Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Best of British at Liberty

So it's a bit late, but i suppose it's better late than never. Last weekend, Saturday 25th April, I reported on Liberty Best Of British event for The day was dedicated to designers currently not stocked in the store, bringing their wares to the Uber panel of Liberty buyers and the fashion industry big guns including Sarah Mower (, runway reporter, trusted industry voice and someone i want to be like in 15 years time), Yasmin Sewell (Liberty Creative Consultant), Lulu Kennedy (Fashion East) and Ed Burstell (Liberty Buying Director). As the queues backed up around the block, i stood avidly watching on the 4th floor for Liberty's next top label. The day went swimmingly with a steady flow of nervous faces constantly fumbling with garments. But it did cross my mind on lots of occasions and I did wonder why so many new and young designers who are known on a smaller scale and were not stocked in Liberty's not turning up? Designers, who have shown at LFW and even graduates from the top fashion schools of London abscent. I guess as the events if in its beginning stages, not a lot of people know about it. Not to say that the standards of the first season of the event we particularly low, but at some moments it did feel a bit like i was involved in the fashion version of Britain's Got Talent or Dragons Den. The despair on some of the judges faces at times painted a clear picture on the standard they were judging, I had to laugh out loud a few times.

All-in-all the day was a roaring success, and i hear of the plans of Liberty continuing the event twice a year. Here are my interviews with favourite designers on the day...

How did it go Omar?
I was lucky I had Lulu Kennedy, and Steven Ayres who is in menswear. They didn’t give anything away, it was almost like they know me anyway, I know Lulu just from being about socially, through friends and I guess we have similar circle of contacts. She obviously helped set up MAN and is doing a great deal for new designers, mainly womenswear, but since she really pushed Topman into doing MAN, I wanted to go to her to get advice. I like meeting with press, especially making an effort to turn up to my PR agencies press days. I respect what Lulu has got to say, she is as well respected as Louise Wilson or anyone else like that, so if she can help or support me, I am happy to take it!

As a new designer in London where do you think you get most of you support and what kind of hurdles have you come across?
I get a lot of support from a lot of stylists too, more verbal though, I think it is difficult for stylist or editors from bigger publications to support a young designer, because they have to honour their creditors. But still a lot of them quite like what I do such as Andrew Davis and Luke Day. I have not been lucky enough yet to get MAN, although I have been nominated a few times,

I can see the annoyance of some publications having to honour their advertisers and especially in the height of the recession choosing brands that pay for advertising before featuring lesser known designers, which I think will begin to change…
Its one thing getting them to see you, the second hurdle is actually getting them to touch and take your clothes, the third is them actually using them in shoot, and the fourth is hoping you are not edited out.

But I believe it will change soon because for a lot of the other magazines and online magazines that don’t have big advertising contracts don’t have any obligation to feature these brands, it will certainly give a larger platform for newer designers to flourish in more areas…
I hope so, its not just about press, its difficult as I do not have a UK stockist anymore so the press hold back. For me so many people are borrowing the clothes for shoots, but I think it is very important to get my profile out there. Every year and season I try to do a different project. I just showed as part of the Arabian show last season, and I have just been asked to do an exhibition in Japan, I just try to do things that the Press can write about, I am very much looking to get magazines and writers to profile for me especially in these early stages. I am sure they all know me as a face around town but it’s the public and the customers that need to know about the brand.

Image above of Alexandra Groover presenting to the Liberty panel by Orlando Gili

So Alexandra how do you think it all went today?
It was good feedback, they said my main collection was too conceptual for them, they didn’t think it would work for the Liberty customer, but they kept looking at this (skirt that Alexander was wearing, which is from her casual jersey range) because I do 2 lines, a formal and casual line. They kept looking at the skirt and seemed really interested in that so I am going to send them pieces from my casual collection.

This event is great for young designers to get seen and noticed and really to be picked up by these top guns of the fashion industry, what do you feel this event has done for new designers?
Its so hard to start out as a designer anyway, its difficult as it is, and then now with this whole recession the buyers are so much more conservative, a lot of the shop owners that I know and have been talking to and the articles that I have read are all saying exactly that, buying conservatively and buying the same old big brands that sell well, and simpler things and less expensive things, but I am now starting to hear from other shop owners, such as Andrew Ibi from The Convenience Store, and he was saying that he was so tired of hearing that and didn’t want to go along with the trend of buying conservatively and simple investment pieces and that he was going to start pushing it in another direction which is really refreshing.
Although there is a recession and although it is very hard for us, I think more and more people will start to pay more attention to us. I think what Liberty are doing is a great way of breathing some new energy into the industry and give people opportunities and it will give new designers opportunities. It’s a good sign that they are doing this and hopefully others will follow.

I think that people are making more of a conscious effort to buy more from new designers and supporting them.
I hope so, I really do, but I think there really is a trend of people taking more notice of newer designers and also things that cannot necessarily be put into mass production. People are bored with the whole Primark syndrome and if a big department store can start the trend others will follow.

An accessories range by Rosie Kent + Liria Pristine
Interview with Rosie only.

How do you think it went with the panel seeing you today?
I think they would very much like to take the conversation we had further and in-depth, so fingers crossed.

You have come here today for a chance to be stocked in Liberties, which would e a great opportunity, are you stocked anywhere else?
Yes we are stocked In Kabiri, but we don’t sell much because it’s all a bit outlandish. But I want to hone it all in a bit and try and do a commercial range inspired by a catwalk statement piece.

Have you done any collaboration yet with any other designers, to get your designs on the catwalk or seen in a larger scale?
Our good friend is Patrick Wolf, the performer, so he always wears our stuff. But I want to really collaborate with a really big fashion house. Its early days, everything is still so exciting. We got German Vogue a couple of weeks ago and that was the biggest magazine yet for us, so it’s all exciting.

So you have been designing for 2 seasons, how have you found the recession and all the doom and gloom, as a London based new designer?
We started when it was just happening really and everyone is willing to stock you, but everything is sale or return which you can’t live of as a young designer so we all have other jobs. It would be nice to really focus on it, like in our degree when we were doing it full time.

Can you describe some pieces of your collection?
All out pieces are named after ladies with big voices, such as Cher and Celine Dion and are mainly evening pieces that make an outfit that little bit more. You can be transformed into a vulture with our feather shoulder-piece. We use fine materials putting our prices at more of the couture end of the scale. We knit with wire and lurex all hand and machine knitted and to create an antique look we use silver and 24carat rose gold plated metals. The collection is mainly inspired by flappers and ladies who put their make up on in public, people who are a bit brazen.

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