Young designers from Norwich are the future of fashion

Norwich Fashion Week will give many young aspiring fashion designers a break into the world of haute couture. EMMA HARROWING talks to some of the students and young people showcasing at the shows or events throughout the week.

Discovering fresh talent and cutting edge fashion design is one of the highlights of a fashion week and Norwich Fashion Week is no exception. The fashion week board works closely with City College Norwich to help promote the work of their students and young inspiring fashion designers working and studying in Norwich.

Bridging the gap between education and a career in the fashion industry, whether it is in design, photography, modelling or retail, Norwich fashionistas can look forward to seeing creativity at its best when Norwich Fashion Week begins later this week.

The launch fashion show on Thursday will see the work by City College Norwich fashion and textile graduates Chloe Kent and Leah Leveridge (featured in yesterday's Life Matters pages) showcased on the catwalk along with outfits created by the Retail Skills Academy's shop Ego. Street-style photographs depicting the style of members of the public in Norwich will be exhibited at the reception, and Chloe and Leah's work will be on display at the Open Store event at Ethika next Tuesday until the end of fashion week.

Today sees the unveiling of fashion designs by six Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA) fashion degree students in a window display at John Lewis.

The work was part of the student's first year work which was showcased at their end of year fashion show earlier this year.

Three of the outfits that will be on display were created by deconstructing and reconstructing second-hand clothing from charity Cancer Research UK. The brief was to change people's perceptions about second-hand clothing.

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'Through the partnership with Cancer Research UK, students were briefed to be experimental and challenge creativity within their work,' says Sue Chowles, course leader of the BA Hons Fashion course at NUCA. 'Using key words such as metamorphosis, inside out, upside down and back to front, students were encouraged to take risks, develop technique and produce conceptual and directional fashion.'

The other three outfits will add a pop of colour to the window display as trendsetting colour block and jewel colours in orange, rust and green are examples from the fashion students' colour collection.

All the works on display were designed and made by the students in the first year of their three year degree.

Says Sue: 'It is fantastic for the students and a very important opportunity for NUCA to be able to showcase and exhibit the work of these emerging talents during Norwich Fashion Week within a prestigious high street store such as John Lewis.

'The level of innovative and creative work completed during the first year of the fashion degree has exceeded the standard I would expect at this stage. The students have produced some exceptional outcomes and have demonstrated great potential. I look forward to nurturing and inspiring them to become driven, talented designers and successful NUCA graduates.'

The collaboration with John Lewis highlights the importance of encouraging new talent in Norwich from those already established in the fashion industry.

Lesley George, operations manager selling for fashion at John Lewis, believes that supporting new talent gives their customers the chance to catch a glimpse of future fashion from up and coming local designers:

'The creativity in the students' designs is breathtaking and we are particularly impressed with the maturity of their designs at such an early stage in their career. We wanted to use our shop window to publicly showcase their amazing work and give our customers a chance to share in the excitement of supporting talented local fashion design students.

'Bringing some of the theatre of the NUCA catwalk into our shop is great fun and we think our customers will appreciate the chance to see something a little different to our usual 'ready-to-wear' clothing. As the students are potential high street retail designers of the future, the windows may offer a tantalising starting point.'

To give you a taste of what will be on display at John Lewis throughout Norwich Fashion Week, Life Matters had a sneak peak at some of the designs.

Alicja Kurek

Alicja's rust hooded dress was one of the showstoppers at the NUCA fashion show in May. Inspired by the sportswear trend, the dress features exposed zips, a hood and a racer back combined with luxury silk fabric to give the dress a glamorous evening feel.

'The idea for the dress came as a result of design development processes,' says 27-year-old Alicja. 'Each design is the end product of thorough and intensive research so I never know what my next design will be. However, each piece is an expression of my personality, my life and experiences. For me, fashion is not just about clothes, it is a reflection of what surrounds us, current affairs and how we perceive the world and the people we meet.'

Alicja is originally from Gdansk in Poland. She came to London eight years ago and moved to Norfolk five years ago to work for Connexions Norfolk as an Apprentice Ambassador. Like the other students, Alicja is currently beginning the second year of her fashion degree. Her inspirations include fashion designers such as Haider Ackermann, Azzedine Alaia and Helmut Lang.

Says Alicja: 'It is vitally important for artists to get as much exposure as possible so I'm grateful to John Lewis for supporting the NUCA fashion design students.'

Siobhan-Marie O'Keeffe

Siobhan's dress, a burgundy corset with a net skirt, was part of the upcycling collection presented at the fashion show in May.

'This outfit was the third piece I had designed as part of the collection,' says 20-year-old Siobhan. 'I had used black leather for my first two designs and so to keep this idea flowing throughout my collection I used a long burgundy leather coat I found amongst the charity clothes, cut the seams and started to mould the material around the mannequin to form the corset. I ripped out the linings from different garments for the skirt and netting. I wanted to create an outfit just by working with the fabrics rather than using a pattern.' Siobhan's design is influenced by Japanese fashion, in particular Yohji Yamamoto, whose experimental designs encouraged the young designer to take a more unorthodox approach to pattern cutting and design.

Her design has already been displayed in the window at Cancer Research UK on London Street and the thought of her design featuring in the window at John Lewis is quite an achievement for the passionate young designer.

'When I heard that my design will be in John Lewis' window I was straight on the phone to my mum. Getting my work recognised by a high street retailer makes me feel like I'm closer to reaching my goal as a fashion designer.

'I'm already thinking about my next designs. The next project at NUCA is a tailoring project and all summer my mind has been buzzing with ideas. I really like the construction of garments and so I'm thinking of exposing the workings of an outfit by using see-through materials that reveal the inside seams. How this design will evolve is yet to be seen as fashion design has a habit of constantly changing from the original idea!'

Jade Searby

Jade's inspirational design takes two white men's shirts and upcycles them into a shirt dress for women. The 20-year-old from Lowestoft was inspired by the visual research she had done on birds, taking influences from the elegant texture of the swan to create the flattering silhouette of her dress. Says Jade: 'Designer- wise I am influenced by the work of Martin Margiela and Rei Kawakubo from Comme Des Garcons, and in the design industry I love Louise Gray, Meadham Kirchhoff, J W Anderson, Viktor and Rolf, and so many others!'

Jade's eclectic influences has given her a more abstract design style. Says Jade: 'Next term we are looking at tailoring and I am hoping to tie in this season's fetish trend with a bit of 50s styling with an unusual mix of fabrics! It's a great privilege to have my work displayed in the window at John Lewis during Norwich Fashion Week.'