ArtMan: Red hot fashion designers to look out for

With London Fashion Week kicking off today, ArtMan Kevin Wilson dons his fashion hat to signal three designers destined for great things

Thought I’d wear two hats at once today, my arts consultant one and my fashion designer hat (as I am one half of designer duo Vin and Omi).

The lines between art and fashion are so blurred now the two are becoming the same. So as another London Fashion Week kicks off, let’s look at the new wave of wearable art and three new artist designers leading the way to spark up the UK fashion scene.

Grace Lepard 

Grace Lepard is a fresh graduate from St Martin’s College majoring in jewellery design. Lepard has moved the ancient art of leather decoration on in her own style. Working mainly with images of birds, this how she describes her work in her words: “Birds - they are constantly moving or flying which makes it difficult for us to fully observe and appreciate their magnificent forms. The aim of my work is to capture and preserve the movement of their powerful yet fragile structures and their plumage by drawing and illustrating them directly onto leather. 

“I hope the finished pieces not only highlight the appeal of birds and their intricate compositions, but are also inspirational in making the wearer feel uplifted and special by giving them a sense of individuality.” 

Lepard’s sketch books reveal Darwin-esque detail, observing and interpreting each feather and personality of her chosen bird. Her work transferred to leather clings to the skin like bird tattoos.

Hummingbird leather collar by Grace Lepard

Hummingbird leather collar by Grace Lepard

Leather owl shawl by Grace Lepard

Leather owl shawl by Grace Lepard

Emily Wainwright

Another sparkler is Emily Wainwright, a multi media textile graduate from Loughborough University School of the Arts. Emily tangents away from the main crowd and takes her inspiration from, err, B&Q.

She explores the potential of stacking, repeating and joining ‘ready-made’ multiples, such as cable ties and curtain hooks to create collections of striking, interactive and large-scale body adornment pieces. These merge the boundaries between fashion and installation art. Emily manipulates ordinary, non-textiles materials and objects to create extraordinary aesthetics.

Wainwright’s work is lead by materials and process as the three dimensional forms are developed through experimentation, mistakes and the exploration of juxtaposing materials, surfaces and techniques.

She may be from a regional arts background but her work would sit well in any major city

Jumper made of cable ties by Emily Wainwright

Emily Wainwright’s carefully tied cable ties become futuristic and wearable

Clothes made of cable ties by Emily Wainwright

Emily Wainwright turns cable ties into masterpieces

Clare Whittingham

By day Clare Whittingham is a hardcore, full on welder who frequently works on exciting art/fashion projects which resourcefully utilise her metal offcuts from her day job, enabling her to pop out her creative side with great results.

Whittingham has collaborated with designers and artists and is making a name for herself as the queen of wearable metal. She has notched up exciting commissions from recording artists and fashion designers keen to let her metal sculptures enhance their work.

Clare Whittingham

Beetle-like face armour from Clare Whittingham

Steel shoulder piece made for the designer Rachel Freire by Clare Whittingham

Steel shoulder piece made for the designer, Rachel Freire

It’s very tricky for new artist designers that cross boundaries to find support, as they fall between both the arts and fashion councils. Let’s hope all three stamp their mark over the coming years and don’t get sucked into the vortex that many amazing young designers fall into. Keep your eye on them, and expect much more from the art fashion meld that is slowly working its way mainstream.

Kevin Wilson is an international arts consultant, curator and collector. He advises on collections, investments and projects. His clients range from the Historical Royal Palaces, international corporations, private individuals and collections worldwide. He is also director of the public art agency Artpoint and one half of fashion designer duo Vin and Omi.

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