Kingston University's design school in renowned the fashion world over. Its alumni reads like a who's who of haute couture, including such catwalk megastars as John Richmond and Harper's Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey.

How novel then that student Hollie Luxton should find the inspiration for her graduate collection in Dot Cotton, that famous EastEnders' icon of fag ash and frump.

Hollie, an avid EastEnders fan, visited laundrettes in Kingston and Surbiton to research her Dot Cotton theme, and spoke to elderly ladies about fashion as their clothes whirled in the toploaders.

She said: "The women were a great source of inspiration. My clothes are intended to be worn by 20-somethings, but I'm using fabrics that hark back to an earlier era. I wanted to capture the nostalgia of the bygone days and play with the idea of clothing coming out of the wash misshapen and faded."

Her collection features knitwear, floral prints, skirts, jackets and dresses. Some items have short-sleeves, to give the impression they have been shrunk in the tumble dryer, with pastel colours giving the collection a washed-out look. More bizarrely, other items are made from fabric which has deliberately been pulled into twists, as if it has been caught in the spin cycle.

Mo Ali, senior fashion lecturer, said Hollie's researching was time well spent.

He said: "The fusion effect she has created with a range of fabrics gives the clothing a fresh look. The hours she spent researching shows the lengths to which our students will go to produce the most eye-catching collections."

Along with other final year students, Hollie presented her designs at the Kingston University Fashion Show last Wednesday night, which was held at Banqueting House in Whitehall.

This annual event offers students the chance to exhibit their talents to an audience of family members and industry insiders.

Looking at last year's crop of graduates, Hollie and her contemporaries have nothing to fear. The course's vigorous selection process and its commitment to teaching everything from the most basic processes to the intricate workings of the industry, helped five of the class of 2006 on to preppy US label Abercrombie & Fitch, Burberry and Stella McCartney.

Others went to high street names including Biba and Reiss. Lili Gomohammadi - who was featured in the Comet last year - landed a job as assistant designer for Spanish label Zara, while Katy Biddulph went on to work for sweatyBetty, the label for gym goddesses.

Label namesake John Richmond joined when Kingston was still a polytechnic. He moved down from Manchester to carve a career in London, and after graduating in 1982 he turned his avant-garde punk-influenced designs into a successful international brand.

He is now a permanent fixture in the glossy confines of the Milan fashionista set, has a boutique in London's Conduit Street - where the shoppers have as much money as fashion sense - and is due to open one in New York and one in Tokyo.

His contemporary Helen Storey also has her own label and has dressed the likes of Madonna and Cher.

Other students whose designs have ventured from the university's studios to the catwalk include Marisa Firman, who is the big noise at Calvin Klein HQ in New York, Ian Garlant who is creative director at Hardy Amies, and Virginia James, design director at Whistles.

While this glamorous fashion world may seem like half a world away from the London laundrettes used as inspiration for Hollie's collection, hopefully her experience at Kingston has put her in good stead to follow in these well-heeled footsteps.