The obvious answers are to up your game on social media, to secure yourself the savviest business cards and to get your name involved in every trade show, exhibition and pop-up store the city throws up. But still, these things are more easily said than done if you’re a one-man band and working a casual job to keep both yourself and brand afloat. Even if you’re nailing that part, having the contacts, business partners and financial backers to help build you up and eventually make you global is another story altogether. The truth is that today’s requirements to sustain and grow a brand are enough to wash raw talent down the drain. It puts off even the best of designers from thinking about how to get their latest collection some action. So how do newcomers stand a chance of survival?
This is where The Future of Fashion Program comes in – the collaboration of WHO’S NEXT and NOT JUST A LABEL (NJAL) that promises 20 budding designers a fat slice of opportunity to become the next set of fashion tastemakers. Here the handpicked contestants will find themselves on a journey to Paris, armed with industry professionals as mentors and the potential to showcase their collection for up to 4 seasons if they make the next 3 rounds. And did I mention that the final 2 are both winners, awarded with a €20,000 business plan each? It sounds so good I could hit myself for dropping out of fashion school in its very first term – this could have been me! Why did I leave? But alas, a silver lining says I can still put money on my favourites, and I’m determined to win this time.
Spindle picks include Ioana Ciolacu, the Romanian born designer who melts previous training in architecture into flowing fabrics; Kelly Love, the girl with a lust for travel who brings back tales of the orient through vivid prints; and Claire Davis (Hanger), who slips hand-painted latex into her minimalist, cool-girl aesthetic. Here I catch up with them to unravel the stories beneath the brands I’m rooting for:
Ioana Ciolacu Q&A
I know you previously studied architecture before moving into fashion design, and I can see the structural influences at play throughout your collection. What is it in particular that fascinates you about the relationship between clothing and architecture?
These two domains are very similar, from the tools I use (paper, pencil, imagination) to the technical tasks. Pattern making is so similar to drawing a technical plan. The only difference between these two is that fashion is a moving art, while architecture is a static one. And of course, fashion moves much faster, which I love.
Can you describe the kind of person that would wear your clothes?
The lady I envisage wearing my clothes is a sleek, fresh and cool woman.
Can you tell us a bit about the Designer for Tomorrow prize that you won under the patronage of Stella McCartney?
It came totally unexpected. And to be honest, I still don’t believe it happened! The biggest challenge was producing a collection in one month based on the advice I got from Stella when I first met her in May last year, back in Berlin. Meeting her was very inspiring. It encouraged and challenged me to produce a collection that would be better than the last one. We discussed my work, portfolio, past experience and my process so far. We also talked about my concept of Paradox collection and she gave me such great advice regarding how a designer should look at a collection. Based on this advice, I created what ended up being the winning collection of Designer for Tomorrow. After winning I was invited backstage to her show at Paris Fashion week, which was a great experience. I was one of the first people to see her collection before the show and got to experience the buzz backstage and all the preparation and organisation that goes into a show behind the scenes.
What do you think of Stella McCartney and her designs?
Needless to say, I loved her designs way before I meet her. But now, knowing her personally, she has truly become a role model.
Where do you see your career going next?
I have a lot going on at the moment as I am preparing to open an online store, to add commercial value to my designs through a diffusion line, plus I developed a capsule collection together with Peek&Cloppenburg that will be sold through both their flagship stores and online.
Kelly Love Q&A
Describe your clothing in three words.
Feminine, contemporary, elegant.
I learned that you worked for a Japanese artist during a stay in Osaka. What was the reason for your trip?
I’m originally from Australia and when I finished university I had itchy feet to travel. A lot of my friends were moving to London but I wanted to go on a real adventure, to go somewhere completely out of my comfort zone. I’d always been intrigued by Japan and booked it without thinking too much about it. It was probably the most spontaneous decision I’ve made in my life! I lived there for 2 years and I definitely experienced some of the craziest, most surreal moments!
Who was the artist and how did you become acquainted?
The artist is Sin Nakayamal. I met a friend of his when I went to a gallery opening and mentioned that I wanted to work in fashion while I was living there. I ended up going to Sin’s studio and then started working with him a couple of times a week on his events, collections and installations.
How does this experience translate into your designs?
Sin was more of an artist who created conceptual pieces, whereas I knew I wanted to design clothes that were unique but also very wearable. I definitely became aware of the importance of creating a story and this is something that I do each season. I love writing and will come up with a short anecdote at the start of each season. I’ll go back to that story along with a mood board throughout the design process and it gives me something to really focus on. On the whole, I think Japan can be seen in all of the collections I’ve created, especially in the prints. There’s something about that place that just gets under your skin…
How important is the Western’s perspective of ‘the orient’ in fashion and in what way do you think your designs respond to this?
I think to most of the western world, the orient is perceived as almost mythical. That may be based on how traditional their way of life can be and the fact that the people seem to be so quietly stoic. This mythical concept really appeals to me through Japanese books, film and art. There’s a real juxtaposition of fragility and strength with their genre of the arts and this is something that I hope is also translated through the way in which I design. As a complete contrast to this mystic, I think they are perceived by the western fashion world as a continent of economic sturdiness. I think because of this, it’s important for designers to respond to this in some way. It’s a vast market and definitely one that I would like to tap into more in the future.
Claire Davis (Hanger) Q&A
What excites you about participating in WHO’S NEXT and what do you think will be the greatest obstacle to overcome?
The opportunity to showcase my collection internationally is really exciting, as well as the challenge of pushing myself to create an innovative and desirable collection in time for the show! I would say time management is the greatest obstacle. It definitely pays to be as organised as possible.
What defines you against the competition?
I feel we are all very different designers and that’s what defines us from each other. I would say that I naturally have a more minimal London style from the competition.
Do you take any inspiration from your personal life when it comes to designing? I design most of my clothes with the idea of myself wearing them in mind, so I guess you could say so. I am not a very conceptual designer, so I don’t take any inspiration from my personal life in any arty sense.
Can you talk us through your typical working day?
My day-to-day routine can vary drastically depending on which stage of the season I am in. One minute I could be designing, meeting clients, or researching fabrics.
If you could have a celebrity spokesmodel representing your brand, who would you select and why?
Tilda Swinton. She’s amazing.
The competition progress and full list of entrants can be viewed here
Words: Laura Yuen