What happens to designers after Graduate Fashion Week?

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Amira Arasteh
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Where did the big names from our favourite fashion houses come from? Graduate Fashion Week offers budding designers the opportunity they need to break the fashion industry. But where do they go from there?

There is no better place to celebrate the talent of tomorrow than the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, aka the home of Graduate Fashion Week. Arguably a hotspot for innovative style and new design, Shoreditch has a thriving fashion scene. Having had GFW launch his own career, Stylist sat down with Welsh fashion designer and previous winner at GFW, Julien MacDonald to chat to him about this year’s talent and his own ventures since.

How did it feel to be asked to a part of such an influential event in the fashion industry?

I think that London is one of the most creative cities in the world and just the sheer fact that people have come from all over the world to see the talent displayed here - there’s nothing else quite like it in the world. These companies see something different, unique and special that they can bring to their company, to make their own business more profitable and more creative. For a lot of young kids, this is their chance to be fashion stars of the future.

What do you hope that the winner of the Christopher Bailey Gold Award will go on to achieve?

Christopher Bailey is an incredible designer, he’s proved that. He’s made Burberry such successful and creative company and I think the award stands up for somebody who, like him, is just a normal guy who one day dreams of being a designer. Christopher excelled more than anybody could have dreamed of and it’s a very difficult industry to make it into.

You’ve worked with some of the greatest labels. What would your advice be to anyone aspiring to go down the same path in design?

I think people must remember that tonight is just one night and that tomorrow is another day. So it’s not always about the winners, it’s about the people who are taking part and the graduating students who have worked hard on their projects. My advice to any young designer would be to never give up, always work hard. Many doors will close but a few will open and one of those doors must just lead you to your chosen career. It might take one year - it might take five years. But never forget who you are and try to be individual because being individual and different from everyone else will make you stand out in the competitive world of fashion.

You’re an icon to so many people. Who was your inspiration when you were progressing?

JM: I was very very lucky when I started my career, I was spotted by Karl Lagerfeld - I worked at Chanel, at Karl Lagerfeld, I worked with Alexander McQueen…probably the greatest designers in the world, at a very young age. I’ve always looked up to Karl Lagerfeld - the fact that he’s still going after many years. My aesthetic is obviously one of beauty and glamour, so my iconic people will always be…in terms of knitwear, Azzedine Alaia, in terms of fashion aesthetic, it would definitely be Gianni Versace. The fashion world is so diverse and different, there’s something for everybody in fashion, you just have to find what your niche is.

Your show in February was exactly as you said: glamour and fashion and fabulous. What’s next for you and your brand?

There’s a lot going on at the moment. We’ve just finished doing some tour costumes for Beyonce for her world tour. I’ve been preparing my collection for London Fashion Week in September. I’ve just collaborated with a company called Dare To Be and I launched my first active leisurewear/sportswear and skiwear range - obviously the new the fashion is in sportswear and athleisure! There’s a lot of exciting projects going on at the moment.

You do high fashion, you do different collaborations…is that the way forward for designers to get a better reach and experience?

I think so. I think it’s no longer good enough to be a great fashion designer. You need to appeal to various markets all over the world and I think collaboration is the key to it. To show your brand to different markets and territories and make people aware of what your brand is. Now the world of technology has taken over the world of print and everybody now is on Instagram and social media and I think now everybody has the access to publicise their brand and projects for free - at the tap of a phone. The world is changing and the world is much more fashionable and it wants new things all the time.

What have you learned from being at this year’s GFW showcase?

I’m surprised by the quality and the calibre that I’ve seen at Graduate Fashion Week. I think there seems to be a lot of shapes, a lot of inventiveness, even in a world of commerciality. There wasn’t that much sportswear, which I thought would be a thing that would dominate students’ catwalks. It seems to be a lot more about proportion and colours and definitely the development of fabrics and textiles - creating your own fabrics to create your own fashion. There’s something different going on in the air.

Images: Instagram