BFC x Adidas Originals MakerLab: three British designers talk collaboration, authenticity and artisanship
The British Fashion Council is amping up its efforts to promote British designers on the global stage. Its last stop: Paris, during the menswear fashion week at the Adidas Originals MakerLab at Garage Amelot. In collaboration with Adidas Originals and new BFC ambassadorial president, David Beckham, three emerging designers were selected to present their spin on the SC Premiere sneaker: Nicholas Daley, International Woolmark Prize finalist and Newgen recipient; Priya Ahluwalia, awarded the H&M Design Award 2019; and Paolina Russo, winner of the L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent competition and a student at London’s Central Saint Martins.
The event, dubbed MakerLab presents: Here to create, is the latest initiative from the BFC to support the emergence of new talent on the global stage. A German-British collaboration held in Paris, the MakerLab platform has an unambiguously continental edge which BFC CEO Caroline Rush is confident will help stake out its place as an international launchpad for this season’s participating designers.
“It is very important for emerging designers to have exposure from the very beginning,” Rush told FashionNetwork.com, adding that a platform is necessary not only to showcase work to the industry, but to the general public.
It’s an effort to increase consumer engagement with the work of British designers, and with the presence of global superstar footballer David Beckham, who has 45 million followers on Instagram, guaranteeing publicity, the event underscores the organisation’s interest in tapping new technologies to maximise exposure.
“Digital is increasingly shaping fashion,” Rush added. “Either through the technology designers use to create their collections all the way to how brands communicate with their audience. Technology can no longer be an afterthought or an added bonus, it needs to be part of any brand’s strategy.”
FashionNetwork.com spoke with the designers involved to hear in their own words about the challenges, rewards and relevance of the project.
FashionNetwork.com: What have you managed to achieve with support from the BFC thus far?
Nicholas Daley: I’ve presented four shows at London Fashion Week with the support of the BFC’s Newgen program. The support and guidance from the BFC team has been important, their passion for the industry is extensive.
FNW: How has it been working with the Adidas Originals team?
ND: It’s been a great experience to work with Adidas Originals, a brand with so much history and innovation. The MakerLab team have allowed me to showcase my individual expertise and approach to design. Working with the artisans has also been a great highlight with such a high level of craftsmanship. Adidas Originals has such a strong, authentic history which appeals to me, and it’s something I try to channel in my own collections.
FNW: Traditional British techniques and local sourcing have been a feature of your design process. Why is this important for you?
ND: Through my work I always aim to champion British manufacturing, from materials to production. I’m constantly exploring other craftsmen across the UK and abroad who connect with my ethos and philosophy, because Britain has such an array of crafts passed down from generation to generation. It’s important for us to support and engage with them, working together.
In my collaboration show with Adidas Originals, I’ve incorporated Halley Stevenson's waxed cottons into the show designs, as well as a cotton ventile with Scottish jute yarn. All of these additional materials are part of my brand DNA, with all materials sourced in the UK.
FNW: What more can be done for emerging British designers to succeed?
ND: Continued support from larger organisations is important, and why the BFC’s work really does make such a large positive impact. A strong infrastructure is key for any young designer, providing studio space and funding can really go a long way.
FNW: What do you hope to get out of participating in this initiative?
Priya Ahluwalia: I really wanted to learn about footwear and Parisian craft and I feel I have done that 10 times over. This has been a huge learning experience for me. I am also hopeful to make connections and have my work shared on a platform that reaches more people than I could achieve on my own. I also have been able to meet so many of the Adidas team and learn how one of the biggest sportswear brands in the world works.
FNW: You often work with vintage and recycled fabrics. Was that an obstacle for this project?
PA: An obstacle for the project was figuring out how to work in my waste fabrics and still keeping the shoes fresh and sporty. The fabrics weren’t leather so I worked with the amazing cobblers to figure out how the juxtaposed fabrics could work well together. In the end they helped me to achieve all of the best methods. I have really learnt so much from the artisans, the Adidas Originals team and Eric from Arro Studio, they have taught me new ways of problem solving.
FNW: How do you see your label evolving?
PA: As I have just graduated I want to start building more relationships with buyers and start to be stocked in stores around the world and build a strong client base. I want to work with technology to keep evolving my practices of working in sustainable ways, to ensure my clothes can be accessible and allow my business to have the capability to grow. I’ve been inspired by the project to keep working collaboratively with people so I definitely want to continue to do so while staying true to my brand DNA.
FNW: How will this experience strengthen your brand?
Paolina Russo: As a young designer so much of my focus is on the creative aspect of the work, and this experience allowed me to strengthen my skills and understanding when it comes to the full picture, i.e. business, organising, directing and communication. Since finishing my BA at Central Saint Martins, a lot of the work I do is by myself or within a super-small team. This was a crash course in how a powerhouse such as Adidas Originals, runs its operation. I will definitely be brining what I learnt from the Adidas Originals team towards my own practice.
FNW: How do you hope to see British fashion grow internationally?
PR: The world looks to British fashion, as we have always been a purveyor of innovation and pushing boundaries. And I think the world will look to London on the choices and changes being made. I think the British Fashion Council's implementation of a fur-free fashion week is a step in the right direction. But now more than ever is the time for change. It can be even as small as banning plastic and non-recyclable packaging for production and retail.
FNW: What are the biggest challenges facing young British designers?
PR: I think one of the biggest challenges now is understanding our worth in our work and ideas. I think in a system built around validation, it is easy to mix up being good/creative with being validated by others. I think especially with the added pressure of money being something most young designers lack, we don't allow ourselves the idea for failure. When in actuality failure is the only way to improve and grow as a designer. Because establishing a brand can be so expensive, every decision being made can feel like make or break. There is also a notion in order to succeed one must succeed fast. I think that kind of pressure can have a negative effect on young designers’ creativity and voice. It is something I am constantly trying to remind myself, to allow myself to grow, and grow at my own pace. This is why I think funding and support for young designers is so important, in order to keep this young creative energy flowing.
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