If you didn't follow my advice recently and sign up for this year's Fashion Fringe, sadly you're too late. Last night Christopher Bailey, the initiative's new chair, announced the ten semi-finalists that are in the running to be part of the final three who will show their collections at London Fashion Week in September.
'It has been truly inspiring to review the work of these incredibly bright and creative entrants – each and every one of them with such a strong expression and point of view,' Bailey said. 'The submissions that we have seen today reinforce the amazing talent, energy and creativity that run through the UK and I am so proud to be able to help nurture the next generation of visionaries who will be shaping the world of design in the future.'
As London Fashion Week goes, Fashion Fringe has always been a firm favourite on the show schedule. The competition, founded by Colin McDowell, has gained a reputation for finding and nurturing the best young talent the country has to offer. The list of former winners, which includes Basso & Brooke and MObama favourite Erdem, is evidence of that. In only three days submissions will close and the shortlist of ten designers will be chosen, which will then be narrowed down to three finalists who will get the chance to show their collections at fashion week.
If you're thinking of signing up, this is definitely the year to do it. The general prize includes a runway show and an £100,000 prize to go towards establishing a label. What makes this year special, though, is that Christopher Bailey is joining the panel as the initiative's new chair so along with selecting the final three, Bailey will also mentor the winner over the course of a two year development period. The Burberry designer needs no introduction so it's safe to say that his industry insight and support will prove invaluable to any new designer.
To qualify the minimum you need is a UK working visa and formal design qualifications are not necessary. So what are you waiting for? Make sure to send your application off by April 26th.
By his own admission, Julien Macdonald has never been a designer set on pushing boundaries. 'I've made my name by dressing celebrities and that's fine,' he said recently. 'Glamour is always in fashion' he added, and there definitely has to be some truth in that. To say that he's doing well is quite the understatement. What he doesn't have in sales numbers for his mainline, he definitely has with his collections for Debenhams (his line with them is their most successful designer collaboration) and his recent foray into reality TV on 'Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model' have ensured that he has found a place in all of our living rooms as well as our wardrobes.
Because of his focus on all things celebrity, he was never a designer that followed. That's not because I don't respect what he does - I really do - but rather, his penchant for all things glamour and IT girl isn't something that I'm particularly drawn to. That said, recently I was lucky enough to join Shop Style on the Fashion Fringe roadshow where Collin McDowell spoke to the designer at the University of Brighton where he studied and I was totally won over. Not only is he incredibly charming, he is also incredibly outgoing (a characteristic, which Macdonald himself noted isn't very common amongst designers) and completely honest and unfiltered.
What was interesting about the talk was that a lot of us left realising just how little we knew about his incredible past.
Earlier on this week Collin McDowell told an audience at London's Royal College of Arts that London is the most exciting fashion capital at the moment and it's true. Through the support of the British Fashion Council, Topshop NewGen and of course, McDowell's Fashion Fringe, editors and buyers can no longer afford to skip London Fashion Week. In fact, our homegrown talent are getting some of the biggest traction in the world right now.
Take Peter Pilotto for this example. This week the London based design duo visited Saks Fifth Avenue in New York to view a series of windows that the department store has dedicated to their much-loved S/S12 collection as well as their new space on the shop floor. In a conversation with McDowell this week Erdem too said that things changed for him when former Barneys fashion director Julie Gilhart bought his first collection seven years ago and the department store has done so ever since. So the tides are really changing for British designers in the international sphere. Far from just being creative, their collections are actually proving to be commercially viable too.
“A while ago, it was like you had to start in London and try to get out of there as soon as possible and move to Paris or New York,” Pilotto said during an interview at Saks. “But London Fashion Week is becoming a stronger fashion week. It’s great. I guess London has realized it has to support its new talent since there aren’t too many of the big old houses.” When asked about the increasing popularity of London Fashion Week, he said: “People go because they really enjoy seeing it,” not because it’s an obligation or a big advertiser or anything. Everyone who goes there goes because they’re curious. They’re excited to see what’s coming."
Britain is known for nurturing new design talent and over the years emerging designer initiative Fashion Fringe has been the one of the first ports of call to discover new talent. Basso & Brooke and Erdem are just two of the previous winners who have gone on to do great things after winning the award.
Next year marks its 10th anniversary and to help mark the occasion, founder Colin McDowell has brought Christopher Bailey on board to serve as the chair for the next two years. As well as selecting the three finalists and the winner of this year's award, Bailey will also mentor them too. 'I have waited some time before asking Christopher to be our Chair as I wanted the run up to our tenth anniversary year (2013) to be very special,' he said in a release. 'And I know that an association with Christopher and Burberry will make it just that and provide a perfect path to carry us through from one decade to the next.'
The fall catwalk show was a big one for Corrie Nielson. This time last season, the 40-year-old American took the crown at Fashion Fringe, securing the £100,000 prize fund - and flash forward six months, she's here at London Fashion Week presenting her first independent collection. "There has been a lot of preparation for this show - I am making the most out of this opportunity and a lot of hard work has gone into it. I feel quite confident about presenting it," she told Vogue.
And the preparation definitely paid off. Over the past few seasons, it looked like the recession had an adverse affect on the collections in London - something you would expect, to some extent. Where London was looked upon for creativity, it seemed to be moving in a commercial direction, with young designers all vying for collaborations with Topshop and the older brands for positions in Debenhams and the like. But today, Nielson reminded us why we love London.
Over the last few years, Fashion Fringe has become a highlight and unmissable addition to the London Fashion Week schedule. Some of London's finest including William Tempest, Basso & Brooke, Michael van der Ham and Erdem have all participated in the competiton and now, they're on the hunt for the next big accessories designers.
Today it was announced that Roger Vivier will be the partner of the competition and the brand's creative director Bruno Frisoni will serve as the chair. The winner will join Frisoni for a six month work placement with the brand."I was lucky to be able to follow my dream," Firsoni said. "Therefore for me it is a privilege to play but a small part to encourage our next generation of yound designers to create their own vision - to set out on their adventures with confidence and conviction and with the support of Fashion Fringe Accessories these may become a unique reality."
If you want to be involved in the competition, sign up here.
Nurturing the best in up and coming design talent, Fashion Fringe is taking on a change of direction for 2010, focusing on "encouraging the spirit of extreme imagination, adventure and experimental beauty that London is historically known for". It comes as incredibly good timing then, that John Galliano is to take over from Donatella Versace as honorary chairperson for the contest, with his extravagant aesthetic and exquisite eye for detail.
'I am hoping we find a rebel genius’ says Galliano ‘I will look for someone who reminds me of me when I was starting out - someone original, unique, who has their own style and handwriting and isn't afraid to try something new. Fashion sometimes gets scared and plays it too safe - but I want to push boundaries'. Becoming chairperson of the exciting initiative is a prestigious position to be in, with Tom Ford holding the position prior to Versace, however all designers undertaking the role work for free, taking time out often from their busy schedules and being actively involved with the entrants throughout the year of the contest.
Greek draping and plenty of tiers (OK, and so much skin that a pasty of two was needed) got the attention of Donatella Versace at this year's Fashion Fringe show. It was a collection by Jenny Holmes and Dimitris Theocharidis - designing for the line Jena Theo - that ended up taking the top prize in Colin McDowell's brainchild of a competition.
But they weren't the only designers to turn heads on the runway. Serbian designers Lidija & Dejan focused on draping themselves, with silver chains used to accept both shoulderpads and necklines. Then there was Yelena Smirnova, whose smooth-flowing organza and chiffon called to reference Henry Moore, and Elliot Atkinson, whose cutouts and sheer panels certainly brought trendiness into the game. We loved his hazy floral prints, we might add.
As honorary chair of Fashion Fringe, Donatella Versace clearly had a bit of sway in the whole deal. Perhaps that's why, overall, many of the collections had an air of Versace. Will Donatella be all about pasties and chains next season? Only time will tell.