Young Designer Awards 2019: in conversation with four emerging designers

As many of you will know, it is very hard for young creative talents to emerge in the Fashion Industry. To help some very talented designers show their first collections to the world, Joanna Marcella, Founder and Director of the Young Designer Awards, embarked in the noble mission to host a charity event which would showcase the most recent collections of Sarah Salvador, Amy Sweaton, Laura Thomas, Samantha Shaw, Rose Brown, Phoebe Constable, and Lydia Fung.

The show was organised, as well, with the intention to raise awareness of the Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes, along with other symptoms, developmental delays, problems with movement and coordination, and, especially in children, a much more excitable temperament. 

As well as many other bloggers and influencers, I was invited by Joanna to attend the press event, which was hosted in London, at the Hackney Attic on Saturday February 2nd

The collections were stunning, and as well as taking pictures and shooting videos of the models wearing the garments, I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview some of the designers.  

To make it more interesting, I asked the same questions to four designers whose style was incredibly different. I first spoke to Amy Sweaton, a Fashion and millinery designer who graduated in May from the University of Lincoln. Then I sat down with Lydia Fung Sze Ki, a designer from Hong Kong, who moved to Boston first and then to London to study at the London College of Fashion, and we talked about the collection with which she graduated in 2018 with an MA in Womenswear at the Royal College of Art. Phoebe Constable was the third designer I had a chat with, and she instantly appeared like a very fun and energetic designer whose eco-sustainable deconstructed clothes were lively and full of joy. Finally, I spoke to Rose Brown, a 23 years-old designer who studied at the Manchester School of Art and debuted on Saturday with a special collection in which the fabrics glow with the light of a flash. 

 A little about yourself first: how would you describe yourself in just a few words? 

Amy Sweaton: I’d say I’m quite serious! (laughs) I’m an in-depth thinker and I usually start with an idea but then this evolves as I go on with my work. My collections are usually very conceptual.

Lydia Fung: Very emotional? All I do is very connected to strong feelings and it’s centred around love and hate.

Phoebe Constable: Uhm… young, I think (laughs), still quite childish and up for a laugh and just… happy, I think! (giggles)

Rose Brown: I’m definitely very ambitious, I am fierce and creative, a pocket rocket 

This collection is the result of your course of studies. How would you say studying fashion design influenced your creativity? 

A.S:Well, my course focused on millinery costume design as well as couture, so it gave me a lot of choice and helped me develop a lot of skills in artwork. I came from a Photography and Art background in college, so I always knew was I was going to do, and my university course helped me bring all my previous knowledge together. I think my aesthetic stayed pretty much the same apart from, if possible, getting even more gothic in general? (laughs)

L.F: I don’t thinkFashion Design helps too much because if you don’t have ideas you won’t go anywhere. It’s very useful, though, when it comes to learn structure and rigour, which is why I came to the course with flowing ideas and the years spent on my course helped me put them in order. Going to uni, in a way, gives you the difference between just being able to draw a building and actually build one. Style-wise, I changed and evolved a lot. I was very immature, and I didn’t know what fashion was about. When I got to LCF I was quite dark and everything I did was organic, but at the Royal College of Art they taught me how to jump out of my comfort zone and everything became more vivid and my style improved a lot.

P.C.: I haven’t finished my last year yet, so this is my pre-collection, in a way! Also, I never knew I wanted to do Fashion until I walked into the room to do my interview, but the course reality opened up a lot of doors for me. Fashion Design gave a lot of experience on other areas of fashion, as well, like fashion communication and promotion and fashion styling. Also, the emphasis on sustainability that we’ve seen lately across the industry has encouraged my work quite a lot. 

R.B.:I was taught a very important lesson which is how to channel my ideas in a collected manner so that they make sense for the viewer. From erratic out of control creativity, it is now succinct, sophisticated and professional. 

What do you consider to be a fundamental part of your creative process? 

A.S:I think what I really like is to start with an idea, write it down and then try and think of all the different ways I could explore it. Usually I think I’ll stick to one path and the suddenly I change it, and find another way to express that same concept that is way more interesting, and so on until the end…

L.F.: Keeping an open mind.Never thinking that anyone is beneath me is a good part of my creative process and never closing up to any ideas is the best way. Everyone is equal when it comes to problem solving so anyone can help me and not allowing myself to absorb from others would be very bad for my creativity. 

P.C.: The research, definitely! I’m such a research nerd (laughs), and for this collection for example, I focused a lot on an experience I had when I went to study abroad. I went to a small island next to Madagascar and, there, everyone is so free, and no one cares what they’re wearing. When I came back, I felt so weird being British and living in such a different society! The colours I saw in the island, from the shades of the sunset in the sky to the volcanoes, really inspired the colour palette of the collection I presented today.  

R.B.:To create, I need to take a step back and relax. There is nothing more creativity killing than stress. It is good to have a deadline but too much and the creativity is burned. 

What is the name of your collection? And how did you come up with this title?

A.S.: The collection is titled “Internal Chaos”, and because it’s based on schizophrenia, I wanted it to sum up what are, for me, visual representations of this illness and its symptoms. The title is connected to what struggling with the disease feels like. For these people it’s like an internal chaos. 

L.F.: My collection is named “Nebulous Erotica”. “Nebulous” means “unfixed” and “unstructured”, it’s a term used to describe something that has no rules, which is how I think people’s connections should be, with no boundaries and borderless. “Erotica”, instead, is linked to the physical and, most importantly, the emotional connection between people. My collection isbased on New Age intimacy, so every print is pixelated and blurred, there is no beginning and no end to represent the core of intimacy which is its being so fluid and undefined.  

P.C.: The title is still “unnamed” so far, because it’s not complete yet, but I’m struggling a bit because I wouldn’t want it to be something based on sustainability… I think everything should be sustainable and that should be the normal so I don’t really see the point in making its being sustainable the exceptional side of my collection, I wish that could just be the basics of everyone’s creations.

R.B.:The name is ‘Après Lunar’, and it took me months to come up with it. I think I finished the collection at least three months before I could actually give it a title. I guess I just wrote down every idea I had in different combinations until it appeared. It was a long painful process and I’m lucky it came when it did. 

Could you introduce your collection? What is the main inspiration behind it?

A.S.:This project was combined to my dissertation, which focused on female mental health. I am interested in costume, so I looked at movies, and in particular I looked at how women’s health in horror films is usually categorised as madness. It felt so wrong for me that female characters with this disease would always be placed in a horror scenario instead of a serious one. With my collection I used prints from my photography that could show the reality of the internal struggle and different textures that help visualize the illness with a more serious approach. 

L.F.:Themain inspiration comes from my travels. I have been moving a lot from place to place since I was young, and I moved a lot from Hong Kong to Boston and then from Boston to London. My childhood friends were far away and most of the times I developed long distance relationships with most of the people in my life: my boyfriends and girlfriends, my friends and my family. At one point, I decided to start analysing this and do some more research and ask myself questions such as “how can I maintain a relationship like this?”  and “how do I still have a relationship like this?”. That’s how I came up with Digital and New Age intimacy. 

P.C.: One of the main focuses is definitely sustainability, but that’s been talked about so much, and it’s so trendy that it’s kind of losing its meaning: people sometimes are even spoiling the message and turning it into a marketing strategy. The main point, I guess, is that fashion can be fun, that it can be bold and colourful, and something more than just a hemp jumper and a linen pair of trousers…

R.B.:Desert and ski festivals were my main inspiration. I had researched a great deal on festivals but it wasn’t until I was dancing on a table in the French Alps that I finally knew what my collection was going to be about. I guess I had to live it and experience it to truly understand and come up with my final inspiration. 

How would you say this reflects your personality? Is it in contraposition with your persona or does it mirror some aspects of your life?

A.S: I think it really reflects me because I’m a very passionate person and I usually try to raise awareness to things that often don’t get too much attention and that, in my opinion, we should all focus on a bit more. 

L.F.: It definitely reflects how I am completely. I was brought up from my parents to be the “perfect girl”, and they had a lot of expectations. At one point, instead, I jumped out of the bubble that had been built around me and created something emotional, erotic, and rebellious, something that made me feel much freer. 

P.C.: As I said, I’m quite childish and I think that a lot of people see a sort of humour in my work, because traditionally man wouldn’t really walk into a shop and buy my menswear line-it’s got too much of a “big kid” kind of aesthetic. Maybe women would be more inclined to buy my line, or even children because both are more inclined towards wearing bold colours, but I think it’s way more fun to put them on big tall men, it makes me laugh!

R.B.:The collection definitely mirrors my personality. An underlying aspect of the collection which is invisible to the naked eye is that I often think in two minds. I often have two opinions on something. This is reflected by the collection by the glow aspect. The collection itself has two views, Day and night. The night view is revealed by the flash of a camera: the colours change, and the clothes become something new. 

Art and fashion have two main things in common: they make you feel something, experience new emotions. What is the main feeling behind your collection? And how would you like people to react to it? 

A.S.:I’d want people to be confused at the beginning. It would make them feel closer to those who have schizophrenia, and by doing that it’d be easier to be sensitized on the subject. I’d love to have an impact on people, and I want them to see my collection and go home with more knowledge, more aware of the illness my collection is talking about.

L.F.: My collection aims to make people feel passionate, and to have a sense of belonging. Fashion, as you said, is like art and movies. It has the power to bring people together and make them realise that actually, even those people who thought they didn’t belong in any group and thought they were alone, they are not and there is a whole community out there of people that are just like them. My collection has no style, because it aims to give a people a sense of sensuality. Not in a sexual way, but more in the way of freeing the mind from rules and boundaries, allowing the viewer to find his true nature and identity. 

P.C.: I think that determination is what people should feel. It’s really hard to make a collection and it’s very hard to be sustainable but I think that looking at my collection people can really feel motivated and be more inclined to see sustainability as a form of art and a way of living that anyone can embrace.

R.B.: It’s something to be in awe of. Watching it come to life should leave people amazed. It should make them think of raver spacemen at the disco.

This event is being hosted by a charity that has embarked in the noble mission of raising awareness for the Angelman Syndrome. How do you feel about this subject, and what would like to say to whoever is facing the syndrome/is close to someone who has it? 

A.S.: I think we should all start researching more on it,because I feel that there isn’t enough information about it out there. I myself didn’t know about the Angelman Syndrome before being contacted for this event!

L.F.: I personally don’t know anyone with this syndrome, but I do know other people who are going through a rough time and I believe that in life you have to have faith, and you cannot lose hope. You have to believe that everyone is alive for a reason and embrace that thought to help you fight your everyday battles.

P.C.: First of all, I would like to say that, before being contacted, I wasn’t aware of this condition, and I think it’s very interesting how something like this can bring so many people together. To the people who are affected by Angelman Syndrome, I would like to say that it’s one more reason to live life without limitations and embrace it to the fullest. Be bold and don’t care what people think, shine and follow your dreams!

R.B.: I don’t really know anyone with this health condition. However, raising awareness for any charity is a good thing, and something I am happy to take part in. My collection belongs on the catwalk, not in a cupboard! If it can also bring people happiness and help raise money to support others in the process, I can’t think of anything better. 

When requested to attend this event, what were your first thoughts? And what was your initial reaction to the chance of showing your work to the world? 

A.S: I thought that it’d be interesting to get involved with an event that, like my collection, aims to raise awareness for an illness, and that working with another type of disease would have been very educational. Also, I come from a very small town and the chance to show my work in London is a good opportunity to be introduced to a much more creative environment. Going to university as well was a good way to meet a whole new world of creative minds, but now that I’m back home I appreciate every chance I have to get out of my hometown. 

L.F.:Because most of the shows I participated to in the past were organised by my tutors or my companies, I was never part of a charity event. This being said, I really enjoyed the thought, and the prospect of a fashion event that could open its doors to such a noble cause sounded like a very good idea. After the show I can say that Joanna did an amazing job and the make-up team was incredible, so I am really happy about the event. 

P.C.: I was really overwhelmed! I felt so I didn’t know what to expect but it was an amazing opportunity because I obviously haven’t finished my collection yet, and to be able to show a part of my collection before it’s completed, get people’s reactions to it… I was thrilled! It’s nice to know someone noticed me even before I graduated, I think that every designer’s dream is to be noticed so it felt great. And then with sustainability, there is no point in making something if it doesn’t spread a message, so knowing that someone noticed my collection also means that I have succeeded in the mission!

R.B.:I’ve done some shows before, but this felt very good. It’s always good to travel the world. I like taking part in events and everything is a great opportunity to meet other creatives and make work relationships for the future…

Coming back to your work as a designer, what do you think are the most significant values you bring to the world with your creations?

A.S.: Definitely I think that being passionate and enjoying what you do is fundamental to work in the industry. I really enjoy it when I create, and I think that that is the most important value I show through my work. 

L.F.: Bringing people together is very important to me, but apart from that I would like fashion and art to act as a beautiful distraction to the world as it is now. We as humans are living through such difficult times and sometimes people need to find beauty. What I try to do is bringing some of that joy and beauty into the world with my creations. Moreover, I would like to raise social awareness with my work, to stop discrimination and help people accepting each other’s differences, help them see the beauty that lays in diversity. 

P.C.: I want to say sustainability is my main focus, but honestly, I don’t want this message to just become white noise among all the other green designers, so maybe boldness and the ability to be brave, be bold and creative. My style has changed so much since starting fashion design, I have started wearing such bold colours and matching shades in a way that I would never have thought of before so I feel like my work should encourage others to do the same!

R.B.:Beauty and innovation are most certainly some of the most important values I bring into the world with my creations. My collection is unique. Nobody in the world has made what I have. I bring in a new perspective, and I want to share the light that’s in my mind with the world, it’d be too much of a waste if I were the only one who’s allowed to witness it. 

Do you find it easy to introduce these principles in the Fashion industry? And, looking at the reality of the industry as it is now, what more do you think it could be done to include said values? 

A.S.: I think that at the moment, people are too focused on the tight schedule they have instead of enjoying their job as creative. Companies and designers should stop with the fast fashion, take a step back and realise how little positivity it’s bringing to the community. Not to mention what it does to the environment!

L.F.: It’s very important that young designers and corporates start changing the industry. We are producing too much waste and, to a humanitarian level, the issues with exploitation of children are too important to be ignored. Yes, a lot of companies are changing, but it’s not enough to just do something gimmicky and pretend it’s for a good reason. We need to actually change. 

P.C.: I think being a sustainable designer at the moment can be challenging, because of the cost of productions and because of how judgmental the industry can be sometimes: if you’re a sustainable designer but you’re not a vegan, people will look at you like you’re not taking it seriously, which isn’t always the case of course! I think the problem really lies with the luxury markets: a lot of high street brands get all the reprimands, when actually if the change happened from the top down, brands like Primark couldn’t do anything else but to follow the flow… 

R.B.:  I think I’m what the industry needs right now, cause in general everyone is looking for beauty and innovation, which is what I provide. Obviously, it depends what do I apply for, but usually if they like me, they like me, if they don’t, they don’t.

Finally, do you have anything planned for the future, and is there anything in particular that we should all look forward to seeing from you? 

A.S.: At the moment I am only focusing on taking a year off and I am doing internships to gain as much hands-on experience as I can. Next year, though, I am planning on coming down to London and start working hard! 

L.F.: Definitely! I have a movie coming up: it will be an independent movie in collaboration with a dance school which will be created to raise awareness of mental illness. It will be a contemporary/modern dance choreography made from the students and it will be available to see in two art galleries in East London. The details are still to be confirmed, but I will keep everyone up to date on my website! 

P.C.: My completed collection! (laughs) I am hoping to go from there to the Graduate Fashion Week, and from this event as well: I look forward to keeping in touch with all the other artists, models, photographers and bloggers I have met today!

R.B.: Yes,I have multiple collections written down and I can’t wait to start making them. However, it will take time and I need to establish myself in a studio with the right equipment. My next collection is going to be stunning womenswear, but it won’t be seen for a year or so. 

I think that their very different personalities emerged quite clearly from our conversations, and I hope you guys enjoyed their answers as much as I did while interviewing them 😉

Also, if any of you wants to learn any further information about the Angelman Syndrome, please head to one of the links I have attached below, where you will find all the necessary information. 

To donate to the association, and for more information on the event please head to: https://l.instagram.com/?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fdc-youngdesignerawards.com%2F&e=ATM2nSoBa2iA6ZI9O5iBfuqqTPIkXyZx6kcP1qa2xROndVf1vOVhBhMc8qgt-m-o27KvcQZcRPXCRN3i

Images at the top of the page:

Aprés Lunar – collection by Rose Brown

Photography by Vicky Chambers

odels: @samueljperkins, Isaac Carew, @kieronmoore, @jamilyounis

Images in between text and interviews:

Internal Chaos – collection by Amy Sweaton

Photography by Meghan Yates

Images In the middle to the text:

Unnamed – collection by Phoebe Constable

Photography by Phoebe Constable

Images at the bottom of the page:

Nebulous Erotica – collection by Lydia Fung

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