Two of the West Midlands’ most promising young fashion designers, who put sustainability at the heart of their work, have been guided by industry leaders at Selfridges Birmingham.
Gemma Ramage who works to a unique ‘free size’ concept with her women’s fashion, and Holly Jayne Smith who uses bright organic fabrics and factory offcuts for her designs, both visited the iconic store to meet a team of experts in fashion, retail and sustainability.
Gemma, 30, from Lichfield, and Holly, 25, from Birmingham were selected from a host of hopefuls, and impressed the Selfridges team with their sustainable fashion designs.
The talented pair were invited to the store as part of Selfridges’ seminal Bright New Things project, which aims to guide the latest and emerging talent of the future.
Holly, who graduated at Birmingham City University in 2014 and owns her own innovative clothing line said: “I look to incorporate sustainability into my creative process as much as possible by using organic fabrics, factory offcuts and working with craftspeople to create embellishments.
“The mentoring session at Selfridges Birmingham was a great experience and really helped with my perspective on sustainable fashion. I left with some really strong advice and lots to think about.”
Holly and Gemma with expert from The Centre of Sustainable Fashion
This year the store partnered with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion – a research centre of the University of the Arts, based at London College of Fashion – for the project to help discover and celebrate the Bright New Things who will be the change leaders in the industry.
Gemma, who runs her own label called Bijou Boudoir, designs fashion to fit and suit most women as the fabric is able to be tied in different ways. She sources fabric from the heart of Birmingham and her stand-out dresses have been worn by celebrities including Mischa Barton and Eastender star Louisa Lytton.
She said her day in the store meeting the Selfridges team gave her some ideas to be able to push her brand forward as a sustainable label: “Meeting an expert from The Centre of Sustainable Fashion was very inspiring.
“He promised to help me source fabrics in the UK and also recommended to me some contacts for local manufacturing which would be useful to me.
“I was also given some great feedback on my collection, and some inspiration from the Visual Merchandising team on how I can create further ideas for my Lichfield-based store and brand.”
Adam Hockney, general manager of Selfridges Birmingham said they were glad to have helped talented designers in the West Midlands.
“We were really impressed by Gemma and Holly.” He adds, “And were glad to be able to pass on some of our knowledge to these two talented designers. Hopefully we will be seeing their designs on some of the world’s top models soon.”
Last year Selfridges launched a nationwide search for mature creatives for the first Bright Old Things twist on the recurring project. The Birmingham store selected Den Woods, a 60-year-old actress-turned-chairmaker from Redditch, and Sally Peplow, a 52-year-old teaching assistant-turned-textile artist from Northfield.
Both ladies had done a career U-turn later in life, and decided to pursue their passions. They were given creative control of Selfridges’ windows for six weeks with their designs being transformed into reality, and were seen by thousands of shoppers during this time.