|From L to R: Carlotta, James, Andrea, Florian and Elson|
What’s better than going for afternoon tea on a lazy Saturday? Meeting fashion designers over afternoon tea at Soho House, that’s what!
The other weekend I was invited by the lovely ladies at Katch PR to come and meet four very talented designers, who’ve been working with Fashion Mode.
Fashion Mode is run by the delightful Andrea Abraham, who is one of the nicest and most down-to-earth people I’ve met in the fashion world. She created the company with a vision ‘to help young designers and give them the support they need,’ Andrea told me.
“There’s not enough support in the fashion industry to help designers to create for themselves and a lot of them are compromised if they start designing for bigger companies.”
With a background as a creative director, and stylist extraordinaire, Andrea knows the fashion world inside out. It was her eagle eye for creative talent that led her to discover her designer fledglings: Carlotta Actis Barone, James Hillman, Florian Jayet and Elson de Sousa.
Meeting each designer, we got to learn about their backgrounds, inspirations and vibrant personalities and it was so clear why Andrea had picked each of these ingénues.
Carlotta Actis Barone
Carlotta is a feisty Italian with a real eye for sculpture and beautiful pieces, which encase a woman’s body while still telling a powerful story.
“I develop a collection by starting with an idea,” she started to explain. “So with my last collection, I started with the idea of racism and was inspired by skin colours and shades, which formed the base of my clothes.”
This is evident when you see the clothes – beautiful dresses such as the ‘knot dress’, which is akin to “women in the fields, tying their skirts up, he colours are brown and white, to show that each of us has on the in and outside”.
Other items that caught my eye, was the beautiful jacket Carlotta had produced, which looked almost Vivienne Westwood in its design, but the story was deeper than that.
“I once heard about this guy who was going to a party and he was very poor. He had a jacket and so to jazz it up; he put everything on there that he owned. It looked amazing. So I decided to recreate that with this item, which all the stuff on here that means something to me.”
Look at that jacket – you want it don’t you?
You can’t not be charmed by James Hillman – his quick wit and charismatic persona is enough to draw anyone in. This is reflected in his very clever design, which is subtle and stylish enough, that any gentleman would be proud enough to be seen in.
James told us that he likes to “focus on detail and really strip things down to the bare minimum”. Which you can see in his designs, but you also have to notice that he’s really trying to challenge conventional men’s design.
“I want people to feel luxurious in my clothing and this comes down to weight and texture. I like to use unusual materials, really experiment with textures by using things such as rip stop, which is a parachute material. I’ve even tried using fish skin, which is really difficult to work with – not sure I’ll be doing that.”
That’s the thing with James, he is willing to experiment, to really try and move to a new place with his designs. His S/S 11 collection features a lot of gorgeous organza shorts and trousers, which I know a lot of females would also love to wear. The collars of his shirts feature slashes, where the collar almost detaches from the shirt, but not quite. These details make the clothes infinitely more interesting and it’s this which will keep the consumer coming back for more. As James so eloquently put it: “Fashion is entertainment and you’re only as good as your last collection. I want people to enjoy my clothing and to enjoy experimenting as I do.”
Florian Jayet is a gentleman, through and through. Quiet and unassuming, his work speaks volumes and left me star struck, by their beauty.
“I like to design for powerful women,” Florian told us. “I liked the structured look for 80s, and I also liked the ideas of how insects have a lot of layers. I wanted to create shapes like insect shells, to almost protect the body.”
|Florian showing off one of his creations at the blogger event|
He managed to do this in a beautifully structured way, with wasp like tops leading to flowing skirts, which create an incredible silhouette. Florian definitely has a heightened sense of business acumen, that Fashion Mode has probably helped him to hone, as he explains: “Fashion is art, but it is also a business, you have to be able to see these beautiful pieces, they have to be wearable.”
The talented Mr Jayet was sourced from working at Alexander McQueen as an intern and states the late Lee McQueen as one of his inspirations. I can definitely see that in his ‘bold, fitted and highly structured shapes’.
Elson de Sousa
The first thing you should know about Elson is that he made his first pair of trousers from baking paper. Born in
Angola and moving to as a child, he has grown up around colourful fabrics, where everyone made their own clothes. It came as a second nature for him to do it himself. Portugal
|One of Elson’s creations|
“It really influenced me in
Africa,” commented Elson, “that everyone was making their own clothes. There was a lot of tailoring going on and I had all of my clothes made.”
But he also took inspiration from another source: “I went to a carnival and the people there would wear classic trousers with a twist, with a flash of colour and that’s something I really wanted to incorporate into my own designs.”
Elson’s take on tailoring really is something else and it is something he’s clearly passionate about. There’s an infinite amount of detailing in an Elson de Sousa piece, ranging from the colourful knee pads on suit trousers, to the meticulous lining design adorning the inside of a jacket. The man in your life would definitely appreciate a piece from this collection, because like the designer himself, they’re elegant, chic and effortlessly cool.
I was very impressed with my time spent with the Fashion Mode crew – they were honestly like a loving family and that’s so rare in fashion. Andrea deliberately chooses designers who are very different from one another, so they won’t have to compete. It’s this advantage that lets the designers be able to create in a friendly, uncompetitive and above all – nurturing environment.
I think the fashion industry could learn a lot from Andrea Abraham. I know I certainly have.