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Matthew Williamson

Young talent must have a single-minded vision, the designer told Drapers’ Caroline Nodder.

What is your career highlight?

I’d say possibly the most rewarding period for me was opening the store on Bruton Street in London. That was a key transition period of going from being an independent label to being a brand.

It was an opportunity not to rely solely on the edit of a buyer in a department store. We were able to say, ‘This is our vision’. That was one of my proudest achievements.

There’s a strong focus on British fashion at the moment with the growing importance of London Fashion Week. Has this focus changed during your career?

I think it’s definitely changed. When I look back on my time in fashion when showing in London [Fashion Week] you felt you were a poor relative in the four cities. London never advertised and buyers never came in the way they are coming now. Designers’ approach to fashion has changed; they are selling internationally now.

Do you think British designers will move to show at other fashion weeks?

Well, I did. I got to year four or five and I moved to New York as I wanted to show to a bigger audience. But if I were them now then I wouldn’t want to, as all the international buyers come here now.

Who are the big names for the future?

There’s half a dozen, from Christopher [Kane] to Jonathan [Saunders] to Mary Katrantzou  to Roksanda [Ilincic]. There’s six to eight. Collectively they are a strong

How do you think things have changed in the industry during your career?

The most obvious way is the sense of fast fashion. I often think back to a show in New York about 12 years ago. Natalie Massenet [founder of etailer Net-A-Porter] came up to me and said she wanted to buy my collection to sell on the internet. I thought she was crazy, and now looking back we still laugh – I was the crazy one. There’s now this appetite where people want it online and quickly.

What are the key lessons you’ve learnt during your career?

Stay true to what you believe. If you love it and you’re coming from a place where you don’t feel compromised, you can tell. Don’t wing it. Don’t think you can blag it and get through because the industry is fierce and they can tell.

What qualifications do you need to be a top designer?

I could write a small book on what you need but it would be a very dull read. If you want to be a designer but you’re not sure then you probably don’t. You have to have every fibre in your body wanting it. You have to have a very single-minded vision. If you don’t believe it, no one else will believe it. You have to have that sense that what you are doing, no one else is doing.

What advice would you give to budding designers?

God help them … I would say if they wanted to go independent and have their own label, have that vision I keep banging on about and be confident in that. Try to get employment or a placement with a designer you respect, either in a creative way or in a business aspect and try to understand the basics of it as a business.

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