Graduate Fashion Week showcase: an interview with UEL Fashion Design student Helen Butcher
Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) is the annual presentation of the work of the fresh design talents coming out of over 40 UK and Overseas Universities BA fashion Design Programs. The largest graduate fashion event in the world, GFW provides a showcase for the year’s best new talents. The event is attended by potential employers, national and international media and industry and is a potential career kick starter for those students lucky enough to be chosen to participate, as these industry titans all flock to London to be the first to spot fashion’s next big thing.
As GFW 2012 approaches, and in salute to our home-grown talent, The Upcoming will be supporting British fashion students and running a series of interviews with students selected to show their graduate collections at this year’s event. Those chosen come from The University of East London, an institution whose graduates have in the past often been over-looked in favour of their counterparts from better-known colleges.
UEL GFW Interview: BA Fashion Design student Helen Butcher, a young village girl inspired by the old and the new.
Give us a short introduction to yourself…
I grew up in a small village in the Cotswolds. I’m a determined person with a passion for fashion that was fuelled by my village teacher, of all people. Inspired by her stories and my own love of fashion and creativity… When I set my mind to something, I go for it and so here I am. My ultimate goal is to have my own label.
Why did you choose fashion as your chosen career?
I’ve always enjoyed everything creative and I love finding out about new technologies and meeting new people along the way. As I mentioned, I was inspired by a tutor at my school: she had owned her own fashion business and came to London years ago to pursue a career in fashion. I guess I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
Who are your greatest heroes and inspirations in fashion?
My favourite labels are Balenciaga and Givenchy. I like their innovative approach to fashion, they push the boundaries whilst creating beautiful garments that women want to wear. My greatest personal inspiration in fashion is the art deco period. I think I should have been born in that time as I love everything about it, not only clothing but also the furniture, art and care free attitude of the time.
Tell us about your graduate collection?
Think Shanghai Express and the carefree attitude of the 1930s. I use straight cuts, dropped waists and prints inspired by the graphic style of art deco. For the print detail I incorporated the architectural photographs of NY artist based David Ballinger and spliced these with tailoring, macramé knotting and floral prints to create a feminine yet edgy collection, which also explores the idea of gender mashing. I used leather, silk and chiffon, and I’ve incorporated elegant menswear pieces from the era also. Coco Chanel, who is another of my fashion heroes, became famous for taking masculine garments and making them into womenswear.
Who do you envision wearing your collections when you design?
I had supermodel Alek Wek in mind when designing my collection. She is this strong woman who is androgynous in her appearance but also has an amazing grace and elegance to her. I imagine the customers for my collection to be confident women who want to look smart but have a fashion edge but also have a strong sense of their own identity.
What are your hopes and fears for your future career?
My ultimate goal would be to have my own label and shop in London and beyond. My fear is that it’s going to be extremely hard getting funding at the moment, this double dip recession and fashion being such a competitive industry. Luckily our course also involves marketing, which has given me the skills for running a small business. Hopefully that knowledge will help me make my goals more achievable.
How does it feel to be chosen to show your collection at GFW?
I am really excited! I think it acts as a great platform for a diverse range of students to show what they can do and gives us all much needed exposure. Even if we don’t all end up becoming designers with our own labels, we get our two minutes of glory on the catwalk!
To you, what is the future of fashion?
To me, the future of fashion is in well designed, quality items that can be kept and treasured for years. I think the time of ‘fast fashion’ has ended and we will start to see more manufacturing return to Britain, which is great news. I think new technologies will push the boundaries of fashion to create interesting new fabrics and fibres, and perhaps the way clothing is made such as 3D printing. That’s my dichotomy: I find so much inspiration in the past but I’m really techy too!
Thank you Helen, and good luck with your future plans.
Ian Michael Turner
The next and final interview is coming soon and the series will conclude with a report from our UEL designers graduate shows at Graduate Fashion Week itself.