The Merit Award is a new talent initiative by Fashion Scout that enables upcoming designers to receive support and development with their collections, designs and businesses on an international scale. Over the years, winners have debuted their collections at London Fashion Week, featuring everything from graphic knitwear to pieces made with ostrich feathers. Below are our top 5 avant-garde and innovative collections picked out from the pool of our talented Merit Award winners.
Fortie Label - Autumn/Winter 2018 Winner
Central Saint Martins Graduate Essie Buckman is the founder of ‘Fortie Label’, a womenswear brand that combines luxury and elements of urban fashion to create bold yet sophisticated looks. Including subtle components of black culture and 00’s style, the AW18 collection exudes a sense of feminine power and black excellence.
Since winning the Fashion Scout Merit Award, Buckman’s label has gone on to attract the attention of celebrities including British singer Jorja Smith, South Korean artist Chaelin CL, and internationally known chart topper Rihanna. With the backing of these powerful women of colour, Fortie Label has propelled forward, allowing Buckman to collaborate with industry professionals. Having shot a fashion film with Nick Knight for ShowStudio and been featured in various publications including Vogue Italia and Dazed, Fortie Label is continuing on an upward spiral of impactful press and noteworthy collaborations.
Han Wen - Spring/Summer 2017 Winner
Han Wen’s SS17 collection is all about contrast. He grabbed our attention with his looks that immediately emit a juxtaposition of texture, style and graphic influence. The SS17 collection is experimental in terms of silhouette and material, allowing Han Wen to present a significant concoction of masculine and feminine cuts within contrast-heavy tactile pieces.
Upon graduating Parsons School of Design in New York, he was the only student from his class that was given the opportunity to be sponsored for his debut show at London Fashion Week. He was recognised by the CFDA and graduated as one of the top ten students in his specific major. Having an extensive fashion education behind him, his experience and collection enabled Han Wen to win the SS17 Merit Award and pushed him onto creating future collections and progressing with his label.
David Ferreira - Autumn/Winter 2016 Winner
Abstract silhouettes and colour blocking are two key features of David Ferreira’s SS16 collection that enabled him to win the Merit Award. Although unpractical, Ferreira’s pieces take on a more artistic form compared to other winners. The pieces are in no way ready-to-wear, but resemble that of an anomalous couture label.
Allowing red to seep into every aspect of his womenswear collection, Ferreira allows us to see female strength exuding from every garment. Combined with feminine pink touches, the power of the red and fur textures within the collection radiate ascendency and influence. Despite the unusual architecture of the pieces, the sharpness and boldness of the shapes used symbolise confidence, allowing women to reclaim any form they see fit.
Having worked for Iris Van Herpen, Giles Deacon, and Meadham Kirchoff, he has gained experience from a wide variety of designers, essentially bringing his AW16 collection to the critically acclaimed success it was. Since then, Ferreira has had sponsored London Fashion Week shows, alongside showing his SS17 collection with Fashion Scout.
Roberts|Wood - Spring/Summer 2016 Winner
Katie Roberts-Wood, founder of the Roberts|Wood label, was an award winner long before her SS16 collection was picked up by Fashion Scout’s Merit Award. Her history of critically acclaimed shows and collections allowed her to hit everyone’s fashion radar when her SS16 collection showed at London and Paris Fashion Week. Having won the ‘Collection of the Year Award’ from International Talent Support alongside winning the ‘Vogue Talent Award’ in 2014, she has been one to watch since.
Inspired by nature and science, Roberts-Wood created transparent tactile pieces with intricate construction and form. Presenting them in a show based on movement, the audience was able to see how the influence of nature had embedded itself in the collection. Allowing the models to interpretively dance with brown paint presented the collection as graceful and elegantly as the earth itself. Katie Roberts-Wood stated in an interview with Fashion Scout that ‘the inspiration for the show came from wanting to create a feeling of suspension, a feeling of being connected to the earth and being under water’ therefore enabling us to make a lasting connection between the Roberts|Wood SS16 collection and its natural origins.
James Kelly - Autumn/Winter 2015 Winner
Specialising in outerwear and sportswear upon graduating The Royal College of Art’s Fashion Design MA Programme in 2014, James Kelly received a mass influx of press attention and continues to do so. His collections contain narrative, allowing the audience to feel as though they are following a character through a journey. The show is ambiguous, enabling us to see what we we want to see and take what we will from it, but the AW15 collection itself is undoubtedly memorable.
Made up of deconstructed trench coats and jackets, Kelly’s AW15 collection, according to the designer himself, tells the story of a girl wandering the streets while searching for her lost love. The makeup for the show, created by Lan Nguyen-Grealis, presented an incomplete look, coherent with the half-crimped hair and the dismantled theme of the collection itself. It presents the protagonist of the show as truly lost without her love, looking for it to complete her. Reinforcing this, the colour palette of the collection stayed dull, featuring varied shades of khaki and grey.
Since the release of this narrative driven collection, Kelly has stunned us with SS16 and AW16 collections that are as equivocal as the AW15 show. Featuring ‘drowned’ women and galaxy painted men, James Kelly has established himself as a narrative visionary.
Words by Georgia Gadsby