It has been a long process for Teija Eilola, Haizhen Wang, and Vita Gottlied this year's finalists of Fashion Fringe since May when they were chosen by Burberry's Christopher Bailey, this year's Fashion Fringe chairman, as the final three.
They've done an internship at Burberry, they've undertaken a business mentoring programme, they've designed a collection, shot a lookbook, and tonight is the final showdown where they will showcase their designs. The back-to-back catwalk show will take place in front of a packed audience at the main tent as the closing show at this season's London Fashion Week, and one designer will join the likes of Fyodor Golan and Corrie Nielsen as a Fashion Fringe winner, so no pressure then!
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet the finalist in their studios at the London College of Fashion, I got a sneak peek at their amazing collections, and chatted to them about their inspirations.
Teija: Teija, a graduate from the Royal College of Art, is originally from Finland and she has worked for both high-end designers as well as high street brands such as Ted Baker, but after seeing her incredibly intricate designs I really am pleased that she decided to branch out on her own.
Teija took me around her studio, introduced me to her spring/summer 2013 collection, shared her inspirations and her love of working with leather, which features as embellishments and accessories throughout her collection.
What was the inspiration behind your SS13 collection?
I was inspired by the vision of a Finnish girl going to a party and then walking through the woods in the snow. Which translates in my collection as a lot of protective outerwear over delicate pieces. I wanted to achieve a versatile collection, classic designs that have a playfulness about them that they can be dressed up or down.
Your collection features varying fabrics and textures, why was that important?
I like to mix fabrics, whether that is using a weatherproof fabric for the fishermans cape, or mixing sturdy fabrics with organza, I like to create designs that have a lot of volume but still have a structured shape.
I have also worked with leather, which was a learning process and a bit trail and error, from choosing which leathers to use, to the size of the leather embellishments, and hand dying the leather for the belts.
How have you found your Fashion Fringe experience, and working with Christopher Bailey?
The two-weeks at Burberry was incredible, Christopher Bailey and his team really made me see the brand as a whole, and I learnt a lot. The whole experience of Fashion Fringe has been amazing and I am excited and nervous for the catwalk show.
Which three designer labels inspire you?
Isabel Marant, Stella McCartney, and Celine.
Chinese-born Haizhen counts Daphne Guinness and Tilda Swinton among his fashion muses and learnt his craft at the London College of Fashion and Central St Martins, and his designs are sure to make a statement when they hit the catwalk.
Instantly his collection makes me think of the impact Fyodor Golan made last season, just because he has reated some amazing silhouettes with his designs, and has thought of the overall look from the fabrics to the styling of the show. I won't give it all away but expect 3D masks and statement heels finishing off his structured tailored lines.
What was the inspiration behind your collection?
I was inspired by Japanese armour and military, as well as the architecture of a Spanish train station roof, I've used the shadows and the 3D effect of the building within my designs. I also like to work with contrasting fabrics.
What will you take away from the Fashion Fringe experience?
I have learnt a lot and have met great people. Covering the business side of running a fashion business was something I needed, learning about things like distribution and shipping, as well as social media and brand awareness. The whole experience has been fantastic, and meeting Christopher Bailey was special.
Which three designers inspire you?
Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, and Alexander McQueen.
Sadly the only finalist who was unavailble on the day of my studio visit was Vita so I wasn't able to meet the Fine Art Central St Martins graduate in person, which was a real shame as her path into fashion is very different from the other two designers. Unlike Teija and Haizhen, Vita has no formal fashion training, her CV encompasses everything from making documentaries, short films to TV commercials, which makes seeing her incredible knitwear designs even more remarkable.
I was able to find out about the inspiration for her Fashion Fringe collection via email, which features dramatic knit constructions, a folky colour palette and vintage looking prints.
What is the inspiration behind your Fashion Fringe collection?
SS13 is inspired in part by Paul Poiret's 1911 party 'Thousand and Second Night', where guests were asked to wear Persian dress and indulge in dancing in the moonlight.
I love the idea of layering Eastern influences into Western ideas; some of the prints are inspired by and use motifs from Georges Barbier's early twentieth century illustrations. I also thought about moonlight as a mood and infused some of the colours of that hour, just after dusk, in an imaginary city full of minarets and flickering lights.
Which three designers inspire you?
Iris van Harpen, Alexander McQueen, and Dries van Noten.
I really am excited about tonight's show, I wouldn't like to bet on the who will be the winner as each one is completely different, I think it is going to be a hard decision for Christopher Bailey and the rest of the judging panel.
I will be heading backstage before the show to catch up with the designers, and see the hair and make-up take shape, before taking my seat for the final show of the London Fashion Week season and I literally can't wait. I will Tweet and Instagram as much as possible, that is signal permitting, it seems Somerset House is a mobile black spot!