The Interactive Virtual Runway Show Welcomes All Designers
What was the motivating factor to create Offcut?
As a fashion undergraduate, it was important to me to create a space-based around designers and their work, rather than the university they attended. My university didn’t show at the main graduate show in the country, which was the same for many other universities. I wanted to take away this problem and make a more inclusive place. I believe where you study should not be a factor in whether you can take part in certain fashion shows. To be a good and talented designer is a lot more about you as an individual, so I wanted to have a space that viewed people as themselves - the designer first; the way it should be.
Why was it important to partner with NJAL for this project?
Offcut’s values align with NJAL’s: we are two brands that care about showcasing talented designers. Teaming up with NJAL has allowed us to reach a much wider global audience. For 12 years NJAL has been successfully showcasing, developing, and discovering talent so after speaking to them about the 2020 fashion show we jumped at the chance to team up! Not only is NJAL a great brand, but they have been an amazing support and helped us really make this show fly!
Photo courtesy of Skatty Gapp
What does Offcut look for in designers and creative work to showcase on the virtual catwalk?
We are looking for a diverse range of talented designers to show us originality and who they are as a designer. We are looking for creativity. A lot of the time when designing and making clothes, the biggest issue is problem-solving. Things won’t work or look right together, and even when attempting this brief to be part of the catwalk there will be issues, but it's about how the designers creatively work around it, or with it, that will reflect who they are. We are looking for these out of the box ideas within the designers' work, we want to see something exciting that captivates us.
Fashion is both competitive and collaborative. Where do you see Offcut existing in that mix?
There is a demand for a fashion platform that aids fashion students and graduates regardless of the university they attend. We want to be a platform for all fashion creatives to have the chance to be showcased no matter their background or financial position; we believe students should not be pre-judged by these factors. When completing my own collection last year, I soon found out that if I wanted to enter shows I’d have to pay to have my application/work submitted, or for others I couldn’t showcase my work at all as my university wasn’t a member! My own disbelief of having to find money I didn’t have to enter shows inspired me to make Offcut. I realised that Offcut can give anyone a chance so they can avoid facing the struggles like me and many other graduates face every year. We are committed to ensuring that our events are and will always be open to everyone and that there will NEVER be any fees for students. We are dedicated to promoting a diverse range of talent and working with industry professionals to help make this happen for young designers starting out everywhere. I think we’ve stumbled across a good place to be in the industry, and it's a place we wish to stay!
Photo courtesy of Dark Heir
What were the original plans for the Offcut competition prior to the pandemic? Or was Offcut created as a result of the pandemic?
Offcut started before the pandemic as a blog, but the virtual catwalk show was a result of the pandemic. The blog had been running really well and was gaining great levels of engagement and interaction, but as COVID-19 began to close down the country, many universities had to shut and consequently cancel their final year shows. As a recent Fashion Graduate, I could relate to how these designers felt. Your final year fashion show is what you work towards for four years; it’s what you’ve been thinking about day and night for your whole final year. When I saw that this had been taken away I felt so gutted for the industry as there is amazing talent out there that deserves to be recognised. So I came up with the concept of a Virtual Catwalk Show. This way everyone is safe in their homes but has the chance to feature at a real fashion show event. I wanted to be able to give this opportunity to students in order to give them something to look forward to.
The pandemic has had an immense impact on the fashion industry. How do you see it recovering?
It's been no secret in the industry that we live in a fast fashion world, but with the pandemic occurring all fashion retailers have had to close their physical stores with stock already in them. It's uncertain when we will come out of this and when we do if such stock will be ‘on trend’, seasonally appropriate, or needed? I think in order for us to move forward and recover from this we need to go back to basics and look at what we really need. If we were in a world where shops had timeless pieces or classics this wouldn’t be as damaging and it would be a much easier recovery process for when we do transition into the real world again. I think we will see a lot of brands moving from retail to purely e-commerce to cut costs and sell to a larger audience, and from a business point of view that makes sense in terms of growth. But with this transition it opens up new possibilities and it will be interesting to see how the shopping experience of a consumer will change online.
Photo courtesy of Abi Millen
How can designers benefit from more connections across the global landscape?
It is beneficial for all designers to have many connections within the industry, but having connections on a global landscape opens many more doors to opportunity. Fashion is something celebrated throughout the world with fashion capitals hosting many fashion shows every year. Not only will connections from overseas inspire designers to think fashion-forward as you can delve into a wealth of different cultures and draw inspiration, but also learn about the different target markets and consumers.
Design unites us and allows us to see a snapshot of each other's creativity - we are an industry that wants to celebrate, stand up for what we believe in, and float new ideas.
What do you think the future looks like for graduate shows?
The future for graduate shows is very uncertain right now, and in the meantime we have to adapt. I think until the global pandemic comes to an end, the virtual catwalk concept is a real possibility of becoming the new normal. But this isn’t a negative thing. It actually aids designers to think more conceptually about their brand and collection in film. Being able to demonstrate who you are in clothing is an amazing skill, and to do this on film also is phenomenal. If anything, we are making our graduates more equipped to run their own businesses and be the next big thing. I think we should be encouraging institutions to work with their students to create their own virtual shows and take it in any direction they see as fit.
Photo courtesy of Syme
What advice do you have for recent graduates looking for jobs, whether in design or on a more entrepreneurial route like your own?
My advice is take every opportunity you can get, applying for jobs is just a numbers game - the more you apply for, the better chance you have of getting one! And if there are no opportunities, then create one. Whether this is creating a blog, creating a second collection, or even contacting companies with your portfolio. Take risks and be brave. When I moved to London after my degree for my first job, I knew no one and I was terrified as this was something I wasn’t used to, but you have to embrace every new challenge and you can’t give up. You have to trust that everything will work out, and also trust in yourself and your abilities to see it through until you get where you want to be. You have to constantly look for new opportunities and be ambitious, you can achieve anything if you just put your mind to it.