The founder of Fashion East, which supports emerging talent at LFW, tells Marie Davies how she has become fashion’s fairy godmother.
How do you choose which designers to support through the not-for-profit organisation Fashion East?
We keep our ear to the ground and we have a selection committee that includes Sarah Mower of fashion website Style.com. The committee members give up their time to help support Fashion East as it’s not a paid position. Our ethos is to support young designers who cannot afford to show [at LFW] and before they may get Newgen sponsorship.
How important is it that designers have good business sense?
As an organisation we don’t have a business criteria that the designers must meet - we feel this should come later. It’s about the creative talent of the designers and helping them to get the initial recognition they deserve. We help the designers with the practical side such as the press and sponsorship.
Fashion East is in its 10th year. How has it evolved?
Fashion East is an organic organisation and doesn’t have a long-term strategy. Our involvement has developed; we used to just put on the shows but we now do the PR and sales for some designers. [Menswear platform] MAN was also introduced in 2005, which saw us move into menswear.
Lulu & Co is your latest project. What is it all about?
Lulu & Co is a capsule collection launched for autumn 10 at Harvey Nichols. Now I’m taking it to Paris to sell as a wholesale range for spring 11. It’s made up of original and reworked pieces from the archives of some of the most successful designers to come out of Fashion East such as Jonathan Saunders and Richard Nicoll. Rather than taking a risk on a new label, retailers don’t have to commit to whole collections - they can buy into parts of it. It’s a commercial project and has been a really interesting learning curve, establishing a whole new set of skills that I can feed back into Fashion East.
You have the industry nickname of fashion’s fairy godmother because of the support you give designers. How far have you gone to help out an emerging talent?
I took Jonathan Saunders and Richard Nicoll to sell in Milan and Paris when they didn’t have the financial support to get there. I would rent us an apartment. It’s not enough to just put a show on - designers need to get their collections in front of buyers to sell.
You’ve supported designers, but who has supported you or inspired you during your career?
I’d never been to a catwalk show before and I went to see Hussein Chalayan in 1997, which wasn’t a run-of-the-mill show. It was really inspiring. I met Pablo Flack and Hazel Robinson, the designers behind House of Jazz, when I came to London and they introduced me to people like Giles Deacon. I would go from knowing of these people to hanging out with them at the pub.
What will be your next purchase?
A sheepskin fur hat from Acne.
What was the last thing you bought?
Leopard-print skinny trousers from Topshop.
What is your most cherished possession?
My old black Jeep Wrangler Sahara.
Who are your style icons?
Debbie Harry (pictured) and Grace Jones - she transcends fashion.
Lulu Kennedy is the founder of Fashion East, which supports emerging designers to show at London Fashion Week