he was awarded a third-class honours degree.

In his petition to the Queen, Mr Bertelsen is claiming compensation for the £10,000 that he says he spent preparing pieces for the fashion week show. He is asking for his degree result to be re-assessed.

The college says it rejected him for the show because he failed to meet the entry criteria. He says he was in Denmark over the Easter break at the time students were told about them.

Mr Bertelsen says that when he tried to complain about being excluded from the show, he was denied access to the university's complaints procedures.

The university says he failed to access properly the university's procedures because he had already engaged a lawyer. Mr Bertelsen says there was nothing in the rules to prevent him using a lawyer.

Although there is no legal route to challenge the college's assessment decisions, which were verified by an external examiner, Mr Bertelsen claims it was unfair that three members of staff to whom he had complained had a significant role in assessing his work.

The university said he deserved third-class honours, but Mr Bertelsen has had positive assessments for the same work from prominent fashion houses.

A designer for Philip Hockley in London said the pieces she was shown were "executed professionally" with impressive "workmanship and materials".

Mr Bertelsen said: "Not being able to show at fashion week is a great setback to a new career, and the college's reaction to my concerns has made me more determined to pursue the matter."

The college said: "This matter has been fully investigated both through Ravensbourne's appeal procedures and through the University of Sussex's own procedures. Both have concluded that there is no case to answer and that both the final degree assessment and the subsequent investigation were carried out properly."

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