Q&A with Scarlett Simpson – winner of the 2023 High Street Menswear Award, sponsored by Next
Q: How did you first hear about Fashanne – Fashion Designers of the Future Awards?
A: I first heard of the Fashanne Awards when Anne Davies, founder of the Fashanne Awards, came to visit Nottingham Trent University to present the idea of the Awards. I had also seen some images and social media content on previous 3rd years design accounts but wasn’t so aware of the amazing prizes and industry exposure the awards had to offer.
Q: Why did you decide to get involved with the Fashanne Awards?
A: Anne was amazing in presenting (funnily enough!) the awards to us students in a very compelling format, mentioning it was an awards ceremony that was only accessible for a select range of universities across the Midlands and thus a likely opportunity to be awarded prizes and internship opportunities. Nottingham Trent University also mentioned these awards early on in our 3rd year, which allowed us time to figure out which of our final projects could fit into the relevant Fashanne Awards categories.
Anne also mentioned at the end of the session how there were open roles for student ambassadors and I was intrigued. At the time I was fortunate enough to have extra time on my hands to take on a job role and Anne’s warming and laid back approach to presenting made me feel like the programme had a team I’d thoroughly enjoy working with, and I was correct. I messaged Fashanne on Instagram just for some more information on the role and quickly got offered the position. I had never been any sort of student ambassador before, but as I entered third year, I started to be in the studios every day, speaking to other course mates and documenting my work on my design account. Therefore, it seemed like a no-brainer to document myself and other students’ design development whilst I was at it. In doing so, students would be asking me Fashanne related questions and in general it made me more clued up on the requirements for the awards and the upcoming deadlines.
Q: What made you join the Fashanne Awards?
A: The larger industry names such as Paul Smith, Next and Pentland Brands were definitely what compelled me to join the most. In addition to this, the knowledge of industry judges such as Patrick Grant and Jonathan Pedley being exposed to your portfolio work and giving feedback despite the outcome of the awards was really enticing to me, especially as I could take on this feedback and develop my portfolio whilst I entered my post-graduate career. Finally, the chance of internships and prize money was a fantastic added attraction to the programme, despite my disbelief that I would ever be shortlisted let alone win one!
Q: What was your approach to the Fashanne Awards?
A: My approach was very open minded…I never ruled out any of the awards categories really, nor did I change my design development specifically for a certain Fashanne award. It all developed very naturally and eventually across the course of my final project it started to become clear which categories I could enter into. Plural categories being the key word here, one advice I would give is never rule a category out just because you don’t think your work will be good enough. I nearly didn’t enter the Footwear and Accessory Award due to thinking my work would be up against designers who were more skilled and focused in these areas. However, my tutor Dawn Eyre pushed me to sign up for this award with my product range, which included transformable bag designs, and eventually I got shortlisted as 1 in 10 across all student submissions, and also went on to be in the International Graduate Fashion Week exhibition in Dubai too. So never say never I guess! I also nearly didn’t enter the High-Street Menswear Award, sponsored by Next, because I thought my collection wasn’t very “Next’s style”, but I ended up being shortlisted and eventually the winner of the Next Internship and prize money! So the two awards I nearly didn’t enter were the two I got shortlisted for, again a reminder to enter as many as you can, because you just never know and there is nothing to lose!
Q: How did you find the Fashanne Awards process?
A: In terms of entering the awards, you enter your portfolio towards the end of the year near the time you have your final deadline for your major project. Therefore, it’s a pretty stress free process as all your work is done and ready to be submitted. You have to add a brief description of your product range or collection within your refined portfolio submission, which I simply altered slightly to fit each category and it’s requirements. For example, on the Footwear and Accessory Award I chose 15 pages out of my 20 page portfolio which I believed focused and documented more of the accessory design development and outlined at the start of the portfolio what these accessories consisted of rather than the whole range. This was a very simple process and altering your ready-made portfolio to fit each category didn’t take more than a day’s work to do, and evidently very much worth it! I think students can veer away from getting involved in these shows due to being highly stressed with their current course commitments and thinking awards and ceremonies can be too overwhelming. However, the submission requirements being so simple and the show commencing after final submission dates makes the process so enjoyable and stress free.
Q: What was your experience of getting shortlisted as a finalist?
A: I remember when the tutors released their picks for the shortlisted Fashanne students… I believe I was back at my university home doing sketchbook work and got a text from a friend saying congratulations on being shortlisted for two! I couldn’t believe I had been shortlisted for one let alone two awards, especially the two I thought I was least suited for. At the time they released the shortlisted students it gave myself and a lot of students that final push and reassurance that what we were creating was being noticed and commended. It also gave us something to look forward to for the end of the year and an overall exciting and motivational sensation at a rather stressful time!
Q: How was the actual Fashanne Awards ceremony?
A: It was so much fun! It The day was full on and a tiny bit stressful at times in terms of quick changes due to last minute model alterations, but the dress rehearsals made it clear that the show was going to run as smoothly as it could as long as everyone put their concentration and effort into it. What I would say is, the minor stress and quick changes (some about 45 seconds!) is what made the show so much fun and all the students from different universities worked together to help one another and ensure everyone’s work went out on the runways seamlessly, as it rightfully should. Overall a great experience and opportunity to say you have had backstage runway experience for your CV, is a bonus.
Q: How did you feel when you won?
A: Honestly completely and utterly shocked! I have never won anything before and looking around at other designers incredible work I wasn’t sure I had much of a chance. Like I said, I thought Next would have chosen a winner who was more suited to their style of customer, and overall I thought I’d be more likely to win the Accessory and Footwear award if I were to get either. Senior Menswear Designer, Jonathan Pedley, who judged the work, stood there and shook my hand whilst I accepted the award and mentioned how much he enjoyed flipping through my portfolio and wanted to chat to me afterwards. I went on to work closely with him in my Next Internship and overall was a lovely person to work with.
Q: What was your internship at Next like?
A: I was fortunate enough to have the option of working with Next as part of the prize for four weeks within a year of graduating. I wanted to get this under my belt before I planned my travels for 2024 so I joined Next in October 2023 when all the selections and product ranges were being built and the design team was busy.
Q: What did you do at Next?
A: Next were so lovely and welcomed me with open arms! They actually offered me Next accommodation just around the corner from the head offices as well as the paid internship. They understood the short amount of time I had with them so Head of Menswear Design, Tom Pearce took me under his wing and made sure my 4 weeks were worthwhile.
Throughout my involvement at Next I was welcomed in by the lovely and talented Menswear department, who all taught me vital industry knowledge. This included the procedure of product range building and selections, as well as a say in forecasting trends and illustrative designs in the formation of seasonal drops.
In my final two weeks, I shadowed a Buyers Role within the Menswear Knitwear department, working closely with suppliers, merchandisers and designers to inform the A/W2024 range build. I then went on work with Buying Manager Mark Pritchard who mentored me through the opportunity of applying for a trainee buyers role in the future. After speaking to other buyers who took part on this programme and have stayed on to work for Next years after, it is a role I can definitely see myself taking on and I am excited as to where this may take me in my future career.
Q: Can you share what a typical day at Next looked like for you?
A: Day to day the work was very varied. Some days I was researching graphic and print trends and developing these into my own print designs. Other days I was heading to London and doing competitor research, assessing the gaps and trends in the market. Other days it was a mixture of garment fit checks and sending adjustments back to the suppliers. I kept very busy and it was great to have a broad insight to such a busy work schedule. Next always had a job for me to do!
Q: How did it feel to be part of Next?
A: It felt like a bit of an imposter syndrome to start, everything turned around and happened so fast. However, like I said, Next was so accommodating and welcoming and it felt like I had been there for a lot longer than I had by the end of it. I also got some great Adobe shortcuts and general designer life hacks that I sort of wish I knew before graduating thanks to Rachel Kendall!
Q: How do you think the Fashanne Awards helped your career?
A: Such a great help! If it weren’t for Fashanne I wouldn’t have taken on the role of the student ambassador which was not only a great experience to put on my CV but was an excuse to have a break from my sewing machine at university and get chatting to other students about their work at the time. I also wouldn’t have met all the amazing people I had met at Next and am sure I will meet again one day. I also got an immense amount of industry exposure which has spread my name and project to brands and designers further than I could have imagined!
Q: What advice/ tips would you give to this year’s students entering the Fashanne Awards?
A: It’s only available to a select number of Midland universities, so count yourself lucky that you can apply and be offered such great prizes with such high chances of being shortlisted. I mentioned it before, but apply to as many categories as you can because you literally have nothing to lose. You don’t need to change your designs or design development process at all, just keep Fashanne as a deadline in the back of your head and treat it as an added extra opportunity because that’s what it is. Remember that no added stress was put on my third year by doing Fashanne, if anything it was a fun way to see what other university students were up to at the time through social media posts. Finally, it’s a great excuse to rightfully show off and celebrate all our hard work at the end of such a full on year!
Q: And finally, what’s next in store for you?
A: I’m currently working freelance as a designer for an up and coming athleisure wear brand called SQI clothing. I have plans to travel to South and Central America for roughly 4-5 months at the beginning of February 2024 so I am saving up and planning that for now. However, I’m currently trying to get my foot in the door, staying active on social media and chatting to as many people in the industry as possible so I can come back post travels and have some opportunities lined up hopefully in the London area, and eventually move there with friends from other NTU creative courses.
The Fashanne Awards – Fashion Designers of the Future 2024 will take place on Thursday 20th June 2024. For more information on how to be a part of Fashanne 2024, please contact email@example.com