I’ve loved the ongoing mission of Young British Designers (YBD) since they launched 5 years ago and have watched the brand grow and evolve. They now represent a wide range of exciting new design talent and awareness of the brand has grown considerably. I recently caught up with Debra Hepburn of YBD to hear how the brand works with emerging design talent and and the importance of being absolutely passionate about fashion, to have any chance of success.
You were established in 2010, how has the brand progressed since then and has the vision stayed the same?
I don’t think for a moment when we started we could have imagined quite how much of a gap YBD would fill, both from a designer and a customer perspective. Our vision to discover, showcase and promote the best of British emerging design talent has stayed the same and the insatiable desire to find and wear the new and unique, continues to grow. We also get involved in mentoring young designers long before they appear on YBD.
How many people now work at YBD?
We’re still a very small team. We keep the organisation tight as that way we are able to buy more young designer collections.
What criteria do you use for choosing which designers to work with?
We use the criteria of buying what we love and what we believe in. It’s as simple as that. If we try to be clever and guess trends or base it on what’s selling elsewhere, then we do our wonderful new talent a disservice. We are all about discovering the new. Our customers tell us people stop them in the street to ask: Where did you get that? This is the essence of what we buy!
Are you approached regularly by new designers who want to collaborate with you?
Oh yes! We receive up to fifteen new approaches each day ranging from very young people longing to know how to become a fashion designer, to graduates, to designers in other fashion houses looking to start their own label, to people returning to their passion for fashion design as a second career. We try and answer as many queries as possible, as constructively as possible.
How is YBD funded?
To date YBD has been entirely self-funded but we are now looking at our next phase of growth and so this may change.
How do you attract customers to shop on your site?
Initially we grew via social media and word-of-mouth. It’s only latterly we’ve added in PR support and that has been amazing as the press have responded so wonderfully and so responsibly (I firmly believe we all have a duty to support our country’s emerging talent). We seem to be in the press every week and some of that is about our constant stream of new news stories. We’ve always got something or someone exciting to share! Brilliantly our customers continue to recommend us and that’s always such a great accolade.
Do you think British design is supported/celebrated enough in the UK?
To a degree, yes. But more so at the stage when a label has been through some of it’s toughest times already. I’d love to see the UK set up some shared production facilities for emerging designers with various other mentors and experts at hand. These ‘incubator’ type concerns are relatively common in tech start-ups but still mostly limited in the fashion sector.
What advice would you give to young, aspiring fashion designers?
Do what you love. Love what you do. If you aren’t entirely passionate about being a fashion designer give up now. It’s tough, so tough and it’ll exhaust you and take every minute you have and every penny you have and more. BUT if you love it then just go for it. Listen to everyone, learn, and then discard that which flies against your own creative belief system. Seek your signature style, work out where you want it to be sold and hammer their doors down with all of the reasons why they need you. Just don’t give up. Not if it’s the only thing that makes you want to get up in the mornings…
What are your plans for the future?
So many plans! We’d love to share some more with you in 2016 as it’s all in that secret place right now!
You can find out more info and shop the latest young designer collections at YBD