Continuing on with our CFE 10 year celebrations, Fashion156 have interviewed Holly Fulton, the innovative print designer who is a successful member of the Venture program at CFE, and one who is building her label into a global brand.
How do you balance ethics against budget when deciding on where to manufacture your garments?
We work closely and carefully with all our manufacturers to ensure everything is produced to the best standard we can; all our pieces are made in the UK which allows us to visit and check progress frequently throughout the production and sampling process. I am interested in creating high end pieces fairly and view our relationship with our factories as more of a collaboration-we can learn a great deal from their expertise and it should always be a mutually beneficial relationship for all parties.
How would you describe the support system that CFE offers?
The CFE allows you to build your business within a supportive and protected environment; it encourages you to create something viable which can often be the challenge for a creative. You receive structured business planning, assistance with accounts and legal advice and most reassuringly, there is always someone on hand to listen to your problems and queries. It can be quite a solitary experience when you start your own thing and the CFE gives you a nurturing environment amongst your peers to help you realise your vision realistically.
Do you feel being a part of the CFE program has influenced your designs, and in what way?
I do not think it has influenced my design work, it has encouraged me to broaden my aspirations in business and become aware of the challenges and processes this involves. The awareness of commerciality has sharpened up my consideration of sales collections and the importance of having accessible pieces within your range.
How have you managed to align the business side of your brands without compromising your design aesthetic?
The expansion of the sales collection has been a major factor for us; I have learnt a lot about sales via the showrooms I undertake and the important role having pieces that are accessible alongside your main line has on your business. I would never compromise my initial vision for commercial reasons; I would not want to present a diluted vision of what I envisaged initially and often having a budget to adhere to can heighten creativity! You learn ways to maximise on your signature and ethos through different mediums, projects and pieces alongside your catwalk collection.
What have been the most positive aspects of collaborating with CFE?
Growing my team; having good people with you is the most important aspect of running a creative label for me. Being able to allow my brand to grow at a steady pace and having a keen awareness and knowledge of the finance involved has allowed me to project for the label and get the right people on board at the right time. I would say dealing with the people who run the CFE is also very important to me and my team too-we have really great relationships with some of the poeple here and it makes studio life more pleasurable to have them around regulary.
What are the most difficult aspects of being a new designer in the current economic climate?
My label began during the recession so I don’t really have anything to compare the current times to but I would say that difficult financial periods make you strenghten your resolve and vision; it is a difficult climate to sell in but that can push your determination and desire to make it work that bit further.
If you were talking to someone who was not familiar with your brand, how would you describe the core DNA of what you do?
Contemporary womenswear with the focus on luxury and the use of the graphic through hand rendered print and embellishment, a desire to create a total look through myriad accessories which convey the brands signature style and a love of surface decoration.
What tips can you offer to emerging graduates?
Stick true to your vision, prepare yourself for the commitment and learn to manage criticism; it is a demanding industry and you need to be prepared to cope with that and let your passion show. And always remember to treat others as you would like to treated yourself, its my number one rule for studio life!
Do you feel the established industry and retailers in particular offer enough support for up-coming talent. What ways do you feel they could offer even more?
I think the UK is quite unique in its initiatives to foster new talent in fashion; I came via Fashion East, Newgen and am now part of Fashion Forward-there is no doubt it would have been infinitely harder without the huge support, both creatively and financially, I got from these platforms and the mentors involved. I think it would be good to create more of a nurturing relationship between stores and emerging designers as often someone can require a few season to take off and it would be good to see stores supporting more in the current climate. The feedback you can get from sales can shape your business model and it would be great to have more of an awareness of that from the start.
Lots of designers in London have achieved great press hype, but have not been able to turn their brand into a viable business. What steps are you taking to ensure your brand becomes a success?
I am very aware that creativity and business can be hard fields to marry and try hard to balance the time spent on both. I have created a solid and viable business plan during my time at the CFE and am aware of my long term aims for the label, I am always looking to new ways to grow and develop all aspects of what we do and who we work with. Ultimately I have worked very hard to get my brand to this point, we have a very strong signature DNA which has proven transferable and I am committed to creating a label with longevity for both my team and myself.
Images as shown above: Chanel, John Galliano, DVF, Alexander Wang, Derek Lam and Naeem Khan.
Chanel’s feature of a grey smoky eye on the runway in their 2012 Fall Couture show sparked a new creative take on the basic black smoky eye. This directional look remains a beauty staple to add edge, no matter what palette is being smudged and smoked.
However, the use of grey eye shadow seemed to momentarily die down. That can be contributed to the notion that grey as we know it can be deemed boring and perhaps dull. But if worked correctly, grey eye shadow can be more than just the shade you never touch in your favorite palette, I think it can be a beauty enigma that provides a mysterious and playful accent to your look. And thankfully, the look has been popping up all over the runway.
Alexander Wang’s models were given a light wash of grey by make up artist Diane Kendal for Nars in his Fall 2013 runway show. The look is so simple, almost nude, but the sheer slate provides dimension you just can’t get with typical neutral shades.
Makeup artist Pat McGrath went for a bolder take on the trend with slate straight to the brow in John Galliano’s Fall 2013 show. By keeping the whole face clean and the hair slicked back, the models take on a uniquely bold and ultra defining look was made to turn heads.
Naeem Khan embodies the 20’s impeccably in his Fall 2013 show. But I think it’s the use of the grey shadows that really add depth and beauty to this model’s natural look.
In Derek Lam’s Fall 2013 runway show, models worked the major trend of wine hued lips with the up-and-coming trend of grey washed eyelids. I needed a double of this model to take in the striking balance of the lips and eyes. The two tones act as a flawless duo that anyone can work.
To try this trend, pick up NAR’s due eye shadow in Paris, which features a light grey with a hint of shimmer, and a matte darker grey.
Today's 'We Love' list proves that the print trend we've been looking at all week, isn't all digital florals and spots. From Liberty print to vinyl covers and 3D workshops, these are the printed things our team are drawn to this week. See our previous Love Lists here.
The idea of a music album doesn't exist for most people anymore but some young music lovers are now collecting vinyls from all the times, and also new releases that mean more than just music. Buying them means buying a print art piece with good covers and creative designs. Kristina Records in Dalston is the perfect place to live that experience. Mikel Serna Bermejo, Art Desk.
V&A Prints & Drawing room - This room is worth checking out for interesting pieces of illustration, print and the history behind them. Rachel Holliman, Writer.
Shops at museums are full of interesting printed stuff. Look at these printed bags at Tate. Mikel Serna Bermejo, Art Desk.
When no money to buy contemporary art a good choice is to take some old posters out from context, at Art.co.uk. Mikel Serna Bermejo, Art Desk.
Liberty print is perhaps the most iconic of all prints in my opinion. Combine it with these incredibly popular Nike trainers and it's a summer footwear dream. At Liberty. Georgina Evans, Writer.
Lolita is one of my favourite books, but to have an original printed poster on a vintage encyclopedia page? It's a print love affair overload. At Etsy. Georgina Evans, Writer.
Do your cards and hand written notes resemble something a 5 year old has produced. You can attend weekend courses here, if you wish to seriously up your game. Guy Hipwell, Editor.
You may be aware of Bruce Davidson and his selection of incredible images from the era of the 50’s documenting a Brooklyn Gang of youths (The Jokers), so something to grab up this Summer is the astonishing book ‘Bruce Davidson · Brooklyn Gang’ (Better start saving). ByTwin Palms Publishers, purchase here. Edward Cooke, Art Desk.
November will see the 3D Printshow return to London including a 3D printed art gallery, and works such as this by Studio Tobias Klein. Guy Hipwell, Editor.
Gnars Barkley Crazy – With all the watercolour prints on the runway I am reminded of this classic chart song – the video is cleverly created by mirroring watercolour prints on repeat. Georgina Evans, Writer.
As our CFE collaboration continues, we have interviewed Matthew Drinkwater the head of fashion innovation agency at CFE. Matthew is part of the division that seeks to strategically grow designers’ businesses through innovation and commercial partnerships.
Can you tell us about your designer and retail collaboration plan?
My team and I are experts in initiating creative collaborations, we connect fresh talent with established global brands and seek out new avenues of consumer engagement.
Collaborations remain hugely important for both designer and retailer, it’s a way to create new product, new revenue streams and enhance brand positioning through the best PR, media coverage and visibility.
We’re leading the way in creating innovative and exciting collaborations across the fashion, retail, lifestyle and digital industries.
You’ve just got back from the states, what information did you bring back with you?
How seriously London designers are now taken. There are huge opportunities in the US and we’re excited to be exploring them with some incredible brands.
It’s always great to get out to a different region and explore new brands, new concept stores.
I came back with huge optimism and full of ideas!
What are the main challenges with being the head of a fashion innovation agency?
On a soft side, it has to be managing expectations. Collaborations can often be complex, difficult to negotiate and involve a number of parties, so for that very reason, some don’t come to fruition.
Another challenge is the constant need to innovate, there are a lot of collaborations in the market but to be successful it is vital to offer something different, making sure that your proposition is the most relevant.
The pace of change is relentless and increasing. We have to remain at the forefront of what we do.
How do you transform press hype into business success?
By acting quickly. Every brand will have a ‘moment’ and capitalising on that is vital.
In order to do that you must ensure that you have a sustainable business model that allows you to exploit multiple channels to market – the hype won’t last and your business must be strong enough to survive that.
What are your thoughts on the price points of up-and-coming designers? Do you think this is deterring buyers?
It’s a big challenge for emerging designers and is something that our team at DISC (Designer-Manufacturing Innovation Support Centre) is working really hard on. So, yes, be aware of your price points, understand where and who your brand would sit next to in-stores and try to be competitive but don’t forget buyers will always want a point of difference and that could be you. So be confident in what you do!
What is the best aspect of what you do?
Without doubt, it’s working on such varied and wide-ranging projects. I get to work with some of the biggest brands in the world and alongside the very best design talent in London, and every time we are creating something new, exciting and desirable.
That is a very privileged position to be in. I love discovering new designers and helping them grow their businesses.
How do you support designers who may struggle with the business side of their brand?
Coaching. We’ll work alongside them to guide them but ultimately it has to be the designer that makes the decisions about their business.
We have a great support network at the CFE and it’s something that is at the very heart of the organisation – helping and coaching designers to make informed business decisions.
What are the main challenges engaging retail brands to collaborate with your designers?
Sometimes there can be a tendency for brands to focus on one particular designer, so we work really hard to showcase the wide range of talent that we’re working with.
Ultimately, we have to demonstrate how that designer will help enhance the brand’s image and drive footfall into their stores.
What are the key qualities you look for in a designer?
It’s vital for me to work with designers who have a very clear identity or signature. I also love to work with designers who are enthusiastic and open-minded to the opportunities that might be out there.
What are your aims for CFE this year?
It would be great to raise the CFE profile this year, let people know about the incredible work that gets done and how successful the Centre is at growing designer businesses.
As always, I want to get out and meet lots more incredible designers and sit down with some retail brands to work on even more collaborations!
If you’re a designer or retail brand looking to work with Matthew, you can get in touch with himhere