Meet the Fashion Designers’ and Craft makers Young Designer of the Year Runner up, Warren Reilly.
Warren is currently studying ‘Textiles in Practice’ at Manchester Metropolitan (In his 3rd and final year). As part of his University criteria there was a requirement for him to take part in a live brief. As fate would have it the FDC contacted him in the Summer after seeing his work, so it was perfect timing.
“The Aim of our Young Designer Awards and its related events is to increase the number and visibility of young and exceptionally gifted multi-cultural designers and to encourage them to reach their true potential, by rewarding those who excelled both creatively and academically.” – Joanna Marcella (Director of the FDC Young Designer Awards and the FDC Collections Showcase)
Why did you decide to choose fashion designing as a career?
I originally studied Fine art, Photography, Media Studies and English literature. I didn’t start specialising in textiles until my Foundation at Kingston University. I have always been fascinated by the process of print making, I chose to study Textiles because I believe it provides me with the freedom to experiment with materials and processes. As a course I also believe it allows you more time to develop in-depth conceptual ideas, being able to realise them fully within my work.
For a long time I was confused as to whether I wanted to go into Interior Design or Costume Design as I have a strong passion for the study and reinterpretation of history. However after completing the ‘Life on the Outskirts’ project with the Helen Storey Foundation during my second year of university I was able to work within a fashion based format. This allowed me to consider how I could apply my textiles to fashion based outcomes which were designed to allow the viewer to question the issues surrounding plastic waste, the environment and sustainability.
The FDC Awards allowed me to develop these ideas further, enabling me to build on how my ideas and concepts could be realised into fashion based outcomes that both inspire and create controversy. Although I wish to work within the fashion industry I have come from a very different route, a path which I feel has enabled me to understand contextual referencing, design development and processing.
What according to you is a favourite part of being a designer?
My favourite part of design comes in two forms – In one way it’s the realisation of ideas and concepts that you think don’t fit together, but flow so naturally into a new and innovative idea within research, and finally in the concept of the spectacle in finally realising these ideas.
The aspect of collaboration excites me. I love working with others to create exhibitions or styled photo shoots. It’s the concept of creating an entire new world as part of an editorial piece or exhibition work which drives my practice.
Photographers such as Tim Walker or Nick Knight are some of my favourite examples of how to create a whole alternative universe within the frame of an image. I often envisage my work within a scenario, as narrative is key in everything that I do. I consider myself to be a story teller, I am heavily inspired by the past but I am only recently realising that it is important to remain present.
By doing this you are able to see patterns which might foreshadow the future. I hope that the stories I am able to tell within my work allow people to question whether these are the kind of scenarios they wish to see within the future.
Who or what inspired your creations?
Studying my A-Levels, I was literally obsessed with the Baroque and the Rococo. I have never connected with the concept of minimalism which seems to be in such High Vogue these days. The concept of people paying millions of pounds for a white cube or concrete boxes is something I have never understood.
The sheer craft that went into historical design I believe has been lost. These void spaces tell you nothing about the people which live within these spaces. I love the concept of design being able to tell narratives. As a result my work usually takes on a maximalist style, highly decorative, but with moral purposes.
My inspiration is drawn from a vast variety of sources, I guess I am addicted to mag-pieing. I am constantly on the search for visual imagery, articles, movies, magazines and online sources. I literally can’t go on a train journey without ripping apart a newspaper or free magazine I’ve found on my travels. In my opinion I think too many people rely on the internet to give them ideas.
“In order to to create original concepts you need to open your eyes to the world as it was, as it is, and how it may be.”
It’s important to be inquisitive within the world in which you live. Although I am inspired by epic fashion designers such as McQueen (his daring style and bold experimentation is something I have always looked up to), I believe it is crucial to look to wider aspects of the design world. Helen Storey has been a key source of inspiration since taking part in the LOTO project as she has been able to open my eyes to the fact that good design should question or solve problems. This is why I have developed such a passion for sustainability and the repurpose of materials.
What skills according to you are necessary for a successful designer?
In my opinion to be a successful designer you have to be able to work in and out of your comfort zone, and I believe that I have shown this aspect within this body of work. I have played the role of both Textile and Fashion Designer – this is not seen often within the design world. In order for me to push myself and really be able to realise my ideas within a fashion based outcome, I know I had to start from scratch.
At this point in my career (only being a student at the moment) my work must focus on the production of the textiles as this is the criteria that I have to meet for university. But I have come to realise after taking part in the LOTO and FDC projects that this is something I want to develop once I leave university.
I spent months photographing skeletons and fossils in museums, scanning rubbish I had collected. Warping environmental headlines from my Newspaper mag-pieing, using photo manipulation processes to layer my imagery onto of one other to create the mutated fish forms you see within my work, testing repeat or placement print structures, exploring a range of natural materials to digitally print onto which were as sustainably sourced as possible with the facilities that were available in the digital print studio at university.
On top of all this I knew I had to develop this work into a garment. This meant that I had developing my knowledge of large scale digital print design for garment construction. I had to work hard on my pattern cutting and sewing skills, something which before this project has been more experimental than technical. As a result although the garment structure is simple it allows the textile design to be showcased appropriately. All of this meant that I was able to realise my work into the format I presented within the Awards. I learnt an obscene amount by taking part in this competition and I am immensely proud of what I have achieved!
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in fashion?
At the end of my first year of University I met Henry Holland at the Manchester Textiles Fair where he was giving a talk about his career. At this point I started to realise that I wished to work within a fashion format and felt slightly frustrated as I felt I didn’t have the tools to do it.
He was extremely inspirational and told me directly to go out there and get on with it! There are no right and wrongs, go out there, learn, make mistakes, learn from them but experiment and don’t limit yourself. He also told me to go and live my life and that everything would fall into place if I persisted to push myself. The final piece of advice was that the best connections you make are on the dance floor [laughs].
This was incredible advice and it has really stuck with me and I would tell this story to anyone like me who is studying a alternative subject to fashion but wishes to realise their work within a fashion outcome, or wishes to work within the industry. Fashion isn’t just about making and selling clothes. You need to have a whole array of knowledge, contextual referencing, experimentation and audacity to be a great designer and this can only be done if your prepared to work hard and take risks!
How would you describe your personal style?
My style has two faces – historically inspired while being consciously sustainable. My work can be minimally ornate, or subtlety bold. My personal style is built on the concept of oxymoron. In the present world I believe it is crucial to contradict yourself within your personal style of work, in the way you dress and see the world.
Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
Hopefully I will land a job within a company which shares the same passions that I do. I would love to work somewhere that allows me to build and develop my skills and interests within a professional setting. I am very interested in doing a Masters, perhaps in Fashion design once I have been able to build on my garment constructions skills or perhaps in something else that better suits my current skill set.
In my opinion the future of design is within collaboration and I would love to work with other practitioners from other specialisms from the design sector to realise my concepts and ideas to their full potential.
To work with a team such as Tim Walker or Nick Knight to realise my concepts and ideas of world building through editorial shoots would honestly make my life! I would also love to continue to work with foundations such as HSF in collaborate with a team of practitioners to realise social, political, environmental or scientific issues through the creation of art or design work.
Connect with Warren Reilly