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Close-Up Preview: Wendy Malem, director of Centre for Fashion Enterprise

Drapers gives you an exclusive sneak-peek of our Close-Up interview with Wendy Malem, director of the Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE), an organisation that nurtures and supports up-and-coming fashion designers, ahead of the full interview in this weekend’s edition.

What do you find most exciting about your job as director of the CFE?

Everything. One minute you’re talking about new sales over in Russia and then a designer shows you a whole new technique they’ve discovered and it’s just incredible, and you ask yourself ‘how has no one thought of this before?’ And then you see this fabulous new colour combination that is just divine. It really is an exciting industry but the bit that we all get excited about the most is the product.

The CFE is known for supporting new designers, but what new areas of the fashion business are you focusing on?

Investment readiness is a new key area. We did our first event in November with five investors and five designers. The designers had been groomed by us on how to make a pitch and three of them have actually been followed up [by an investor].

Also Christopher Kane had investment from PPR, while Nicholas Kirkwood secured investment for London flagship stores, and there is investment in a couple of manufacturing plants in the UK. This all shows confidence, from the buyers and investors, and more importantly from the designers.

What do you think the industry can do to help better support up-and-coming designers?

It would be very healthy if the trend continued were retailers work in collaboration with designers rather than going to the catwalk and doing their own version of what the designers are doing. To me, that is respectful and it has integrity and it is not a huge amount of money that needs to cross hands. So I think that’s something that all retailers could do. We’ve taken on Matthew Drinkwater head of fashion innovation agency now to help our designers work these collaborations out and maximize what they could lead to.

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