A couple of weeks ago I received an intriguing invitation to meet the finalists of this year's Fashion Fringe competition at a reception in Horseferry House, worldwide home of Burberry. It was all a little odd because I didn't see the event listed in the usual places and I didn't hear any chatter on Twitter. Turns out they didn't invite that many people so when I arrived yesterday evening, escorted from the lift by my personal security guard, I found only four or five familiar faces in the crowd of around forty (I'm not counting Colin McDowell and Hilary Alexander among my personal "friends" here...). Still don't know quite why I made the hallowed list of invitees but who's going to say no to a champagne reception with one dashing Mr Christopher Bailey? Swoon much.
The three finalists, chosen from ten, were Finnish Teija Eilola, Chinese Haizhen Wang and London-born Vita Gottlieb. I don't know that much about the designers other than what has been provided by Fashion Fringe but these three will get to show full collections as part of a runway competition during Fashion Week in September, after which one will be chosen to receive the prize of financial support, mentoring, a studio space at Somerset House and a catwalk show the following fashion week. Teija doesn't seem to have a website up and running yet but I borrowed a few images from Haizhen and Vita's websites below. While Vita's work isn't typically 'me', I can tell the judges will be impressed by her textile design (she has been producing interiors since graduating with her MA in Fine Art) and the complexity of her construction. Haizhen's designs are definitely much more my own style - if I were a girl I'd love wear those dark and draped dresses. Maybe he'll let me borrow one of the hats?
I can't wait to see the finale in September and I really hope they are able to pull something as beautiful and crazy out of the bag as last year's winners, Fyodor Golan. I'm still dying over that green glitter look Jen snapped last season! Some people may sneer at these kinds of competitions but they really can unearth up-and-coming stars. With the rammed timetable of fashion week there just isn't time to go to every young designer's off-schedule show and so initiatives like this are more important than ever to shine a spotlight where it's needed.
This was also an amazing opportunity to see inside the offices of one of the world's biggest fashion brands. Burberry HQ spans several floors built around a centrial atrium, everything glistening in sleek metal and glass. Runway shows and videos of the craft behind each Burberry piece are projected onto giant LED screens. You can tell this is big business from the security guards in their sharp suits right down to Christopher's incessant checking of his mobile phone. When you're working at this level I'm sure design isn't always the first thing on his mind so it's impressive he's managed to maintain such a distinctive style throughout.
Walking back to the tube I couldn't resist another shot of parliament, finally bathed in the glory of summer. If only I could believe this weather will last...
Well, back to the grindstone that is my daily life. Probably won't have time to attend any other events until it's fashion week again...