The design schools in the city are capable of providing a creative and steady flow of designers into the fashion world.
Many of these are young people from both the UK and abroad with a great amount of ambition. However, taking the first steps into the fashion world is a very challenging experience and is often first done at the graduate fashion show held by their educational institution.
There are many schemes in the UK which involve a collaboration between fashion labels and design schools. Many bursaries are offered to students by sponsors and in return the label helps guide the students when designing their collections.
One initiative that has been started is NEWGEN, which is a programme by the British Fashion Council. The initiative began two decades ago and the number of names who have previously been involved in it are now some of the leading designers in the world.
Jane Shepherdson was the brand director of Topshop back in 2001 and she was responsible for offering finance to the NEWGEN project. Topshop’s creative director is Kate Phelan and she has recently commented, “Topshop sponsor the event simply because it gives us access to some of the best new designers in the country.
It is a way to bring democracy to the fashion world and provides our customers with new and exciting products. The collaboration also means that our chosen designers get to work with a company that has global reach.”
Sponsorship for the initiative comes in a number of different forms. Sometimes this can be the use of a venue for free or receiving a time slot in a fashion week, but it can also be well known designers offering to be mentors or just give advice.
Louise Gray is a fashion designer known for experimenting with different textures and she once received backing from Topshop. She commented, “I was involved with the NEWGEN scheme which meant I had a platform to display the label that I was trying to create on.
When you are trying to establish yourself in the fashion world, having this platform is absolutely essential. Furthermore, I had a great deal of support over the longer term and I really felt as if the initiative wanted me to develop as a designer. If I had not had the support of NEWGEN I would have been unable to show off my work.”
Ms Phelan continued, “This initiative gives designers the help they need in many different ways. Shows are often expensive to put on, and NEWGEN provides the financial support that is needed. Mentoring is also an important part of the programme and fashion advice is provided alongside business acumen. This means that designers learn how to make money so that they can continue creating new designs.”
Micheal van der Ham entered the fashion world after attending Central Saint Martins and he commented, “During my education I learned a great amount about design and creativity but I really didn’t have any idea about how the business side of things worked. NEWGEN gave me the information I needed about how to set business goals and work with buyers. It also helped me understand basic business principles such as cash flow.”
Topshop have recently commissioned a T-shirt to be created by NEWGEN recipients. This is going to be to mark the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the two being partners. The money made from the sales of the T-shirt is going to be given to a homeless charity.