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Martyn Roberts

The founder of the Vauxhall Fashion Scout emerging talent event tells Marie Davies why a business mind is crucial for young designers.

What is your fashion background?
I’m originally from New Zealand and studied public relations there. My initial interest was music and film but when I moved to London 15 years ago a friend got me into fashion PR. I was working at fashion PR agency Kim Blake. I started working with designer young fashion back then, representing Christophe Lemaire, who is now creative director at Hermès.

Where did the idea for Vauxhall Fashion Scout come from?
Vauxhall Fashion Scout started at the end of 2006. I had designers under my PR direction who wanted to show on the catwalk but had no outlet to do it. So together with my friend John Walford - who is a show producer and my business partner at Vauxhall Fashion Scout - I decided to put on a multi-designer show to showcase the talent. It was well received and we thought ‘Why not turn this into a regular event instead of just a one-off?’ Rather than being a charity, Vauxhall Fashion Scout is a commercial enterprise.

Do you get any external funding?
Funding is broken down into three parts. Our main sponsor is [car manufacturer] Vauxhall, plus there are four or five smaller commercial sponsors per season. The second stream comes from the London Development Agency, which provides business support for emerging British designers needing support and mentoring as part of the British Fashion Council. Third, the designers pay varying amounts depending on how they exhibit - a catwalk show costs £3,500 and an exhibition costs £2,500.

Apart from the creative element, how do you determine who is accepted to show at the event?
There is a six-page application form that determines the designers’ business plans and how they plan to fund the show and production. We actively discourage designers to take loans as it is important that they think how to make their business sustainable if they are to make a success of their label. Our aim is to help designers grow and build.

What is your opinion on the education system in the UK for emerging talent?
The education system for design can be very good. However, the business side is weak. If courses do offer business modules, it’s not compulsory and the importance isn’t stressed enough. Colleges that teach fashion management should be teaching how to manage small fashion brands, not only large corporations.

How do you find emerging talent?
Lots of scouting - we keep an eye out at press days, on the internet and blogs such as Style Bubble and Fashion156 are very important to us. We go to graduate shows and, nowadays, we have designers approach us themselves. Along with people with creative talent, we want to work with people who have the ability and desire to run their own business.

Martyn Roberts is founder of catwalk event Vauxhall Fashion Scout, which takes place during London Fashion Week

Favourite item of clothing
I’m into waistcoats at the moment. They’re old-fashioned yet modern at the same time.

What do you most enjoy doing apart from fashion?
Trying food in different countries. Or, back home, I like eating at St John, near Smithfield Market in London.

Favourite city
Bad old dirty London town. You never know what you will find around a corner.

Which designer do you admire?
Alexander McQueen. I admired his creativity and showmanship and he managed those talents while retaining commercial appeal.

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