Yesterday I had the pleasure to attend a series of talks at the Leeds International Festival 2017 from some of my favourite working professionals in the fashion industry.
Leeds International Festival 2017
The event was arranged @FashionInLeeds and @LeedsIntFest and has had small catwalks, talks and presentations from a wide variety of fashion and technology based talent which started on the 22nd of April and runs through to the 30th.
The three speakers I had the privilege of listening to were; Lulu Kennedy MBE who is the founder of Fashion East and MAN, bold print designer and collaboration queen Katie Eary and “Remade In England” sustainability designer Christopher Raeburn.
The first of the three speakers I attended was Christopher Ræburn who is best known for recycling military materials such as life rafts, maps and parachutes. He talked us through some of his fashion films and his inspirations behind his collections and materials. The ‘Meridian‘ video from his Spring/Summer 2015 collection was a visual masterpiece using CGI to recreate his garments and showing an artistic story of the materials used in a somewhat Matrix style of dressing.
(Side story… The last time I met Christopher Ræburn, we were locked out of an Agi & Sam after party (with Agi) and had to tell the doorwoman that the person who was left outside with us was actually the person hosting the party.)
Katie Eary spoke heavily about her career building around collaborations and the importance of building an identity and the opportunities others can give you to build a brand. Katie has collaborated with some incredibly diverse brands including; Kanye West, KFC and IKEA. She spoke a lot about her groundbreaking collaboration with IKEA as the first fashion designer to work with this homeware giant and about the long process of designing home furnishings, plates and bedding.
I have been such a fan of Katie Eary’s work. She was one of the first designers I had the pleasure of seeing during my first ever season of London Collections: Men (now known as London Fashion Week Men’s – christ I still hate this re-branding) and I still remember her bright pink flamingo collection to this day.
Lulu Kennedy MBE is a woman I have wanted to meet for quite a long time but never had the chance to. Fashion East and MAN are two incredibly influential and important companies to grace the British fashion scene. I’ve been lucky enough to attend many of the Fashion East and MAN collections and these showcases have been a great source of inspiration to me as I have inspired a lot of my work around some of these designers who have been spotlighted through these companies. Charles Jeffrey, Katie Eary, Bobby Abley and Gareth Pugh are all designers who I have used as inspiration for various photo shoots and visual projects.
Are events like Leeds International Festival 2017 important to Leeds?
With these talks being relatively small in numbers (and the fact they were hosted inside a shipping container in the middle of Briggate high street) meant that as a group we had the opportunity to talk to each of the guests and have quite an intimate Q&A.
Though this was a huge bonus for me, it was a shame to see such influential speakers be in the presence of such a small crowd. Events and talks like these in Leeds are definitely infrequent but are highly valued.
Leeds College of Art is an incredibly established art school and with many other designers and artists coming from the Northern territories of England I believe it should have more of a direct address in these areas as a lot of focus (naturally) is on London and London art school graduated designers.
I always enjoy listening to designers, artists and industry professionals talking about their careers and experiences and I definitely feel that these events would not go amiss in Leeds.
Please, please, PLEASE can we get more incredible speakers like these heading to Leeds in the near future, not just for my sake but for the hundreds of fashion students and industry workers Leeds has to offer!