An impeccably dressed and fabulous crowd descended on the Botanical Gardens for an elegant evening of champagne, cupcakes and cutting-edge design.
Returning for the 5th time, this year’s Midlands’ Fashion Designer Awards was a dazzling success, with 350 people attending to support 26 emerging fashion designer present their collections in a dynamic runway show. Competition was steep, with contestants originating from across the Midlands, the UK, and even further afield. Divided into three categories – Independent Designer of the Year, Emerging Designer of the Year and Young Designer of the Year – the Awards showcased the innovative work of exciting new design talent.
A panel of five expert judges, including Lizzie Gardner, a Birmingham based fashion journalist and stylist, and Debra Hepburn, a founding member of Young British Designers, had the tricky task of awarding the sought-after prize for each category: the presentation of their collections in a retail unit in a high footfall area of Birmingham City Centre, courtesy of Retail Birmingham, as well as the chance to showcase their work at the Midlands Business Awards.
With collections ranging from ready-to-wear and couture to lingerie and bridal wear the decision of who to crown the winners was indeed a tricky one. Highlights of the fashion-filled evening included the show’s opening collection by young designer Hiu Wing, whose nod to traditional oriental design was found in elegantly draped kimono-esque tops and dresses in a delicate palette peach, blue and gold, with a luxurious metallic sheen. Furthermore, rising bridal wear designer Katie Peake combined seductive corsetry and demure lace in a collection that was both traditionally bridal and stylishly bohemian.
Katie’s fellow classmate from Staffordshire University, Alisa Kate Brown, presented a collection which fused mannish outerwear with elements of the boudoir, such as suspender detailing and blush tones, in a manner which was both innovative and elegant.
Another notable emerging designer was Jade Hope (pictured above), whose lingerie collection ‘Vintage Tease’ combined fetish straps, graphic cut outs and silky panels made for boudoir-inspired looks with a modern, directional edge. After the show, Jade explained that she was inspired by vintage lingerie from the 1920s and 30s, and had wanted to explore how this could be combined with bold strapping to give it a more structured appearance. In the future, Jade plans to launch a website in the New Year to showcase her designs, which will be reformulated into a more wearable collection.
The winning collections, soon to go on display in Birmingham City Centre, were notable for their diversity. Winner of the Young Designer of the Year Award, Alice Moore, was ‘really, really happy and proud’ that her collection had won the accolade. Inspired by the prospective effects of climate change, Alice designed her collection to depict changing weather patterns, and the potential necessity of dresses for all weather conditions in a single outfit. Blurred aquatic digital prints were combined in layers of silk, chiffon and latex, with futuristic shoulder pieces and sculptural puffed sleeves adding a dramatic element to the collection, which was strongly reminiscent of both Christopher Kane and Christian Lacroix. Winner of the Emerging Fashion Designer award, Leicester based Sarika Pancholi used tribal-inspired tassels, beading and weaving embellishment to create a ground breaking knitwear collection. Oversized knitted cardigans in patchwork knits were deconstructed, with streaming tassels escaping from them like unravelling threads. Flashes of neon wool amongst the tribal motifs give a slightly psychedelic feel to the collection; this was innovative knitwear with an edge.
Finally, Independent Designer of the Year Tamara Joseph showcased a collection which heavily focused on blown up silk prints on bias-cut, billowing dresses. Inspired by patterns such as collages, graffiti, pollen, or even stains, the ‘Catalyst’ collection featured a bold, dramatic colour palette which had been dyed and printed by hand.
This year’s Midlands’ Fashion Designer Awards showed us that there is no shortage of dynamic and innovative design talent emerging from the region. However international the outlook of the event may be, however, the breadth and variety of the collections was a perfect illustration of all the compelling diversity that Birmingham has to offer.
Words: Amy Wakeham