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Getting 100% behind stars of the future

Asos’s LTD 100 saw the etailer give a helping hand to London College of Fashion students while boosting its own fashion cred.

Etailer Asos famously started life in 2000 mimicking outfits seen on celebrities and selling them at a fraction of the price. As a business model it has proved to be a very lucrative one; with much of the high street in the doldrums, Asos has been storming ahead, with sales up 90% to £81m for the year to March 31.

Lately, however, the etailer has been doing much to increase its fashion credentials. Last year it launched the Laden Showroom, featuring collections from a group of London designers of the same name which are now among the site’s bestsellers (the selection was recently boosted by 14 new brands). Following that, in autumn Asos introduced premium brands including Paul & Joe Sister, Twenty8Twelve and McQ by Alexander McQueen, as well as high-end accessories from the likes of Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs.

Now the etailer has decided it is time to give something back, and has launched a bid to position itself alongside big high street names – such as River Island with its sponsorship of Graduate Fashion Week and Topshop with its British Fashion Council and London Fashion Week sponsorship collaboration NewGen – as one of fashion’s most important supporters of emerging talent.

Following on from its competition for London College of Fashion students last year, this year Asos launched the LTD 100 collection with the aim of nurturing and celebrating up-and-coming designers. Final-year students from the London College of Fashion have submitted 100 pieces – menswear, womens-wear and accessories – that will be sold on the etailer’s site as a one-off capsule collection from June 16. All the proceeds will go back to the students.

A high-profile panel of fashion experts including model Ben Grimes, designer Henry Holland and Vogue market editor Emma Elwick selected their favourite three designers, who were announced at a party and prize-giving ceremony in east London on June 4 and who have all secured a paid internship with the etailer.

The overall winner, womenswear designer Lui Sin Ki, who produced a black sequined square-sleeved dress inspired by architect G Domenig, will also accompany the Asos buying team on a trip to Tokyo.

Amazing workmanship
Grimes was particularly taken by the winning womenswear piece and admitted she may be logging on to the site on June 16 to secure it – only one of each piece will be produced so once it’s gone, it’s gone. “It’s incredibly well tailored,” she said. “The pattern must have been really difficult to make as it’s beautiful and the final design shows real talent. It fits the body so well, it’s amazing.”

Holland added that the standard of design in general was very high. “Some of the workmanship is amazing,” he commented. Despite his high profile, Holland himself is still at the start of his career and said he was more than happy to lend his time to help others gain a foothold. “It’s nice to get asked to do things like this; supporting emerging talent is really important,” he said.

Asos product and trading director Robert Bready said the etailer liked the idea of producing one-off pieces as it leant exclusivity to the project. “We are giving fashion-lovers the unique opportunity to own a truly limited one-off garment which has the potential to become a piece of future design history,” he said. The designs will remain showcased on the etailer’s site even after they are sold.

What is more important for Colin Renfrew, dean of the School of Design and Technology at the London College of Fashion, is the profile the project gives to new designers, and the support it offers. “We produce some of the best designers in the world and through this partnership we are able to help develop fashion students for their future design careers,” he said.

It is probably a fair bet that we will see Asos place more importance on initiatives such as LTD 100 in the future. This week former Topshop buying director Caren Downie, who helped to spearhead the retailer’s NewGen project, joins the etailer in the newly created role of womenswear buying director. Her reputation as a champion of new talent led one London College of Fashion insider to describe her to Drapers as a “guardian angel”, so it is more than likely that the LTD 100 project will benefit from her input in the years to come.

The winners:
Womenswear and overall winner:

Lui Sin Ki:
Winning item: All-over sequined black square-sleeved dress
The designer: “My main inspiration came from an architect called G Domenig. I am mostly concerned with one of his neo-expressionism projects called The Stone House Project. It formed the beginning of my development for all my garments,” says Sin Ki.

Why it won: “We were truly impressed with the structuring of this classic design which celebrates the female silhouette in all its glory. Easy to wear and effortless, this would be a fail-safe fashion favourite,” says Asos product and trading director Robert Bready.

Accessories :
Ursula Inglis-Jones
Winning item: Nude leather handbag with oversized clasp
The designer: “I plan to set up my own company – Ursula I-J – making classic bags using unusual materials and producing limited editions. My current foliage range for spring 09 uses basketweave panels and woven basketweave piping on the leather handles,” says Inglis-Jones.
Why it won: “The craftsmanship of this design is outstanding with its attention to detail making it feel like a true luxury
must-have,” says Bready.

Menswear:
Samantha Ball

Winning item: Double-breasted navy woollen coat
The designer: “I am now presenting my Orchid Collection, for which I was awarded first-class honours. I have brought together skills gained from every aspect of my training to create a gentleman’s wardrobe based upon the enigmatic aura of the orchid; a collection with historical references and dandyism inspirations,” says Ball.
Why it won: “Overall the strength of the menswear submissions was fantastic. The tailoring on the winning piece was superb with fantastic craftsmanship and quality fabrications which gave this item a premium edge,” says Bready.

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