YOUNG BLOOD: On|Off, the London-based showcase that supports up-and-coming designers and helped kickstart the careers of the likes of Gareth Pugh and Peter Pilotto, launched “Tomorrow’s Talent” today, marking the beginning of London Fashion Week.
The event, which includes a live photo shoot and video installation alongside the designer showcase, aims to support recent design graduates and link them with members of the industry and potential employers.
Lee Lapthorne, the founder and curator of the project, said that he selected students whose skills and expertise is currently lacking in the industry, with some of the participants’ work standing out for its innovative take on digital printing or structure and proportions.
Among the students whose work is showcased as part of “Tomorrow’s Talent” are Swedish-native Amanda Svart whose signatures include sculptural shapes mixed with softer, feminine elements; Henrietta O’ Connor, who works with oversize proportions and prints on tactile fabrics such as PVC and latex, and men’s wear designer Laetitia Berthier.
“We want to promote these designers’ work and introduce them to relevant people in the industry who could give them jobs. Graduates are aware of how tough it is to start your own label straight away so they want to get that experience first by working for other people as pattern cutters or designers,” said Lapthorne.
He added that the looming Brexit is another factor that will affect students’ decision to start their own label or showcase their work in the U.K. “Students are already worried about getting visas after graduation; they are now more likely to learn their craft in design schools here and then take those skills back to their home countries, which should be something that is celebrated, but at the same time we should think about the U.K. fashion industry. At the moment, there’s a focus on imports and exports but we should also be thinking about how people will be able to present their collections here.”
In order to add a new dimension to the event, Lapthorne teamed with Chris Sutton and Jon Emmony, who selected five designers from the showcase and worked with them on a photo shoot and video installation. A live photo shoot will also take place during the event.
The photographers were inspired by the “newness and authenticity” of the students’ works and wanted to create visuals that presented their work in its purest form, which is why they also decided to cast models for the shoots via Instagram.
“Myself and Chris were inspired by the authenticity of the people we found. I loved the diversity in the work, the different emotions and feelings. There’s a braveness in the work that is often lost in the commercial world. For us, the shoot was to chart a unique shot for each designer — to look at their world,” said Emmony.
Sutton added that Lapthorne’s diverse selection of designers and the creative freedom he granted them was what attracted them to the project. “Lee’s vision of the scope of potential that is out there is what hooked me in.”
On|Off will also host a series of presentations and catwalk shows in its Soho venue throughout London Fashion Week; knitwear designer John Smedley and newcomer Clio Peppiatt — whose work explores contemporary femininity and has caught the attention of Lena Dunham — will be presenting their spring collections through the platform.
Lapthorne said that while it is difficult to continue hosting On|Off every season due to restricted financial support, he sees the showcase as an essential alternative to the British Fashion Council platform. “Not every designer can fit into the BFC tent and not everybody can fit into that mold, so On|Off presents an additional platform that should be celebrated.”