We always hear about the horror stories in regards to the fashion industry: endless interns travelling halfway across London to drop off an item that the company had forgotten to give to the courier the day before – which has happened to myself – along with a number of other irrelevant demands unrelated to the industry, for very little pay, if any at all. Whilst this may be the case and makes for highly entertaining reality shows, when it comes to showcasing and supporting new talent, the fashion landscape isn't an entirely bleak image.
Whilst established designers see the importance in providing a foundation to support emerging talent, it also appears to be a concern for others. Olivier Theyskens has worked creatively with designers such as Nina Ricci, Theory and Rochas, and his experience within the industry adds up to 17 years. However, Theyskens' desire for new talent can, at times, come across as controversial. Earlier this year, Theyskens brought forward how he believed that the fashion industry was becoming “saturated” with new talent and that despite online platforms, such as NJAL, and social media platforms to promote your own designs, he felt as though it was the Internet that was partly to blame for watering down the quality of genuine talent.
To state that fashion has become “saturated” suggests that there’s no more room for anyone new, and to suppress an individual's creativity goes against everything that art is about. Perhaps this reflects more of Theyskens' own fear of getting left behind. The industry is still a hard one to break through and even harder to sustain, but without a continuous influx of support, the industry would struggle to maintain any progressive relevance amongst its admirers. The Internet certainly makes the competition harder but it’s also a relevant stepping-stone for many and allows a more interactive progression. However, the assistance from a number of foundations has also helped to propel the fashion industry.
LVMH has been aiming to reinforce the importance of emerging designers since 1987 and last year created the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers as a way to help fund, teach and assist with their development. With a board made up of fashion power such as Karl Largerfeld, Riccardo Tisci, Marc Jacobs, Phoebe Philo and many more, we don’t doubt that the experience (along with a €300,000 grant) would be an invaluable one. When designers join forces in a rewarding way, the excitement and possibilities in fashion are able to grow, leaving any saturated creativity firmly at the door.
To be a fashion designer is a costly process, which is why a foundation like LVMH remains successful and a precious asset to the fashion industry. North London start-up, Fashion Enter, is another area where we see the fashion industry investing in the country’s creative talents and finding gaps in the industry to improve on. Fashion Enter created a stitching apprenticeship programme for those looking to be more involved with cutting and constructing garments – a great economical learning investment for designers, or even for those who just want to work within the industry. With many graduates going on to work at ASOS, these techniques and opportunities are important to instil into the minds of young creatives. The support for these young designers beyond art school continues with the BFC providing scholarships as well as the FDC’s Young Designer awards.
Of course, there are many other avenues that those interested in fashion can be a part of. Recognising that the fashion industry is a business will open a lot more doors for fashion enthusiasts, such as law, marketing and PR doors. And with the government enforcing a tighter crackdown on unpaid internships, the vision for success can seem closer. A lot more work can still be done, but any progress is progress still. Fashion is called a lot of things but its desire to encourage art and creativity can sometimes go unnoticed amongst the criticism. While it’s still hard for a young designer to become successful, with London's rent prices being barely covered by jobs in fashion – or any job in general, for that matter – the industry’s continued journey to make young fashion inspirational, as well as admirable, is helping to bring some aspiring designers' dreams come to fruition.
Words by Savannah Small