Monday, 10 September 2012

Take a look at this interview Robyn Coles had with Cymru Culture to find out all about Fashion Week Wales.

One of a growing number of Welsh designers to have shown their work internationally, Robyn Coles is unusual in that she has chosen to base her company in Wales. Robyn has consistently (and sometimes provocatively) been establishing herself as one of the leading milliners from Wales, with shows at London Fashion Week and the launch of her own on-line store.
However, this does not seem to have been enough for this ambitious (and very personable) designer, who has decided to take on the monumental task of creating and co-ordinating Fashion Week Wales in 2013. Here, Robyn tells us about her background in the fashion industry and what inspired her to embark on this huge project. Via regular updates on Cymru Culture, we will follow her trials and tribulations leading up to this exciting and ambitious event.

It was never my intention to take on this much work, the phrase "bitten off more than you can chew" springs to mind. But then I do have a very big mouth.

Fashion Week Wales started out as a small project then exploded outwards with the ideas that kept coming to fruition, spawning new ideas again. My background in luxury fashion buying and now millinery design and production led me to think I knew enough about the industry to spearhead this new movement of showcasing fashion design talent in Wales on a global scale; for the record I don’t know quite enough, but I know people who do!

Having been made redundant last year from the "dream job" I came back to Wales, unemployed and unemployable, tail between legs. What met me was an unexpectedly great pool of creative talent, one that had boomed out of control since my departure to London more than 12 years ago. I was so taken with this that I decided to stay, base my business here and embark on this new initiative; Fashion Week Wales.

To start with, Wales has some amazing venues. Cardiff Castle is my location of choice. I have been to so many fashion shows/weeks/events globally and none have been within the grounds of a castle, so there. I had no hesitation over when to stage this, it could only be launched on St David’s day. The shows will run each evening for three days; Friday 1st, Saturday 2nd, Sunday 3rd of March within the grounds of the castle. In addition to this, a black tie, invite only, red carpet, gala launch will be held on Saturday October 13th in National Museum Cardiff, which will showcase looks from confirmed designers, alongside existing museum exhibitions and artefacts. In London, my happy place and peaceful retreat used to be the National Portrait gallery. I could escape from the stresses of everyday life and be quiet (a rarity for me) in the company of beautiful art. I feel the same within the National Museum, serene and educated - through the process of osmosis predominantly!

Wales has some very talented designers, both established and in training. I work alongside the University of Wales, Newport and Glamorgan University and the students that come through their ranks are passionate and enthusiastic, with a lot of potential among them.When in conversations with the British Fashion Council, buyers and the UK fashion press, I have found that the knowledge of Welsh design courses is almost non-existent - something I seek to address as part of Fashion Week Wales. I think that very often there is a psychological barrier between England and Wales that far exceeds the bridge toll!

I am massively passionate about Wales. Having left for London post A levels, I never thought I would return. I would come out in hives past zone 4 and just shrivel up and die outside of the M25 … or so I thought. I now spend most of my week in Cardiff, with frequent weekly visits to London for lunch meetings etc. Whilst I do miss the city that gave me my career, I think I have the balance just right. I give a deep sigh of wistful nostalgia on pulling into Paddington Station. I go about my day like I am a Londoner again - huffing incessantly, but being cheery deep inside, I ruminate about my youth in the big city and then I get back on the train home; happy to walk my dog and live in a proper house with its own front door!

I guess these three musings explain why I am doing Fashion Week Wales, it combines the things about which I am most passionate: fashion and Wales. I get to scout for new designers both Welsh and international and I get to show our beautiful city and country off to old friends in the fashion industry, who wrongly think that anything without an 020 phone number is rubbish.

Hopefully when the event becomes established after a few years, our reputation as a culturally aware and fashion forward country will spread across the globe. When buyers and press are rounding off a tiring month (yes, it is tiring!) of fashion weeks from New York to London to Milan to Paris, I hope they will find a nice welcome respite in the form of Fashion Week Wales. They will find new, innovative designs - some commercial, some crazy, some viable, some avant-garde.

It's only two hours out of London. Get on a train guys, just get on a train.

Robyn Coles, 1 September 2012

Thanks to Cymru Culture you can read the interview here.

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