FROM London Fashion Week AW15, Katy Jackson shares the hot new talent from the Designer Showrooms at Somerset House and the names you’ll want to remember.

Now in its 61st year, London Fashion Week spanned over five days to showcase 78 designers and continuing to reinforce London’s reputation as a global hub of creativity, ingenuity and style. The Autumn Winter 2015 schedule saw over 180 designers showcasing in the Designer Showrooms at Somerset House, including both UK and International, emerging and established with both Ready-to-Wear and Accessories, and that’s not including those on the catwalk. The Showrooms offer a platform for up-and-coming designers to build their name and brand by using London Fashion Week as a means of meeting press and buyers.

The Rising Stars

Britain is rightly named “A Nation of Shopkeepers” so it is inevitable that our newcomers to the fashion front are combing creativity with practicality to create pieces that people want to buy and more importantly wear. Walking around the showrooms I get a sense that it’s about creating timeless pieces, straying from trends and putting an end to fast throw-away fashion.

Nom de Mode epitomise this. NdM is the brain child of twin sisters Hardeep and Mandeep Chohan. The duo, although not officially having a background in fashion – law and literature - thought up the idea of the brand after being inspired by a trip to India and looking back at old family photos of immaculately dressed women. Mandeep tells me: “We’re inspired by our heritage. The beautiful fabrics and the strong powerful women” The collection offers timeless and elegant pieces and each has distinctly Indian traces but the sisters are proud of their ‘Made in England’ production line. The tailored full length coats and artisanal gilets have been spotted on Victoria Beckham, Kendal Jenner and Olivia Palermo - whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right. They are completely aware of the market, because they are their own market – strong, intelligent women with an individual sense of style.

Another brand championing British Manufacture and new to the scene is the quirky cool eyewear label Termite, a start-up venture by Natalie Finch and Patricia Williams, both womenswear design graduates of Ravensbourne University in London. The two decided to start up when their glasses received recognition after their catwalk show at Graduate Fashion Week in 2012. The USP – Designing and hand producing fashion forward, youthful accessories using responsibly sourced materials and reclaimed or recycled wood. Design-friendly, eco-friendly and Made in Britain. This ‘organic’ approach is combined with a modernist ‘Scandinavian’ design aesthetic with signature spherical lenses in an array of fresh colours. The distinctive glasses are creative, fun, and wearable and being such a new brand there’s still a ton of experimenting to be done. The design duo are busy in the studio currently developing a new style of patterned lens. *added to my wish list*

The best things seem to come in pairs; well that seems the case in the Designer Showrooms. Another emerging brand on my radar is the womenswear brand Cynthia Mak. Hong-Kong born with a background in graphic design, she is an alumni of the prestigious Central St. Martins (as so many of the designers at the showcase were) It was there that Mak began a new journey into fashion. 2014 was the year of her first collection but by looking at her most recent you’d think she’d been in the business for some time. Her brand “is founded on bold graphics infused with strong modernity” and her graphic background is visible to see in the AW15 collection, with whom she collaborated with fellow CSM alumni and knitwear designer Xiao Xiao. Finding inspiration in the classic traveller, pieces incorporate functionality with a masculine edge represented with oversized collars, utilitarian pockets, and paracord knot detail. Primarily though, Mak tells me ‘the collection is about having fun’ and if the dancing frogs on knitted jumpers don’t reflect this, maybe the confounded chameleons will.


“This collection looks back to the 70s, drawing on the handicraft of the era” explains Cats Brothers’ sales director Adam Parkinson. A fun-spirited collection, the founder and designer Lindsay McKean brings a playful and humorous approach to knit and is heavily influenced by street culture and hand crafts. If you hadn’t guessed it from the brand name, cats are customary, but for AW15 it’s about the big cats – a cross-stitched tigers head on a sweater and crazy knitted tiger stripes. The collection is an amazing example of true British workmanship with the majority of pieces being hand-knitted in Hackney, it’s hard to imagine how lengthy the production process is, but Parkinson does let me into a secret “we have a team of old ladies up in the North who help with finishing touches close to show time” Macramé, Cross-stitch and crochet in seventies-esque hues of burgundy, ochre and teal. Again, a brand very much about keeping it in Britain and focussing on handmade handcrafted design.

Fun seems to be the underlying word present. As I walk around the showrooms, whether it’s Menswear, Womenswear or Accessory design, each of them exude a passion, self-belief and a drive to succeed. They are not afraid to have fun, pushing the boundaries no politics holding them back. As a young fashion designer myself, it’s this which excites me about discovering new talent and motivates me. They are the stars in keeping up London’s reputation as the capital of emerging talent and most fashion forward and creative city.


Finally, I couldn’t go without writing a piece about new kids on the block St Piece, the London based design studio at the heart of exquisitely eloquent luxury scarves. “ST” embodies the initials of the two founders, Sandy Chang (Creative Director) and Ting Hsu (Director) graduates of Central Saint Martins and Chelsea College of Art and Design. The ‘Piece’ part, quite simply put, is reflected in their philosophy and that’s to create a ‘piece’ of art through each of the scarves. ‘ST’s’ latest collection titled Winter Blooms sees beautifully hand painted and illustrated Eastern Asian inspired flora adorned onto canvasses of pure silk and cashmere. “In England you don’t see many flowers in Winter, but in Asia we have flowers all year round and new ones bloom in winter, we wanted to share our Taiwanese heritage with you” The darling buds of winter trend was also championed at Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and Mother of Pearl. Flowers work in any season; they’re universal and translate into different markets. Chang hand paints her distinct designs using watercolour, acrylic, inks or oils in the London studio before being printed and individually hand-rolled finished in Cheshire, England. St. Piece also donates a percentage of the sales proceeds to teenage cancer charity, Trekstock.

Didn’t have a ticket for the shows?

ou needn’t have worried as the British Council and British Fashion Council hosted The International Fashion Showcase, the only incentive free and open to the public. In its fourth year, it’s a great place for the public to spot emerging designers and get a taste of what’s happening creatively around the world. Held in the Brewer Street Carpark, a multi-storey car park being an unlikely setting for a fashion event, three levels up however you’d forget you’d step foot into an NCP, towering over the heart of London, a stone’s throw from the glitz and glamour at Somerset House. 110 designers from 30 countries covering 4 continents – it’s like The Fashion Olympic as you exploring each country’s take on fashion as you walk from stand to stand.

South Africa brought vibrant colours and prints emblematic of traditional African design. The Cape Town team of Adriaan Kuiters and Jody Paulsen’s idiosyncratic prints were amongst those which stood out. Whilst from Spain, Leandro Cano clashed the idea of Baroque, the decade of opulence with modernity. The two pieces from his collection ‘Anima’ display a pure white palette of wool adorned in floral ceramics which are handmade in his hometown in Spain. Having already been awarded the ‘2012 Designer for Tomorrow’ by Marc Jacobs he is definitely one to watch!

61 countries were represented by guests at LFW this season which proves fashion is global and these opportunities that make it clear to see that there is talent in every corner of the world.

It’s important that we keep supporting this emerging talent because after all the stars of today are the ones of tomorrow.