“Fashion is fuelled by demand for the new, the on-trend and the inspiring” a quote from Harold Tillman, Chairman of the British Fashion Council. No truer words have been spoken as there is a constant demand for innovative new ideas particularly in the ever-changing world of fashion.
Thinking about current events like London Fashion week, Liverpool Fashion Festival and Couture Fashion week, this encouraged me to ponder on how fashion never sleeps. It has never been more important than it is today for contemporary designers to feed their creativity and really put their stamp on a new collection.
So just last week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the North East’s up and coming fashion designers. In the Hull district lies Yorkshire’s best kept style secret… enter, Leanne Jennison, who is the founder of Made-to-order brand ‘Gracious Plum’.
Graduating from Hull’s School of Art and Design back in 2008, and at just 25 years old, Leanne has already had her designs stocked in various stores including handmade specialists ‘Kennedi Boutique’ who are based in Beverley, Hull and classy Lincoln-based retailer ‘Vanilla’, who stock and support independent designer clothing, including Leanne’s edgy garments.
With her one of a kind, steampunk-esque dresses, draping fabrics, excellent use of colour and dressmaking capabilities; it’s not hard to imagine Leanne’s work selling worldwide. However, what can be hard for creative types is getting yourself and your work out there and more importantly, known to others across the globe. Sure, Haute Couture fashion houses have their highly impactful marketing campaigns and glossy magazine spreads to capture our attention and therefore gain exposure, but when you are a hot young designer with a vision, it can be difficult to get your talent recognised early on, which is why I wanted to write this article.
In my interview, Leanne describes the essence of ‘Gracious Plum’, her influences and what has been the highlight of her fashion career to date…
How would you best describe the Gracious Plum brand in 5 words?
New, exciting, innovative, unique, edgy.
When did you realise you first wanted to become a fashion designer?
It was when I saw a TV advert about 12 years ago. Although I can’t quite remember the exact advert, I can remember that a man was drawing a woman wearing a dress and then suddenly, it cut to a woman wearing the dress and I thought to myself ‘Wow, I want to know how you get from the drawing to the final finished dress!’. Since then it was always in my mind. I went to Hull College when I was at school to do work experience in the fashion department. After leaving school, I went back to Hull College to do my BTEC National Diploma in Fashion and Clothing, then moved on to the Hull School of Art & Design to do my Foundation Degree, and finally my BA (Hons) Degree.
Who are your fashion influences (designers, celebrities, high street labels etc) and what else inspires you when designing?
My inspiration comes from lots of different things, depending on what my collection theme is. My Steam Junk collection was inspired by steam punk fashion – mainly striped fabrics, dark colours and Victorian inspired bustle skirts.
I love the work of John Galliano for Dior – especially the S/S Haute Couture 2007 collection!
My favourite high street label would have to be All Saints. I’m quite inspired by the pattern cutting techniques that go into their garments. (Check out their parachute dresses!)
Although I’m not a fan of her music, I feel quite influenced by Lady Gaga and would love to do a collection inspired by her stage/video outfits in the future!
Can you describe what has been the highlight of your career in fashion so far?
As I’ve only been going since November 2011, I don’t have many to choose from just yet! The best thing so far though, has to be getting asked to make dresses for the finalists of the Hull’s Next Top Model event, which was held on 4th February 2012.
What have you been working on lately?
After the success of the Hull’s Next Top Model event, I’ve been working on custom orders and making dresses from the Steam Junk collection in different colour ways for my new stockists (Kennedi Boutique, Beverley and Vanilla Boutique, Louth).
What is it like to be a new designer on the fashion market and in terms of upcoming independent designers, do you think there is a demand for new talent?
I think it’s hard to start out as a new designer, especially as there are so many independent labels out there already. People are always looking for new, unusual designs that nobody else will be wearing, so I think there is demand for new talent.
And finally, where do you see the Gracious Plum brand heading in the future in terms of progression?
I’d love to run my own boutique in the future, but in the meantime, it would be amazing to have more stockists scattered around the UK so that my designs could be seen by a wider audience.