Me and My Style

Me and My Style

Our MD and founder of Young British Designers, Debra Hepburn, talks start-ups, British talent and her own fashion following in the autumn issue of Style Birmingham magazine.

Here’s what she had to say:

What led you to create Young British Designers?

“At the time, nobody was focusing on or showcasing young British design talent and we felt quite strongly that it’s the best fashion design talent in the world. There’s a reason why so many students come to this country to study fashion. The thing with our home grown talent is that we take a risk, break the rules and we do so with a British twinkle in our eye. It’s more exciting than other countries. I might be biased, but I think that only happens here because we have that ethos in our country.

How has YBD progressed since you started?

We’ve been going for five years and we’ve now got a track record for discovering some of the best names out there. We’ve been doing it quietly and a lot of people thought we were part of the British Fashion Council but we aren’t. Our new website which launched in July took that in to account and we’ve made ourselves far more YBD. When we started, people thought we were mad. They said “you can’t rely on young designers, their collections will be late, the sizes will all be wrong and they’ll let you down.” We started off with pretty much the world against us, apart from young designers who thought this was an amazing idea and how great it was to have so much support and guidance given to them.

We started off quite small and bought with our hearts and what really made us feel excited. Then we grew and we took on more designers, and then the designers that we first had, started to get well known within the fashion world.  People started to trust in us more because we were finding the next big thing, as opposed to only taking them on after they were big.

What do you look for when finding new designers?

You get a real eye for it and it’s usually when something makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and you see that they’ve got something special. It might be the way they’ve spoken about the brand, but then it’s seeing a signature look or a look that is unique for the designer. We’ll look for something that either makes us fall in love or even feel a bit sort of “Oooh I don’t know how I feel about this.”

What sort of success have designers gone on to have after coming to YBD?

We took J.W. Anderson’s first collection and now he’s part of the Louis Vuitton stable and he’s just designed a coke bottle, so I mean how much more famous do you get! Eudon Chol is a real fashion darling at London Fashion Week and he’s done a collaboration with River Island, and Sophie Hulme’s bags are so iconic now.

Lily Kamper is a fantastic jewellery designer who sent me a tweet whilst I was in London. We met in a coffee bar and she pulled out these beautiful architectural pieces and she was shaking. We were the first people she’d shown this collection to and it was sculpted. Hand-turned and dip-dyed. It was just sensational and we took her on. I put a tweet out and then Liberty got in touch with her and took her on as well. That’s what we want, to find great people and have them make their way with lots of retailers not just us.

How would you describe your own personal style and what do you think has influenced it?

I like baggy tops, little skirts and dresses with trainers. I wear low heels most of the time so when I do wear high heels, I know that they’re a bit special and there’s a taxi waiting! I might wear a lot of print one week and then the next week I might be wearing all black.

I love jewellery. I worked in the Jewellery Quarter and used to make chains and solder earrings and then in-between that, I used to paint murals on the walls: my Moseley Art School education.

I do throw stuff out. I have a charity bag and I have the sell-it-on-to-other people bag because, this is a bit embarrassing to admit, but there’s a following for my clothes where I live. I take them to this dress shop and they have people who flood in to get them because they never know what they’re going to find.

You can read the autumn issue of Style Birmingham here.

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