Designer Spotlight - An Interview with KellyDawn Riot
It's no secret that Scotland is a melting pot for fashion talent - a quick look at fashion greats such as Christopher Kane, Tali Lennox and Stella Tennant will cut any doubt short. Every year, emerging design talent oozes from the core of Scotland, many making their debut in their university graduate shows. Today's designer spotlight focuses on one such exceptional brand, KellyDawn Riot. The eponymous label was founded by graduate Kelly Dawn, an Irish born designer currently based in Glasgow, in 2014. Mixing up menswear with illustrative and colourful prints, Kelly has already achieved a number of accolades including the New Talent Award by Scotland Re:Designed. Continuing to point her creative processes towards sustainability, it comes as no surprise that Kelly is also a nominee for the Scottish Fashion Awards under the category "Young Designer of the Year 2015."
We interviewed Kelly about her latest collection, the difficulties of being a menswear designer and her thoughts on the things to come for the brand:
Hi Kelly! We're all over your Formication collection! Can you give us an insight into its creation?
Formication is the result of me developing as a designer, both aesthetically and ethically. The collection itself was inspired by traditional naturalist illustrators, so, in keeping with that tradition, I sat in galleries and museums drawing and sketching before painting the images through traditional watercolour techniques. The aim is to create pieces of wearable art that will continue to inspire: crawling with details and minutiae that will never cease to amaze, while being conscious of its environmental impact. Each piece is a treasure: inspired by nature, designed for life.
Menswear is notoriously known for being a harder sell than Womenswear within the industry - why did you decide to venture into menswear?
People ask me that a lot and it’s difficult to explain because it’s something that was just natural to me. I wasn’t trying to be different or anything. When I was younger I was a total tomboy; I wore boy’s clothes and admired male rock icons from the sixties and seventies, I never felt inspired by Womenswear. So I guess I was always going to go in that direction without much thought actually.
What challenges do you face as a menswear designer?
The aesthetic I have isn’t something the average man would embrace. That to me is both my challenge and my strength. I want to make menswear fun again and I want men to really express themselves through clothing again like in the sixties, seventies, even right up until the eighties and early nineties.
You largely focus on detailed prints for your collections, citing inspiration from Glasgow's museums and attractions. What are your thoughts on the Glasgow style scene?
I’m a bit over the sailor beard look that flooded Glasgow for a while but on a whole it’s surprising how open minded the Glasgow fashion scene is. Even people who don’t dress really out there still show appreciation for an unusual aesthetic.
You've been going from strength to strength since the launch of the label, including a recent nomination for Scottish Fashion Awards Young Designer of the Year - what's next for the KellyDawn Riot brand?
I’m already itching to create some new prints and get creating again. I always begin dreaming up my next collection before the first is even done. But other that I’ve got some exciting things coming up with The Fashion Revolution Campaign, CBS and Scotland Re:Designed in November. I’ve to be a bit tight lipped at the moment but the next few months will be very exciting!
You draw inspiration from the "Blitz kids" such as Boy George. What do you feel has been the most iconic period for fashion in British history?
There’s so many, it’s difficult to say! At the moment I’m really interested in the 1960s Peacocks and how they revolutionized menswear in regards to gender aesthetics but Formication was inspired by the 1970s rock scene and before that my graduate collection was inspired by the 1980s Blitz Kids. I like eras where men embraced a more theatrical and colourful way of dressing. Men being expressive with their fashion sense is such a beautiful thing to me and it’s something I feel has being diluted down and lost, so looking back to those eras in British history is always really inspiring and like a breath of fresh air to me.
As a young graduate turned entrepreneur, what is your advice for aspiring designers?
Have confidence in yourself and don’t compare yourself to others because it gets you nowhere and people work at different paces.
Every cool-girl in fashion has a horror story to tell. What's yours?
Too many! I had a Goth phase, Skate phase, Punk phase; any ‘alternative scene’ I’ve got a t shirt for it. Thankfully FB wasn’t around in those days! So I can bury the evidence.
Who is your model of the moment and why?
Nykhor Paul - she’s insanely beautiful but she’s also using her model status to draw attention to a need for equality in the fashion industry.
Male models: George Hard. He is the most unusual looking model and totally transcends diversity in the fashion industry which makes me happy.
Finally, if you were to impart only one piece of style advice to our readers, what would it be?
Think outside the box, embrace your figure, have fun with fashion and set your own trends. That’s more than one! I guess on a whole just have confidence to express yourself however you want.
Formication by KellyDawn Riot
To find out more about the Formication collection and KellyDawn Riot, head on over to her website here. What are your thoughts on the Menswear industry - what would you like to see more of? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.