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Martyn Roberts

Graduate Fashion Week’s events director tells Ian Wright how the industry can do more to promote young talent.

How has your experience with Vauxhall Fashion Scout influenced the way you approach Graduate Fashion Week?

Vauxhall Fashion Scout has always been at the forefront of new ways to showcase fashion design including fashion film, presentations and interactive installations. These days there are so many innovative ways to showcase new fashion ideas and talents and we’ve begun to introducing them to GFW.  This is something we will definitely develop over the next few years at GFW.

How do you go about creating the direct link-ups between GFW and VFS with regards to exhibitors/ students?  

As the home of new talent, Vauxhall Fashion Scout is one of the world’s largest showcases of recent graduates.  Each September our Graduate Showcase presents a selection of the best graduates’ work to the media and buyers.  Held during LFW it gives graduates a second chance to meet the industry and show them their vision.  Graduate Fashion Week showcases the pick of this year’s new talent emerging onto the scene, so there is a synergy between the two and of course being directly involved with GFW gives us a great opportunity to cherry pick the next wave of VFS participants from the graduates.

What practices, if any, are directly transferrable from VFS to GFW?

Showcasing, supporting and nurturing new talent.  It is not enough just to put a designer or graduate on the catwalk and then send them out into the world.  During GFW 2012 there will be a number of talks and seminars that will be both educational and entertaining to graduates and industry alike.  These include a series of talks between Colin McDowell and leading emerging designers on how they set up their businesses.

This is your first GFW – how is the event going to change? What’s new?

There’s a whole new look and we are embracing new technologies to reach more people.  This began with our website relaunch and is continuing with our social media programme and new online registration system. An essential part of GFW is assisting graduates to find jobs and so, for the first ever, we will have a space dedicated to recruiters.  The Recruiter’s Lounge is run in partnership with Drapers and will give recruiters  / head hunters / HR directors a place to interview graduates and catch-up between the many shows and events.  

Briefly describe your process from beginning to end of GFW to give us some insight into exactly what it takes to put an event of this size and type together.

Planning started nearly as soon as the previous GFW finished. The last few months of 2011 were spent planning the nuts and bolts of this year’s event in terms of its look, feel and the new elements we have introduced.  Then as soon as we hit January the campaign went full steam ahead and momentum has grown from then.  A lot of time has been spent securing the amazing array of judges and presenters which we have on board and of course we’ve set up a number of partnerships with key media eg Drapers, WGSN and  As we now near the actual dates of the show we have all the final arrangements to confirm and of course the social media and PR campaigns are full steam ahead.

What’s your ultimate vision for the GFW event?

GFW is already the largest graduate fashion event in the world and we will be building on this.  The UK, and London in particular, is internationally renowned as the leading place to discover new talent.  We want to make GFW an integral part of the fabric of London, like London Fashion Week and the London Film Festival.

You do the graduate show rounds probably more than anyone – what’s the strongest string to our fashion education system’s bow right now?

The amazing diversity on show.  We are constantly looking for new ideas and new talents and GFW always delivers this in abundance.

And where does it need to improve the most?

The fashion industry is much more than just fashion design.  Tens of thousands of creative and talented people are employed in non-fashion design roles in this industry and so we all need to recognise that other courses are equally as important and should be equally celebrated.

How much do you think our industry perceives fashion education as still being very London-centric? 

London’s universities are very high profile but more and more people understand that great talent doesn’t have a postcode.  There is an immense role call of well known designers who hail from UK universities outside London including Christopher Bailey, AMy Molyneux, Julien Macdonald and Preen to name a few.

What’s the one thing the industry could do to revolutionise the way we help graduates and young designers?

By supporting skills and the development of young people through innovative graduate placement programmes such as GFW’s Protégé Project.  This programme enables creative businesses the opportunity to utilise the outstanding talent produced by our universities.  We are proud of the work of our partners in this programme including GFW’s title sponsor, George, who placed 68 graduates last year!

Do you think graduates sometimes have a rose-tinted view of the industry? How can GFW help them after the safe confines of colleges and universities?

We have a Mentoring Panel who advise and help all of our award winners.  These are fashion industry experts and their advice has proved to be extremely valuable to recent graduates.  We’re now looking into how our social media can help get this information out to as many graduates as possible.

What advice would you give to the GFW class of 2012?

This is your chance to shine, so be enthusiastic and talk to all who approach you on your stand.  People are looking for graduates with a whole range of skills and ideas and you never know where a conversation will take you.  It’s the highlight of your university life and the beginning of your new career.

If you could wear one brand for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Alexander McQueen.

How do you switch off after a hard day?

A glass of wine with friends.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

If he was still alive then James Stewart.

What would be on the soundtrack of that movie?

The music from a 1,000 catwalk shows.

Whose personal style do you admire?

Cary Grant.

What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve bought but never worn?

A Dries Van Noten suit.

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