Local designers hope to make a big impression at London Fashion Week


Ten ‘up and coming’ local designers will get a unique opportunity to showcase their collections to an audience of global fashion experts and international press at an exclusive exhibitor event during London Fashion Week this month.

Over the next two weeks, the Derry Journal will feature a profile on the designers selected to showcase their work, giving readers an insight into what makes their creative juices flow.

We will delve into what inspires their brands, their success to date, and how they have found the Designer Business Start-Up Programme, ahead of the ‘Best Practice’ event in London.

The ten local designers selected to travel to London in mid-February – known as the Derry Design Collective – took part in a special ‘pitching’ event held mid-January at the Fashion & Textile Design Centre on Shipquay Street.

Andrew McAllister

Andrew McAlister is a fashion graduate with a focus on creating beautifully crafted menswear pieces.

Specialising in the use of Irish tweed and Irish linen, his collection is inspired by his childhood, growing up near the wild atlantic coast of Ireland.

This influences his colour pallette and the textures of the fabric he works with.

Speaking about his work and what he hopes to achieve from participating in the ‘Best Practice’ trip to London, Derry native Andrew said: “I specialise in hand crafted Irish menswer, with a modern twist.

“Each piece of clothing is constructed in London by expert taiors.

“Through the trip to London, I hope to gain contacts, develop my skills through the mentorship programme, and expand my knowledge of the fashion industry,.”

Andrew added that over the next five years, he hopes to expand into a number of high end boutiques, and spread the word of Irish craft.

“Success from the programme will be to have orders from fashion boutiques, and press in national magazines.

“The Designer Business Start Up Programme is wonderful. There is a great bunch of people involved in it.

“It adds so much to Derry’s creative industry,” he said.

Agne Nazebetauskaite

Agne Nazebetauskaite is a luxury knitwear designer.

Her designs are created by correlating the knitting concepts from the past, present and future.

Agne spent her childhood watching her grandmother knit, wearing her handmade garments and learning the techniques.

The Luxury Kilpos & Poms (Loops and Pom Poms) collection is inspired by the ever-changing moods of people transitioning from one season to another. Only natural, quality merino wool is used in this collection.

Agne said she hopes to learn from this experience, and expand her network of fashion industry contacts, which in turn can help her to further grow her business.

She was named as ‘One to watch in 2017’ by Culture NI, after she launched her ONA by Agne collection at West Coast Cooler Belfast Fashion Week.

“I own the ONA studio in Magherafelt, and currently stock my collections in OM Diva Boutique in Dublin.

“I hope to grow further into the Irish and UK market, and expand my collection, while improving the process through management, and hopefully employing other knitters.

“A good outcome would be publicity with UK bloggers, and magazines,” she said.

Emma Curtis

EmMarie by Monaghan native Emma Curtis is a womanswear brand.

Emma is a fashion and textile designer with a focus on womanswear.

She makes a lot of bespoke pieces and occasion wear, along with ready to wear collections.

Emma designs and makes each piece herself in studio between Derry and Monaghan.

The Monaghan native said that the unique aspect of her designs come through in bespoke pieces, which feature hand painted designs on neophrene fabrics.

“Clean lines and structure is one of my key focus points in my designs,” said Emma.

Speaking about the ‘Best Practice’ trip to London this month, Emma said she hopes to get her “hard work and dedication recognised” by people in the fashion and textile industry.

“This will hopefully help benefit and make the EmMarie brand more successful,” she said.

To date, Emma has recieved significant success, and was a finalist in the Young Designer of the Year competition at Dublin Fashion Festival in 2015, along with having a top 10 finalist wearing EmMarie at Ladie’s Day the Galway Races in the same year.

She was a finalist at the Irish Student Designer of the Year awards at Kerry Fashion Week in 2016, and also a student finalist at the Irish Innovation Awards in 2016.

Also in 2016, Emma was an award winner at the International Achievers Awards in London, where she was named Best Designer.

She was also crowned the Upcoming Fashion Designer of 2017.

The EmMarie brand has been a staple at Irish horse racing events over the course of 2017, including Navan, The Curragyh, Galway Races, Downpatrick and Leopardstown.

Speaking about EmMarie, Emma said: “This is a quality Irish product with the guarantee of quality fabrics, innovation and quality designs.

“I am hoping for the brand to be stocked in a number of stores in the future, with its ready to wear collection.

“I hope that I can build a client list of loyal customers to the brand with the bespoke range also,” she said.

Emma hopes that the trip to London will provide the business with orders and publicity,and to provide herself with a greater knowledge of the brands potential from the feedback from the event.

Emma added: “I feel that the Designer Business Start Up Programme is a great opportunity for anyone who is starting out.

“All the help and advice given to those in volved is fantastic.

“It is wonderful to be able to see your business from someone elses point of view,” she said.

The EmMarie brand is currently stocked in OmDiva in Dublin and at www.emmamariecurtis.com

Hannah Vail

Hannah Vail is a Derry native, who hails from the Culmore Road area of the city.

She is a fashion and textiles graduate, and the owner of han* clothing.

Han* is a unisex streetwear brand, exploring fun, yet minimal design.

Launched in September 2017, the range so far consists of embroidered and printed casualwear, t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

All designs in han* have been developed from original and abstract illustrations.

Han* has had success appearing as a pop up shop on the high street, as well as through the online shop.

Hannah explained that the fact that han* is comfortable, quirky and accessible streetwear for all sexus, makes the brand unique.

Speaking about the upcoming ‘Best Practice’ trip to London, Hannah said she hopes to network and developconnections with people in the industry that could help han* develop and expand.

“At the moment, the brand has a great following locally.

“I would love to see it do as just as well further afield too.

“We are still trading online from our website www.hanclothing.co.uk and we are currently looking for other retail spaces in Derry.

“There are possibly a few bigger things in the pipeline, but nothing has been confirmed yet,” said Hannah.

Speaking about what the han* brand can offer potential buyers or people from the fashion and textile trade at the exhibitior event in London, Hannah said han* has great commercial appeal, and is already a proven business model. Looking to the future of the brand, Hannah said: “In the next five years I hope to have a more established name within streetwear.

“At that point I would like to have popped up at various events and shops in the UK and Europe, as well as expanding on the range and having produced several collaborative projects.”

For Hannah, success from the ‘Best Practice’ trip will be developing working relationshops in London, as well as creating further possibilities for selling the han* brand there.

“Whether it be as a temporary pop-up shop, or being stocked by another shop,” she said.

Hannah added that the Designer Business Start-Up Programme has been a “great learning experience.”

“We’ve had the privilege of attending workshops facilitated by Fashion Enter, which have provided great insight into practical aspects of business.

“This includes mass production, marketing and finance.

“Personally, the pitching session has been my highlight so far.

“This was a great opportunity for me to get up and try to sell my busines idea, and get instant feedback. The first of many I reckon,” she said.

Alan Creswell

Alan Creswell is a designer from the Waterside.

He is a print designer, whose designs are animated with an eclectic mix of animals and elements.

The inspiration for his designs comes from his surroundings.

Forgotten tales form the backbone of his design ethos.

Speaking about his designs, Alan said what makes it unique is merging classic design with a contemporary twist.

“The high level of detail and potential in my designs offers a vast range of possible design outcomes.

“My use of colour, bold elements and the stories behind my work also make it unique,” he said.

Alan hopes that the ‘Best Practice’ event in London will provide him with networking opportunities.

“I hope for an opportunity to showcase my designs in the hope of gaining more work, a possible work placement, and also building relationships with companies in England,” he said.

To date, Alan has received significant recognition for his designs.

This includes the Society of Dyers and Colourists Award for innovative use of colours for his degree work.

He was also shortlisted for several awards in July 2017 while he showcased his work at New Designers, London.

Alan has a busy year ahead with his involvement with the ‘Best Practice’ event in London.

The young designer is also currently working in the costume department forthe final season of the fan favourite Game of Thrones in Belfast.

But this isn’t the only exciting thing Alan has on the horizion.

“I’m also currently in talks with a giftware company to have my designs launched alongside their own range in America,” he said.

Speaking about what his brand has to offer, Alan added: “As a print designer, my print will hopefully offer potential designs that can be used across a vast range of areas.

“These designs would be suited to quirky, high end buyers, rather than commercial

“As a recent graduate, over the next five years, the focus for me is to gather as much experience in all aspects of fashion and textiles.

“This is in order to find my ideal job within the industry.”

Looking to the future, Alan hopes to make the most of the ‘Best Practice’ event in London thi smonth.

“I n terms of success, I hope to leave London with placement opportunities.

“For me, this is essentially leaving with new contacts and potential work.

“My designs can be created and simply sent to England via email.

“This is one of the advantages of being a digital print designer,” he said.

Speaking about his experience participating in the Designer Business Start-Up Programme, Alan added: “This has been a fantastic opportunity.

“It has offered a great insight into the business side of the design industry.”