Last week, on May 22nd, the three finalists of this year’s Fashion Fringe were announced as Haizhen Wang, Tieja Eilola and Vita Gottlieb; personally selected by Burberry Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey for this year’s Fashion Fringe award.

Just in case this is the first time you’ve heard of the competition, Fashion Fringe is an annual award platform supporting and nurturing talented designers and giving them the opportunity to launch their label in London. The platform is every up and coming Fashion Designer’s dream; as well as gaining instant exposure from the industry, the winning designer selected each year is also rewarded with a two-year development package that includes financial support, mentoring, and business planning advice – crucial in this ever fickle industry.

Having helped launch the careers of digital print pioneers Basso & Brooke and the British Fashion council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund winner, Erdem, this inspirational business model is proving successful and continues to discover, encourage and support design talent within the UK.

“It has been such an incredible experience to be involved in the selection of our three Finalists Haizhen Wang, Teija Eilola and Vita Gottlieb. Going through the portfolios in stage one of this process was incredible, but meeting the Finalists in person today was truly inspirational. Everyday I am amazed at the sheer amount of creativity that Britain is generating. So it really is an honour, in partnership with Fashion Fringe, to be able to give these Finalists the opportunity to spend the summer doing what they love and honing their craft.” Said Christopher Bailey on the process of choosing the finalists. “I cannot wait to see the fruits of their hard work in September – this really is just the beginning of their journey.”

The finalists will now begin the Fashion Fringe Programme, receiving mentoring from influential names within the industry and for the first time this year, they will also receive the invaluable opportunity to learn from the world-leading teams at Burberry, helping to push the designers further.

Creative director and Founder of Fashion Fringe, Colin McDowell, is especially happy this year around, “This afternoon’s judging was one of the most enjoyable and pleasing times we’ve had in nine years of Fashion Fringe.  Christopher was so assured and relaxed that he made it a pleasant experience for us all.”

The chosen finalists have a exhilarating time ahead of them; Haizhen Wang, known for his impressive skills in combining high quality fabrics with professional finishing and for his exquisite attention to detail, said, “I have worked so hard for so long and have waited my whole life for an amazing opportunity like this.”

Tieja Eilola, who is originally from Finland, graduated from the Royal College of Art and has already had experience working with both high street and high-end designers, is equally as delighted. “I’m really looking forward to working with Christopher – his recognition means so much. I’m looking forward to an exciting time ahead.”

What really makes Vita Gottlieb stand out is not so much a First in History of Art or her MA in Fine Art at Central St Martins, where she focused on hand-printed wall hangings, but her interesting use of incorporating different textures, shapes, patterns and silhouettes. “It’s been a whirlwind already and there’s so much to come.” Like the other two, she stresses her joy at the outstanding opportunity to work with Christopher Bailey.

Whilst the trio is understandably grateful for this opportunity, they won’t have much time to ponder on their achievements; starting in June, this summer will see the finalists busy being mentored by industry greats to begin creating their Fashion Fringe collection which will show during London Fashion Week in September, where the winner will be selected by Christopher Bailey. The winning designer will then go on to showcase their solo collection in February 2013 during London Fashion Week. Be very excited – they certainly are.

Sketches by Haizhen Wang
Images from Vita Gottlieb

Words by Jessica Ly


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