This post is sponsored by MasterCard UK.
Last weekend MasterCard invited me along to Southbank Centre in London for Fashion Undressed, a celebration of real fashion for real people, and sponsored by MasterCard. The event was all about bringing down the somewhat exclusive walls of the fashion industry; from the People's Catwalk, where anyone was able to walk and show off their outfit, to workshops on fashion illustrations, free make up sessions and retrospective fashion shows from world renowned designers, there was so much to get involved with. And speaking of illustrations, I just want to give a little shout out to the stunning illustrations by Anoosha Tadghighi over on MasterCard’s Instagram, which I have fallen in love with!
Essentially, Fashion Undressed with MasterCard was an amazing event that made fashion feel more accessible than ever, which is why I am so excited to have been a part of it all! It provided people with an opportunity to not just be a spectator of fashion, but to be involved in so many different ways. For instance, during the week running up to the main event, people were trained up in styling and photography, to then have the opportunity to run a photo booth throughout the weekend! As Wayne Hemingway put it (and far better than I ever could):
"Events like this, and what Southbank Centre is so brilliant at, is opening things up and demystifying things. You can talk to models, and designers, and be on a catwalk. The young kids here would never normally get to see fashion in this way, it’s what Southbank does - breaks down barriers and brings together different creative industries."
Not only was I kindly invited to this event, but I had the opportunity to interview three incredible people with huge knowledge and experience of the fashion industry; Wayne Hemingway, Ryan Lo, and Grace Woodward. I really hope you guys enjoy this post, it was an incredible weekend and I loved getting the chance to interview three genuinely inspirational people and to be involved in what is the most inclusive fashion event I have ever attended. With MasterCard’s Priceless London front row upgrades, cardholders were able to sit front row for Ryan Lo’s show, which I would never ever have been able to secure at Fashion Week, so it was just incredible!!
So keep on reading for my interviews and lots of snaps, and keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for my weekly vlog! In the meantime, head over to MasterCard’s Instagram to see what else we got up to, and those gorgeousssss illustrations!
First up, we have Ryan Lo. A Hong Kong born, London based designer who has now done eight seasons at London Fashion Week, and we were all lucky enough to see a retrospective of all those eight seasons; all of which have embodied his whimsical, hyper-feminine aesthetic. From his beginnings and DIY approach with a self-taught background, to his most recent Chinatown inspired collection, it was so interesting to see the developments in his collection, while always staying so true to a very specific aesthetic. With all the pressure of following trends, and conforming to whatever is the latest must have look, Lo has remained very headstrong with his collections, which he puts down to "just being myself", and taking inspiration for different collections from his own mood at the time, while remaining spontaneous with his creativity.
With there now being so many tutorials available online, and the ever growing opportunities to be self taught, Lo explained just how important it is to have en eye for the craft and know that the tutorials you watch are actually worthwhile; "Some are really good, and some are really bad, so it's important to be selective. But some are really honing a craft and are specialists in their field".
Seeing a retrospective of his work really demonstrated his status as a specialist within his own field, but also the extent to which he has managed to stay true to himself - something I find very admirable and inspirational.
Next up, we have Wayne Hemingway. Hemingway founded Red or Dead with his wife Gerardine in the 1980s, growing it into a global brand for affordable designer pieces, before selling it in 1998. Now he heads up Hemingway Design, a multi-disciplinary design team that focuses solely on sustainable projects that have positive social effects. With such an incredible career, and having achieved so much at such a young age (Wayne and Gerardine were both in their 30s when they sold Red or Dead, which was then a multi-million pound company), I was so excited to sit down with him. Plus he's northern, so it was just a win all round!
Do you think your Northern roots have influenced you career?
It gives you a different attitude to life - a lot of Northerners, or just migrants in general, have a work ethic some Londoners don’t have. You just make a go of it, and get stuck in. If you have come out of a comfort zone you might as well make the most of it.
What inspired your transition from fashion with Red or Dead into other design areas, specifically architecture?
When we started Red or Dead, myself and my wife, we had no training in fashion. My wife had left school at 15, and had no training in fashion but made clothes herself, and I had come from a family who made clothes - but we had no idea how to create a fashion company. Gerardine opened a store in a market, got a big order from a retailer, and it grew from there. We never planned to be fashion designers, but the company became very big, with a £25 million turnover, but done with hardly any skills, we just got stuck in and taught ourselves. We never borrowed from a bank, we never even had a business plan! When we sold it, it was easy, because I wasn’t ever in love with the fashion industry. One of the reasons we left fashion in our 30s, was because the industry felt closed and impenetrable. We had always wanted Red or Dead to be available to as many people as possible. With working class backgrounds, with no fashion magazines in our house, the idea of being a designer was never there.
Hemingway Design covers a wide arena of creative industries, how do you decide which projects to work on?
It’s really easy- we only do projects that have a social good. We were so lucky to be in a position when we sold Red or Dead where we never had to work again, but had a strong social consciousness - which is why we only take on projects that contribute to a social good. Housing has to be affordable housing, if we are working on student accommodation mustn’t rip the students off, furniture must be made in the UK with UK materials. It must be sustainable.
How do you think design can influence and improve lives and communities? With an example such as the Festival of Britain?
Festival of Britain was amazing - we had just come out of the war, people had lived for a long time on rationing, colour was stripped from everything. And then Southbank was built - and the colour it injected, with the designers who went on to be world stars, it was the coming together of something exciting. My father and mother in law came to visit it, people came from all around the country, and it was the kind of design and creativity people hadn’t seen before.
Day 2 brought along more sunshine and an interview with stylist, presenter, and now shop owner Grace Woodward. I had soooo many questions I wanted to ask Grace I could have gladly taken up her entire day, from working on X Factor, presenting on Britain's Next Top Model and now owning her own shop, Graceland, there were so many things I wanted to know more about.
What inspired you to launch Graceland? Did you see a gap in the market that your expertise could fill?
It’s not that professional! It came from a weird series of events in my personal life - I was pregnant, we had been renting in London and decided to move to Hertfordshire. Eight weeks after I had my baby, my Mum died - my whole world turned upside down, I just needed to do something. I got some money from my Mum’s estate, and wanted to do something to keep her spirit alive. With a new baby I couldn’t trapes around after celebrities anymore! I really believe in putting your money where your mouth is in terms of saving the high street - it’s within so many people’s reach to do something, and I feel a responsibility to do something - although it’s hard!
Going forward, what do you think you will focus on most: Styling, presenting or Graceland?
In the media you are only as good as your last project. It’s not the most secure of careers, so it’s always good to have a business to back it up. At the moment I have a radio show that I love, we talk about the same message I have in the shop, which is that there are so many aspects around style, personal style, and expression, and usually this is a rich tapestry that involves your psychology, history, and my radio show talks about that. I love doing that.
Do you think that the fast paced trends and retail industry stifles people’s personal style?
Micro trends are my bête noire - it befuddles people into going ‘I must have this!’ - we all have the desire button, I am so susceptible to it too, and I had to get out of it. I was on TV next to a supermodel, so every penny I was earning was going into the next outfit I thought, thinking it would always make me look better. Because I went through it so intensely, I feel like I don’t want it to happen to other people. I always try to encourage people, even if their budget is high street, to spend a little bit more. Think about where it’s been made, and who by, because when you don’t want it anymore it ends up in landfill. I am so passionate about slowing this process down and getting it back to the point where we save up for things.
Do you think because your career in styling gives you and eye for the long lasting pieces, I wonder if most people will be able to tell what they will still want to be wearing in a year, so it’s hard to know what to invest in?
The point of micro trends is that they befuddle who you are. Fashion is destabilising to make people buy, they consume more and more because they feel lost. I can say this because I have been there. I wish I could arm people with tools, I wish I could do a psychological fashion bootcamp, so people leave knowing five structures to their style DNA, so they can walk into Topshop and browse around, going ‘oh that’s me, and that’s me’, because it suits them through and references who they are.
P.S, keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow's weekly vlog to see more of what we got up to!