London’s Talent Mapped Out
Twice a year, London’s designers emerge into the lights of the catwalk to take a bow and be congratulated for their latest collection. It’s their brief moment of glory. And then they disappear again, back to their studios where they will start on their next collections, pretty much straight away.
Designers’ studios say a lot about their work. They are often cramped with barely room for a pattern cutting table. They sometimes double as the designer’s home. And before the days of London’s increasing gentrification, you would often feel as though you were taking your life into your hands as you made your way to the edgier corners of the city in search of spaces that were cheap enough to allow creativity to thrive.
Ashish Gupta / Ashish. Photographed by Kevin Davies, 16 March 2016 (page 199)
These days, cheap rent is hard to find, and many of the designers who started out on their kitchen tables have moved up in the world too. This evening they will be getting together to celebrate the launch of a new book London Uprising: 50 Fashion Designers, One City, edited by Tania Fares and Sarah Mower in support of the BFC Fashion Trust. It maps out the locations and opens up the doors to the studios, in order to give an insight into the working processes and spaces of some of the capital’s designers. From Molly Goddard’s cramped space filled with a work table and smocks in an old school basement room under Westway in west London to Jonathan Anderson’s organised and airy space in Dalston, east London. Seeing inside their studios gives a window into how they work as well as the development and scale of their business.
Mary Katrantzou. Autumn/Winter 2012. Image credit: Morgan O’Donavon (page 301, lower)
There are 50 designers profiled, including Paul Smith’s well documented treasure-trove office filled with books, toys, photographs, and his personal collections that feed directly into his work at his Covent Garden HQ to Victoria Beckham’s minimal space in Battersea, all sleek furniture and empty shiny surfaces.
The two designers whose studios I visited for London Uprising are Margaret Howell who works with her team from the back of her west London shop on Wigmore Street. It is a functional, no frills space with adjustable trestle tables. Howell’s desk is in a corner of the open space reminding us of the utilitarian approach she takes to her work – and the close proximity she likes to keep to the men and women who buy her clothes.
Paul Smith. Treasure Chest: the many collections of Paul Smith, housed in the designer’s Covent Garden office. Image credit: Kevin Davies (page 477)
Markus Lupfer meanwhile is a designer whose studio I visited when he started out on his own at his east London flat, just after graduating from University of Westminster. These days, he has a very cool three-storey warehouse building in Hoxton from which he produces his womenswear collections, shoes and bags. A thriving business proving that these days, London’s designers know how to mix art and commerce and have become such an important part of the cultural geography – and economy – of the city.
London Uprising: 50 Fashion Designers, One City published by Phaidon is available at £69.95 from uk.phaidon.com.
Text by Tamsin Blanchard