I was fortunate enough to attend this years UK Graduate fashion week show at in East London – the burgeoning district for emerging designer talent. While the fashion critics chanted about the constructions and fabrics and awards were given – I wondered which one out of the thousands of designers from over 20 universities might be the next Christopher Bailey? (The current CEO and creative director of Burberry won the first ever Graduate Fashion Week award)
Here are the things I took away from the event in the hope that it will be helpful to those who are entering into the world of fashion.
The winning factor is not the product
Amongst the thousands of entries to this year’s graduate show, only 20 made it to the final show. Grace Weller was the eventual winner and while her clothes were beautiful there was little separating her collection from the others. The margin of winning is about details beyond the product. Execution and the ability of the designer to communicate and build relationships with all the different stakeholders makes all the difference. The catwalk show is just a micro example of the many different things you have to juggle in running a fashion business. The make up, casting the models, the music and range of styles. Designers that stood out had the details worked out – the music was in sync, the models wore make up that worked and the whole ensemble spoke for itself.
The story and design inspiration will sway the audience
Every piece of clothing at the show was a work of art. And behind every work of art is a story of the artist’s inspiration. Articulating that passion in an authentic way is so important for the audience. This is true today more than ever as the worlds of fashion editorial and e-commerce merge and savvy consumers want to understand more about their purchases. After the show, I read up on a few of the designers; Aimee Dunn’s and her Thatcher inspired clothes and Grace Weller and her love of 18th Century writers. I found myself more drawn to those that took the time to explain what was behind their collections. It provided a richness behind the products that I did not appreciate before and ultimately will go a long way to influence my buying decisions.
Learn about the organizations that can support your fashion venture
The winner from Graduate Fashion week walked away with not only a $10,000 prize but also a contract to design for a large UK retailer. Most major cities recognize the importance of fashion and creative industry to their economy, especially New York and London and so have a number of grants, competitions and support in place to help new designers. However many are not well publicized so take time to do the research – some offer monetary rewards and training but as important is the credibility these awards provide to help you win new customers.
This year’s show highlighted just how much talent there is in the next generation of designers – we will wait and see who emerges victorious and maybe you’ll see an interview with their lessons learnt here in a few years. In the meantime here is a gallery of some of the beautiful pieces displayed at the show.
Photo credits: Jayshan Raghunandan