New Designers is an event showcasing the upcoming work of graduates from the UK’s fashion universities. Over 18,000 people from the fashion industry and the media will pass through the doors of the Business Design Centre in Islington over the two-week period the event is open for and having attended myself (for one week), I thought I’d give you a little insight into what goes on and how aspiring designers have to start somewhere.
I spent a week at the New Designers showcase, hoping to see an array of different patterns, prints, upcoming designers and inspiring cuts. Monday saw me on a train to London to meet my friend Lauren – who I went to uni with and was staying with for the week! I dragged my bag (which was far too heavy) and my portfolio off the train and on to the tube , awkwardly knocking people over as I jumped on (I really need to learn the art of packing light!!) dropped my stuff at Lauren’s and after a quick cuppa tea we were on our way to the Business Design Centre to see what this year’s designers had in store. So we met to unload the van which had been driven up from Portsmouth with our final collections and portfolios in as well as white paint, hammers and drills…
Monday and Tuesday saw Lauren and I set up the stand that would showcase our designs, and each day – we received strange looks on the tube as we lugged three mannequins, a step ladders and various hammers and drills (I’m pretty sure if I saw someone like this on the tube, I would be worried too!) to the Business Design Centre and back. Myself and Lauren were actually setting up a stand to represent the work by the fashion students at our university (Portsmouth University) so we wanted to make sure we would represent the work of our peers (and our own work) to the best of our ability. My first two days at the New Designers event were spent painting furniture, backboards, walls and displaying portfolios, which despite being exhausting – resulted in what we considered a very impressive stand! Before leaving at 6pm on the Tuesday, we began subtly eyeing up the other stands to see our competition (and get inspiration – of course!).
Above: Lauren and I (I’m on the left).
Wednesday was an exciting day, as it was the first time anyone would actually see our stand (and all our hard work)! The New Designers event is very important for young designers as it not only is judged by VIP guests and some top-notch fashion journalists (as there are awards for the best stand and the New Designer of the year), but it also is your chance to put your name out there – and watch industry professionals spend time looking at all my hard work! Several of the girls from my University spoke to buyers and designers from Firetrap about using their prints and arranging work placements – which is very exciting!
When 6.30 arrived, the cocktail party began (my favourite bit), where the delicious drinks were provided by Absolute Vodka. Rochester University was announced as the winner of the ‘best stand’ – and admittedly, they did deserve the award, as their stand looked amazing. The ‘after party’ was held just down the road at Pitcher & Piano, a fantastic bar with loud music and excellent wine – just what we needed after a long day!
Thursday came far too fast for my liking (for me, this was my last day as I was attending my auntie’s wedding on the Friday, so took the train home late Thursday night) and upon arriving at 11, I noticed the centre was buzzing with people. Press, professionals, prospective fashion students (and even school children) filled the building and everyone seemed genuinely interested in the work around them. I spoke to some lovely school girls who enjoyed Textiles and showed a clear interest in my work, the industry and university life. I gave them advice on how to develop their interest and possibly begin applying for fashion places at university.
As well as speaking to several industry professionals and general fashion lovers, I spoke to several of the other ‘new designers’ who were also showcasing their work. It was really interesting to compare work and take inspiration from how other young students used prints, patterns and cuts to achieve a certain style. I interviewed my fellow Portsmouth Uni design friend Lauren about her work at the New Designers exhibition and what she hoped to achieve from it! Hopefully it will give any prospective fashion students some ideas and advice!
Lauren Bennett is 22 and studied Fashion & Textiles at The University of Portsmouth. Lauren mixes bold print with classic fashion to create some really unusual yet beautiful garments.
How would you describe the collection that you showcased at the New Designers event?
At New Designers I exhibited my Final Major Project ‘Crystallised Collision’, which consisted of textile designs for fashion garments, I designed and made 3 dresses and a jacket, all with an electric mixture of my own prints, the prints were formed out of crystals that I grew myself which I then photographed and enhanced digitally. The colour palette naturally formed from the colours of the crystals, giving very natural shades to a bright palette. All of my final fabrics were digitally printed, with some disrupted by the discharge process to add another dimension. The Collection is very wearable and commercial and the bright colour palette makes it eye catching.
Where did you take inspiration for your collection from? Are there any designers you admire that also influenced your designs?
Initially I took inspiration from Minerals and Crystals, excessively studying the Minerals section at the Natural History Museum. I then experimented with growing my own Crystals in my kitchen, which I never anticipated would be such a success. These then became the basis of the print side of my collection.
With regards to designers I admire, I have always admired Dries Van Noten and subconsciously always research his work for my referencing. I knew from an early point within this project that I was inspired by the way he puts prints together and makes the most unlikely combinations work in his favor. I incorporated this within my collection by using a number of prints per garment, and also inserting some block colour to divide some of the prints, creating something unusual and quirky, yet beautiful.
What did you hope to achieve from showcasing your collection at New Designers?
By showcasing my work at the New Designers event, my initial hopes were to either get potential employment (or perhaps a short work experience placement) but it was also the thrill of exhibiting my work at one of these events that enticed me to take part. It was nice to showcase all my hard work, see the finished article and have others look at (and admire) my work!
What did you get from New Designers? Were people interested in your work?
I didn’t really get much out of New Designers, apart from the experience which was great and invaluable! Quite a few people were interested in my work, and asked a lot of questions about it, however i don’t think many of these were industry professionals. The only real interest i had was a journalist from ‘Style Sight’ who was interested in my work, who i have emailed since and he said i might be included in his trend article.
Now that you have finished University, what are your plans for the future?
Now that I have left University, it is very daunting being in the ‘real world’ and trying to find a job that is suitable. At first I thought it would be easy finding a job (or a work placement at least) but it’s proved to be far more difficult than I originally anticipated. So firstly my plan is to possibly get some work experience in buying, merchandising or even design, however as much as i love designing i would like to try something new! Or ideally i would like to go straight into working, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that around, but fingers crossed 🙂
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? What is the ultimate goal?
One day I would absolutely love to have my own shop selling an array of my own bits and bobs, all of which I have designed or made myself. One of those cute little nik-nak shops, with the Lauren Daisy twist of course! The ultimate, ultimate goal, is that this small ‘Lauren Daisy’ shop grows into a stable business. One day perhaps!
You can see more of Lauren Daisy’s work at http://www.laurendaisybennett.com/
If you want to have a look through my Graduate Collection then you can see everything including my initial ideas and look at my research on my blog – www.kelsey-butler.tumblr.com
New Designers was a brilliant experience, if your not a exhibitor but you love fashion, textiles or any kind of design I would really urge you to visit next year, I promise you will leave feeling inspired and excited about the designers of the future!