LFW A/W 15/16 Kim Stevenson – One To Watch
With all the hullabaloo surrounding the catwalk shows at LFW, it would be easy to miss some of the new designers emerging on the fashion scene. Designers with their own unique back stories and brand stories, the “ones to watch” as Fashion Scout (FS) has helped to promote at this year’s LFW. And the uncovered pearls inside the fashion oyster shell.
Kim Stevenson, one of four designers selected by FS will have caught the eye of the thousands of LFW visitors to the Freemason’s Hall, (gloriously art-deco-ing itself to death and venue for numerous catwalks, and exhibitions of collections), with her attention grabbing multi-tassellated, intricately designed patch-worked denim coat in the foyer. It’s knockout piece and made me want to track her down. Immediamentete in fact.
So off I sashay to FS corner, to see Kim’s graduate collection on display rails, further whetting my appetite, only to discover she was busy getting ready for her combined catwalk with the other FS supported ’One’s to Watch’ the following day. I returned the following day, with only probably one of countless designer’s catwalk prep all-nighters standing between me and a groovy chat with the designer. Her catwalk show, dovetailed with three other FS mentored designers, worked a treat and I was able to see a lot more of Kim’s collection launched at LFW come to life at the same time.
Kim explained the FS support to me after having been short-listed and narrowly missing the Merit Award. There’s a relatively small fee slightly less than £2K to secure the support of Fashion Scout, which includes the branding and positioning at LFW, the five days of exhibition space, models, hair, make-up and lots of ’good advices’ (a phrase I hear a lot, coined by many international designers resident in London). Kim is a big fan of the benefits coming under FS’ umbrella provides new designers. Originally from Australia she has lived here a bunch of years and could not be more down to earth, sincere and passionate about what she does and believes in: ethics in fashion and garment creation AND made in Britain. Hooray. Love it.
The ethical sourcing and production of fabrics for Kim is hugely important and something she strives for in absolutely everything she does. The problem is, the world of fabrics and garment production is not naturally disposed to following the same ethos nor even on the same parts of the planet. “Ethical is hard. Sourcing the fabric you want and the quality you want is not easy. The more re-cycled fabrics tend to be very expensive or not produced in the UK.” The automatic default is to source UK first with a natural loyalty to the UK and also a logistics up-side. But when you hear where her collection fabrics and processes come from, you begin to get a sense of the difficulty in maintaining the integrity of re-cycling. The denim is organic, from Kassim in Bangladesh, one of her sponsors – totally invaluable for a start-up brand (Kim prepared a collection for them to demonstrate the versatility of their denim as a quid pro quo), and she instructs them in the type of wash she wants for the denim, with everything organic and recycled. She also obtains recycled denim from the Salvation Army, carefully choosing where and who to invest her fabric purchasing in. “There is some Harris Tweed from Scotland and I use Woven Monkey in the UK for printing…a lot of the thread is organic, recycled from Germany and natural yarns from Sheffield.”
At any one time, design, mood or muse-dictated this eclectic mix of ethical suppliers may be replaced by others, depending on the colour palette and design ideas Kim is working on. Where do her ideas come from? “For this collection, much of the influence and inspiration comes from the native American Indian.” As soon as she said it, the penny dropped – that is what I have been subliminally processing in her designs. The tasselation (new word gifted by Kim to me) and fringing from traditional leather and suede has been adapted with her own unique styling, “I wanted to use natural fibres, and I’m on the cusp of thinking is leather ethical, whether to consider synthetic.” True to her Aussie roots, additional design influences are from nature, from a love of the outdoors, “combining an urban, city feel, with comfort, I want something to stand out, not shock.” Up close, you see her collection is dedicated, pain-staking work, hand-tasselating each strand of the wool to present us with hand made in Britain, the only way that seems possible: with sheer bloody-minded determination, passion, talent and integrity. And deserving to succeed for it every step of the way with a wonderfully imaginative inspired collection. Come on boutiques, what are you waiting for? This is LFW designer gold. (Sourced ethically from Germany et al).
By Paul J Markevicius
Image by Chris Daw http://www.chrisdawphotography.com/london-fashion-week
Video courtesy of the Fashion Scout on Vimeo