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Wendy Malem

The director of the Centre for Fashion Enterprise tells Graeme Moran about its role nurturing UK designers.

As director of the Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE), your focus is on supporting up-and-coming designers. Why is this important?

The fashion industry has always been able to identify talent but what was needed was a stable business development platform to nurture emerging designers in London who wanted to be a credible business. At CFE we offer a safe haven that allows designers to maintain their creativity while facing the demands of being in business.

How do you go about doing this?

CFE does this through business incubation, a series of knowledge transfer programmes and the support of a generous Advisory Group.

You were a designer yourself for 17 years – where did you work?

During the 1980s and 1990s I worked as a cocktailwear designer for the Gold Label collection, which sold globally into independent retailers and major department stores.

Does this help you to better understand the designers you are working with?

Of course. I know the challenges of being a creative person working with non-creatives and have the experience to appreciate that both are essential for a business to succeed.

What has been your career highlight?

When the Gold Label collection I was designing reached a million-pound turnover a season in the 1980s. It had exceeded all expectations.

Who do you think are the next big names to watch out for?

Erdem, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Nicholas Kirkwood, Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou all have the talent to become global brands. Watch out for James Long and Craig Lawrence. Also look out for Baartmans and Siegel, Matthew Miller and William Green for men’s, and Fyodor Golan, Marques Almeida and Tatum Jones for women’s.

Which is your favourite?

They are all my favourite. Marios Schwab, Meadham Kirchhoff, Felicity Brown, Richard Nicoll and Thomas Tait always take my breath away. Think London, think Sibling, Agi & Sam, Louise Gray, Aminaka Wilmont and Jean-Pierre Braganza.

From a business perspective, which designers do you admire?

Holly Fulton and Christopher Raeburn are steadily advancing through coupling their creativity with a tight business control, and Mary Katrantzou is a born super-businesswoman. Hermione de Paula is doing great things with a new business partner.

What did you think of the first London Collections: Men?

CFE has been lobbying for a sales platform for UK menswear designers that coincides with Pitti Uomo rather than womenswear fashion week. The British Fashion Council did a great job and the Fashion East installations were amazing.

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