WHO would be crazy enough to decline the services of professional models and instead use a bunch of amateurs including one looking like an aspiring sumo wrestler and another hamming it up as a transvestite? Herbert Chan is your man. Remember the name, because it's likely to crop up on a label one of these days. The sort fashion fans go for. Fourteen other names also stand a good chance of making the grade. Along with Chan, they share a formidable distinction: all are members of the Class of '93. They had their night of glory on Tuesday at a hotel ballroom. It was a bash without precedence - imagine, a dinner show with the guests all dolled up - but then anyone who witnessed the evening's highlight would have to agree the glitz was justified. In fact the catch-line for the 1993 Graduation Fashion Show held by the Hongkong Polytechnic's Swire School of Design could well have been: move over Young Designers' Show. For years the YDS, crowning event of Hongkong Fashion Week, has been numero uno on the local fashion calendar. Why the new kids on the block should have so much pulling power in a city crawling with people who call themselves fashion designers - including a few who really are - and which boasts a Hongkong Fashion Designers' Association, bears serious examination. That can wait. More intriguing is why a student show is threatening to take over the mantle. For one thing, the Swire School, with its internationally recognised BA (Hons) course in fashion design, is second to none in the region. Just look at the Class of '92 - no less than four of its members now doing their MA at Britain's creme de la creme, the Royal College of Art. More significant is this: what you see at the Swire School graduation shows is the real thing. True, students are allowed to work with a factory for their final collections if necessary, but they must prove their competence by handling all the nitty-gritty including pattern-making and cutting. By contrast, many YDS finalists have the benefit of well-nigh unlimited professional assistance from sponsoring factories and fashion houses - in some cases, a whole slew of them. This makes for very slick garments. It also encourages a certain commercialism. As one cynic put it after this year's super-glossy effort: ''It should be called the Young Merchandisers' Show. In short, there's only one act in town if it's raw, unadulterated talent you're after - and this year's was fantastic. Top British producer Alan Bailey gave the show the works. Otherwise, it was the Class of '93 all the way, including directions on presentation. If Bailey had qualms about Herbert Chan's unorthodox approach, he was soon able to relax. Using ''real'' people as models isn't new, but Chan's laid-back casualwear demanded credible bodies and his pals obliged in the most delightfully uninhibited way. Theatre-in-fashion also worked for Angel Kong who got extra mileage from her dreamy fabrics and colours by displaying them on a clothesline held aloft by strapping male models, and the hunks really set the stage ablaze for Yvonne Clotilde Chow's collection. ''Men? Why be so monotonous? Why not be sexy, funky, outrageous?'' Ms Chow challenged. Her body-conscious collection - somewhere between grunge and hip - proved casual menswear can be all those things, plus marketable. Stephen Fan went for grunge with glamour - not a contradiction in terms, as demonstrated by his intricate black numbers, teamed with red mittens - and Helen Chan combined recycling with femininity in her cheerful fabric and knit outfits. The Swire School's field trips to China are paying dividends, as several collections showed. Especially effective was Wendy Chan's Shanghai-inspired range with its delicate pastel layers and cut-work touches. Among others making solid impressions were Andy Ho with his clever blending of checks, prints and solids, Odi O Wai Man with her hand-painted layered outfits, and Julian Ma who gave punk a 90s twist. Indeed there wasn't a graduate who failed to live up to Swire's stringent standards, though one of them didn't make the show. Regrettably, Bernedacky Yao was unable to finish her collection in time - a shame as her romantic gowns looked great on paper - though this YDS '93 finalist should do just as well as her peers. Adding to the excitement were awards given by DHJ Industries, Lane Crawford, Winsor and Swatch Watch, and a scholarship from Saga Furs. Also commendable was the sponsorship from Canon, Hongkong Telecommunications, Lane Crawford, Swatch, Marlboro Classics and the Hongkong Trade Development Council. Hopefully, their support will encourage others to ensure that Jan Stevens, head of fashion at the Swire School, no longer has to spend most of the academic year trying to raise funds for the Graduation Fashion Show.