Updated: Oct 4, 2019
London Fashion Week SS 2020 is alive, fresh, and exhilarating and for the last 12 years, the leading place to see the best and most innovative designers from all around the world has been organized by Fashion Scout. This year IRK Magazine was impressed to see that Fashion Scout took an innovative leap linking art and fashion making the large entrance to the show into a contemporary gallery displaying Beautalist artists. Beautalism is a new and emerging art movement acclaimed for bringing beauty back into the London art scene.
We were able to sit down with the Fashion Scout founders; Projects Manager Biljana Poposka-Roberts, and creative director Martyn Roberts who have discovered and helped launch Iris Van Herpen, Gareth Pugh, Peter Pilotto, David Koma, Eudon Choi, Pam Hogg, Phoebe English, Roberts|Wood, Angel Chen, Xiao Li, Anna K and Anna October. We also got a few words in with the curator of Beautalism and owner of Runway Gallery Daniel Syrett.
IRK: How did Fashion Scout get started?
Biljana: It started over 12 years ago with a few young designers that could not get on the official schedule. We randomly found a carpark with another PR agency. The response was amazing from the beginning and the designers really felt that this was needed because it gave them the opportunity to showcase their work on a high level at an affordable price. So from that first experience, we knew this was something we had to keep doing.
We quickly found a sponsor to keep us going. Our first sponsor was Vauxhall general motors. That is why many people thought we were Vauxhall Fashion Scout and that we were based out of Vauxhall. With their help, we were able to continue and support many many young designers and since then thousands of designers around the world. It has been so rewarding to see some of them grow such as David Koma, Phoebe English.... and Iris Van Herpen. We spotted Iris Van Herpen when she just graduated and I remember Martyn saying this girl is going to do well. We need to support her so we literally got her in and gave her her first show and we took her to Paris as well. It is just incredible to see all the designers we have worked with
IRK: What do you think of this year?
Biljana: I have not been this excited in years actually. We have a new venue at Victoria House where we can explore different collaborations and also having a blank canvas is inspiring. Plus the designers this year have been very exciting and the international designers we have brought here would not necessarily be seen if we did not present them on the London Scene.
We have had amazing feedback on the artwork presented for the first time in collaboration with Runway Gallery and its founder Daniel Syrett. People want to see more and experience more. Not just come to see a show but to stay and immerse themselves.
IRK: What are your thoughts on Beautalism?
What Daniel with Runway Gallery is doing with Beautalism is a great combination of ideas. Beauty is brutal because it can be interpreted in so many ways. I think Daniel has a great eye for diverse beauty that matches what we are doing for fashion. When you see it on a catwalk you ask is this beauty but how can one define it as we all have different expectations. With the Beautalism exhibition, there is a diverse understanding of Beauty.
IRK: This is the first time we have seen an art exhibition being combined with a fashion week venue. We can see that people are staying longer before and after the shows taking photos of the artwork and interacting with the art. Is this something you want to continue to do in the future?
Biljana: Yes absolutely. I think that the link between art and fashion is underestimated. I hope we can continue to make the connection. Obviously it is not the first time art and fashion have been combined but it is the first time we have made the link between the two and I hope it is just the beginning.
Martyn: It is a very interesting movement. Looking at how art and fashion work together. How art inspires fashion and how fashion inspires art. Celebrating the cross over between the two and also celebrating a whole diverse range of imagery, body imagery, gender everything. Society is going through this change of pushing boundaries and we need to reflect that in art and in fashion.
IRK: How do you choose the different designers?
Biljana: We do it continually and we keep an eye out on who is doing what. First of all, we go to loads of graduate shows throughout the year and we travel to fashion weeks around the world. Martyn is a judge at many international competitions. We also have designers that approach us and the third way is that we have our own awards; the Merit Award and Ones to Watch. Both these awards are to support young talent. The Merit award is fully supported by us.
Martyn: We are looking for designers who have the potential to grow. The winner gets a free show with models, pr, sales and then we mentor them to take them to their next step. We have been doing this successfully for so many years that we know how to help these designers succeed.
We get a couple of hundred applications for that and we then shorten the list down to 50 designers who then are invited to a judging day. We always invite industry experts, fashion editors, and buyers, who help us select the final winner. This year the winner was WEN PAN a London based womenswear designer. We also discovered Rose Parks through Instagram. She just graduated from Kingston University. We contacted her directly and asked if she wanted to be exposed here.
IRK: Will you be in Paris Fashion week?
Biljana: We used to present our designers in Paris but we don't have the time. We will be looking for designers everywhere in the world. We go to Kyiv, Moscow, Sri Lanka, Vietnam... Martyn is going to the Armenian fashion week next month because he was invited there. Other fashion weeks know that we can support their designers and that we offer a great opportunity.
IRK: London Fashion week is spread all over but we have always felt that Fashion Scout has the most innovative designers and that even the audience is sparked by its creativity. Is that something you have engineered?
Biljana: I would like to say that is something we have an engineered but I think it is just a natural flow of this creative city. The audience is hungry for an innovative international fashion scene.
Martyn Roberts: Fashion Scout is very different from other platforms is that we support talent internationally. We showcase the best talent around the world and we bring them here because we have global buyers and press. We have designers from Poland, Sweden, China, Taiwan, Spain as well as British of course. And now we are expanding into art and combining art with fashion.
After our interview with the Fashion Scout founders, IRK Magazine sought out Runway Gallery founder Daniel Syrett.
IRK: Please tell us about Runway Gallery and your involvement with Fashion Scout?
Syrett: It was an opportunity to bring art into the fashion arena. As the Fashion Gallery, I want to get more involved in the fashion world because I believe that fashion is art and what we are doing is bridging that gap between the two.
IRK: As this is the first year Fashion Scout has included artists, how has it been for the Fashion Gallery?
Syrett: For us as a gallery, it has been fantastic. We have multiple interviews with the British and international press lined up next week. We also met Garry McQueen who is also being showcased by Fashion Scout. He did all McQueen's fabrics and is a creative artist who will be joining the Fashion Gallery.
We have built a good relationship with fashion scout now so we will be much more involved with the next season. We will be doing more immersive art pieces that people can interact with for the next show.
IRK: Today this space feels like an exclusive gallery. Do you think that the artwork you have curated is keeping people here longer between shows?
Syrett: I think that people are staying longer but I think next year we can do even more. We only came on board a couple of weeks ago so this is just a taste of what we can do next season.
IRK: Can you tell me what this movement Beautalism is?
Syrett: In reaction to the past few decades of critics and museums focussing on conceptual art that reinforces the elitism and stereotypical snobbery of the art world, which deprives the artist and the public alike by making art seem unreachable, Runway Gallery and the artists of Beautalism have a unique contemporary perspective of art. Beauty is, of course, subjective even though we all experience it, and we all know it to be deeply connected to art. Beautalism is art that creates a sense of awe. Art that we can stare at, get lost in and visually devour. Through merging art with fashion they invite the viewer to see art both as beautiful and for everyone to enjoy.
Beauty has for too long been considered a dirty word in the art world. That is decorative and therefore lacking meaning. However, I believe people want beautiful things and that is not a bad thing. What is wonderful about beauty is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and means lots of different things to lots of different artists. Beauty is like chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It is ever-changing. It is like fashion as well. This season we are all wearing X and this color and next season it is something else. This is what is fantastic about it. The Beautalist artists are really grasping the concept and the idea is formulating in many people's heads and that is why the press and people are talking about Beautalism.
IRK: Are all the artists from the UK or is this an international movement.
Syrett: The artists literally come from all over the world. We have artists from Paris, Lisbon, Toronto, New York and of course London and northern England. It is important for me to find people who have a specific aesthetic and talent and not that they are locally based.
IRK: So how did you decide to focus on art and fashion? Is it because you have a background in fashion?
Syrett: Yes I was a textile designer. I think the fundamental difference for me was that I studied fashion in an art college. I always thought that fashion was an art form. Down the hallway was sculpture and photography was next door so we were all in it together. So I did not have that separatist mindset even fro the beginning. So fashion is art.
I also worked as a fashion stylist for 15 years and I was involved in some absolutely beautiful shoots and it is a travesty that they are not hanging in a gallery or art museum because the art world still considers it to be "commercial". The art world turns its nose up at that.
IRK: So you are going to help break that?
Syrett: Yes because I think we are ready for it to be broken. When people come into the gallery they understand it and they feel something right away. They don't need an expert to explain it to them. We are showing work that people want to soak up into their eyes. We are brutal about beauty!!!!
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