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ONES TO WATCH: GEORGIA HARDINGE

We get to know Georgia Hardinge, the designer with British Council Approval…

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There is no doubt that London is a major player in the worlds of high-end and high street fashion, but what about the space in between? UK shoppers looking for a middle ground between the über-creative and the monotony of the commercial suddenly find themselves in a sartorial limbo…

That’s where the British Fashion Council’s recently announced BFC Contemporary initiative comes in: a new scheme that has been created in response to this increasing demand for contemporary fashion. BFC Contemporary aims to strengthen the UK’s contemporary ready-to-wear and accessory markets by providing up-and-coming fashion designers a money-can’t-buy mentoring programme.

Each year, the BFC plans to hand-pick some of the UK’s most promising contemporary designers and launch their collections to 18 million shoppers through a dedicated retail space on eBay, sponsor of BFC Contemporary. 2014’s BFC Contemporary recipients are Georgia Hardinge, Alexis Barrell, Paper London, Prism and Zoë Jordan, and we’ve got an exclusive interview with Georgia Hardinge – already famous for her structural designs and modern aesthetic – to discuss what this recognition means to her.

Your designs focus heavily on architecture. Why did you choose to explore the more sculptural element of fashion?

I have loved architecture and sculpture all my life, so it feels like something that comes naturally to me. I’m constantly inspired by buildings and sculptural techniques; especially living in London with such a great mix of old and modern buildings around me.

Can you talk us through your plans for the BFC Contemporary pieces?

I’ve just started designing for this which is very exciting. The inspiration comes from architectural shadows on buildings. I’m going to be using my pleating techniques to create sort of 3D sculptural silhouettes in free-flowing fabrics. The collection will be out in September alongside some of my signature pieces.

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How will receiving the BFC Contemporary initiative help you and your brand?

I’m very proud to be part of this new initiative, a first for the BFC. Not only do theBFC give us business support and funding, but the mentoring programme will be really helpful to grow my business in today’s competitive market. So, to be honest, this support is invaluable.

On a wider scale, how do you think it will impact the fashion industry?

I think it will give many young designers the opportunity to grow and create successful businesses. Working with eBay will also bring my designs and the other brands’ to a whole new audience. It’s got over 18 million shoppers, so it’s an amazing site not only to be working with, but also to be supported by.

What does being a ‘contemporary’ designer mean to you?

Contemporary means current, original and modern. I feel as a contemporary designer you need to push the boundaries of design but still be relevant for today’s market and still be commercially viable.

Why do you think there is this (relatively unexplored) gap between high-end and high street fashion collections?

I actually think that this is a market that is growing rapidly to try and bridge the gap. With the success of limited edition designer collections at places like H&M and Topshop, as well as the growing trend for sports brands to use famous collaborators and designers, I think high-end fashion is becoming more accessible than ever.

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Is it important to you to be based in the UK?

Yes it is because I was born here and I live here. So I have a great support systemand also an inspirational studio team here too.

What do you think the British fashion scene has to offer that other countries’ don’t?

I think there is a lot of support for young brands that doesn’t seem to happen so much in other countries. I do think London thrives of young and exciting talent. There is also an amazing community of up-and-coming designers who flock to the UK for our fashion universities.

Do you think that people are moving away from potentially unethical ‘fast fashion’ choices and considering buying into investment pieces? Why?

I think people are a lot more conscious now and the media has made everyone more aware of the implications of fast fashion. Cost per wear is a phrase I’m hearing a lot now which gives added value to investment pieces. I am conscious of pricing when designing as I want a wide audience to be able to buy into the brand but I ensure I work with ethical suppliers and people I trust.

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The BFC Contemporary collections go on sale in September and will include clothing, shoes and accessories. As part of the launch season, each designer will also create a limited edition item which will be sold during London Fashion Week.

Words: Samantha Southern

ONES TO WATCH: GEORGIA HARDINGE

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