Wes­ley Har­riott

Emirates Woman - - #britishdesigners -

Has grow­ing up in Tot­ten­ham, north Lon­don af­fected the way you view the world and in-turn your de­signs?

For sure, grow­ing up in Tot­ten­ham has im­pacted my view on many things. It’s a tough place to come from and I think be­ing sur­rounded by peo­ple who rep­re­sent a tougher side of life, it has fil­tered into my aes­thetic, and the way I see the world. I am re­ally proud to have come from there, it wasn’t al­ways pleas­ant but it cer­tainly gives you an ed­u­ca­tion in life.

Can you tell us how your strug­gles in­spired you? My mother was a teenage

par­ent and faced many ob­sta­cles, judge­ments and prej­u­dices, so as a kid watch­ing her just try ev­ery av­enue to pro­vide was eye-open­ing and over­whelm­ing. Her re­silience and abil­ity to suc­ceed, I be­lieve, is the foun­da­tion of the Wes­ley Har­riott wo­man. I found a lot of es­cape in comic books and manga, pay­ing close at­ten­tion to the fe­male he­roes. I re­ally rev­eled in fan­tasy and worlds that de­picted things so dif­fer­ently which is still a safe space for me. I feel my view point in women is cemented in the cor­re­la­tion of my re­al­ity and fan­tasy es­capism. I fee ll live my life be­tween both.

Do you feel that the fash­ion in­dus­try is ac­cept­ing or did you have to fight for your place to be in it? I have had to

work for, not so much ac­cep­tance, but un­der­stand­ing, and I am still work­ing on it. I used to re­ally crave ac­cep­tance from cer­tain ar­eas or peo­ple, but I think work­ing as hard as I do, I just want to keep sur­pris­ing my­self and mak­ing sure I like what I do, be­cause no one judges me more than me and be­ing that way keeps me fo­cused and work­ing hard.

Your de­signs are in­flu­enced by streetwear and feel very wear­able and per­ti­nent right now. Why do you think streetwear has be­come so rel­e­vant to the fash­ion in­dus­try? I ac­tu­ally don’t

think my gar­ments are streetwear, or at least it’s not some­thing I set out to com­mu­ni­cate. I think that en­ergy is just in the DNA of where I come from. I tend to ref­er­ence sports and mil­i­tary more so than per­haps streetwear but I al­ways find the streetwear com­par­i­son in­ter­est­ing. I think the fash­ion in­dus­try has seen the pull of brands like Supreme and Palace and wants a slice of that mone­tary gain. It’s smart, but I feel it will wear thin. I think con­sumers will soon start to seek crafts­man­ship and in­no­va­tion in their gar­ments be­cause as time goes by, you will nat­u­rally be­gin to ques­tion an in­vest­ment in that £700 (Dhs3,300) hoody you ‘had to have’.

How did you feel when you found out both Kylie Jen­ner and SZA wanted to wear your de­signs? I al­ways freak out

a bit when peo­ple of such in­flu­ence want to wear what I do. It means the world to me. Kylie Jen­ner looks in­cred­i­ble in every­thing, so it was re­ally cool to see her bring one of my pieces to life in a way only Kylie can. SZA is one of my favourite singers. She in­spires me so much so I re­ally love cre­at­ing for her and with her in mind.

How has win­ning the ASOS prize en­riched your ca­reer as a de­signer? Win­ning the AS OS prize has

al­lowed me to ac­cess bet­ter re­sources, and re­ally think on a big­ger plat­form of how I can present my ideas. I also am re­ally into the men­tor­ing that comes with the prize. I love to learn and re­ally wel­come the help of their ex­perts show­ing me ways to de­velop and move for­ward. It’s re­ally changed my life for the bet­ter, I am so lucky.

Where do you see your­self in the fu­ture? Is there a ca­reer mo­ment that you hope to achieve? I have

so many goals I want to achieve but nat­u­rally I aim to take it one step at a time. I am hav­ing my first pre­sen­ta­tion with the Bri­tish Fash­ion Coun­cil dur­ing Septem­ber Fash­ion week. That is a huge mo­ment for me. For the fu­ture I look for nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion in my ca­reer, be­ing stocked in my dream stores and work­ing with peo­ple who I ad­mire – I could write a huge list, but for me right now, I want to re­ally fo­cus on sus­tain­ing my brand.

How im­por­tant is sus­tain­abil­ity to your brand?

Sus­tain­abil­ity isn’t some­thing we should think about prac­tic­ing, it should just be. My gar­ments at present are all made in Lon­don with fab­rics sourced lo­cally so I am re­ally hands on in know­ing that all the in­puts into what I do come from safe and en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly re­sources. It still shocks me how much sus­tain­abil­ity is a new con­cept.

Af­ter be­ing a fash­ion edi­tor for five years, was de­sign­ing a nat­u­ral step for you or did you find the tran­si­tion chal­leng­ing? The

prob­lem was tran­si­tion­ing from a fash­ion edi­tor to a start-up com­pany owner; the edi­tor to de­signer tran­si­tion was rel­a­tively smooth and or­ganic. It in­volved learn­ing a lot of new skills but those were all nat­u­ral and pleas­ant chal­lenges, un­like be­com­ing a founder, owner and CEO of a small, fast-grow­ing busi­ness. That was and still is a real chal­lenge which takes up 90 per cent of my time.

You seem to have a plethora of skills; de­sign, styling and pho­tog­ra­phy. How young were you when you dis­cov­ered you had a tal­ent to cre­ate? Thank you! I didn’t re­ally an­a­lyse

whether I had a tal­ent to cre­ate, but I would scrib­ble and try to draw as soon as I could hold a pen­cil.

Where do you think your nat­u­ral artis­tic abil­i­ties came from? My mum was an

amaz­ing il­lus­tra­tor and would make most of my clothes her­self when I was small. As for my dad, he was one of the best ac­cor­dion­ists when he was young, but he gave it up for a ca­reer in medicine. I hope I do take af­ter them a bit!

What are your thoughts on the way so­cial me­dia has im­pacted the fash­ion in­dus­try and do you agree with the in­flu­encer/ celebrity cul­ture? On the one hand there is

a mas­sive amount of in­spi­ra­tion in terms of im­agery avail­able on so­cial me­dia and I feel that it’s used and shared in a very gen­er­ous and pos­i­tive way. But I also feel that it dis­torts and de­grades a lot of con­cepts and ideas, and de­val­ues the hard work and ef­fort that goes into gar­ments and gen­eral prod­uct-mak­ing. As a busi­ness owner I have to say that the in­flu­encer/celebrity cul­ture does help sales. How­ever, if the prod­uct is truly right and of the right qual­ity and price and tar­geted cor­rectly to fit its au­di­ence - it will sell it­self.

A.W.A.K.E. is an acro­nym for All Won­der­ful Adventures Kin­dle En­thu­si­asm. Where were you when you came up with this for your brand name? I al­ways liked the con­cept

of the word ‘awake’, both its lit­eral and non­lit­eral mean­ings. For me it means to be aware, open and per­cep­tive, to live con­sciously, with in­ten­tion and at­ten­tion. But also, one can be very awake and still a dreamer. Each col­lec­tion is a bit of a dream, a story to be told. As for the acro­nym mean­ing of awake, I had to do some­thing as the word was too generic for a brand name, so I put dots in be­tween each let­ter and made each let­ter mean some­thing. All Won­der­ful Adventures Kin­dle En­thu­si­asm seemed dreamy and fairy-tale like.

With the likes of Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West cham­pi­oning A.W.A.K.E. how do you think this has im­pacted the brand’s sig­nif­i­cance in the in­dus­try? I feel that the

brand’s sig­nif­i­cance in the in­dus­try be­came ap­par­ent only a year or two ago. Be­fore the brand was re­ally un­der the radar de­spite the fact I was lucky to have Kim Kardashian wear­ing A.W.A.K.E. My strong con­vic­tion is that it’s still the prod­uct that makes things hap­pen for us pri­mar­ily.

A.W.A.K.E. is avail­able at Bou­tique 1 in Dubai and is very wel­comed amongst fash­ion en­thu­si­asts. What are your thoughts on women in the Mid­dle East de­spite the stereo typ­i­cal view? I think

women in the Mid­dle East are very true to them­selves; real, dash­ing, vi­brant, fem­i­nine, warm and coura­geous. They are true fash­ion en­thu­si­asts with great taste and a love for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and all things new.

Is there any­thing about this re­gion that in­spires or in­ter­ests you? Pri­mar­ily

the beau­ti­ful women! Lay­er­ing, colours, the weather, food, ar­chi­tec­ture, too many things...

Be­ing Lon­don-based, what do you think it means to be a Bri­tish de­signer to­day? I would say be­ing true to

one­self. This prob­a­bly ap­plies to any de­signer, not just the Bri­tish de­sign­ers. But for some rea­son I feel that Bri­tish de­sign­ers in par­tic­u­lar have a very dis­tinc­tive qual­ity of fol­low­ing their own very spe­cific path and style.

Your pre­sen­ta­tion was beau­ti­ful. Can you de­scribe the story be­hind the col­lec­tion and what in­spired you to cre­ate it? I was in­spired by Soviet sci-

fi films and Amer­i­can cow­boys. I made nude colour scuba all-in-one-piece tops and dresses with gloves im­i­tat­ing space uni­forms and paired them with cow­boy jack­ets and Texas-made, ex­ag­ger­at­edly ruched cow­boy boots. There are also bits and pieces from the 70s, like brown cor­duroy trousers mixed with big shoul­ders from the 80s. I re-watch­ing the 90s Twin Peaks when work­ing on the col­lec­tion, so there were a lot of el­e­ments com­ing from there too.

All A.W.A.K.E. pieces are avail­able at Bou­tique 1 in Mall of the Emi­rates and on­line: bou­tique1.com

“I al­ways liked the con­cept of the word‘ awake ’. For me it means to be aware and per­cep­tive, to live con­sciously, with in­ten­tion and at­ten­tion”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.