Monday, 18 June 2012

Interview with NEWGEN designer; Tim Soar

Today the new NEWGEN designers have been announced for Spring/Summer 2013. Earlier in the year I interviewed NEWGEN designer, Tim Soar who was given exhibition space this year. 

Menswear and womenswear designer Tim Soar discusses his views on how the recession has had an effect on the business side of fashion.

Tim Soar is a British fashion designer of both menswear and womenswear, who was one of this year’s featured NEWGEN designers. He is also the owner of the global music consultancy company, Music Concrete, through which he has collaborated with brands such as Fendi and Adidas. Tim’s keen interest in fashion design was first sparked when he established POST Design in the 1980s with the renowned graphic designer, Neville Brody. Since POST Design, Tim has continued to design using menswear as his main focus, and his menswear label SOAR was launched in 2006. 

After six years working successfully as a menswear designer, Tim made the decision to branch out into womenswear: “I love menswear but there came a point when I thought womenswear is definitely going to be the way to establish my business and to move forward in fashion.” For his womenswear collections, Tim carries over his signature style into his collections, but altered with a feminine touch. Through his NEWGEN sponsorship, Tim’s Autumn/Winter 2012 womenswear collection was allocated exhibition space at London Fashion Week in which his collection was showcased. This year, his Autumn/Winter collection was heavily inspired by Japenese culture: “There are a lot of Kimono and Samurai armour references and an a-symmetry indication that was drawn from traditional Japanese clothing.”

Tim’s womenswear line takes aspects from his menswear collections, such as sharp tailoring and strong silhouettes with a fresh sporty edge, and adapts them in a way that is suitable and appealing for a female market. Tim discusses how the economic climate has been partly responsible for his switchover into women’s clothing design: “I wanted to make some money and womenswear is a much, much bigger market. It is very easy in fashion to have a business that doesn’t make money and it’s even easier to do so in menswear.” The recession means that it has been a very difficult time for fashion designers and Tim plans to use his womenswear collection as a way of establishing his business and making a name and profit for himself: “Notoriously, the late Alexander McQueen only started going into profit three or four years ago and he was one of the biggest designers Britain has ever produced.” For the time being, Tim’s main focus will be predominantly womenswear, but he still continues a menswear collection, with his eventual aim to bridge back into menswear. 

For Tim’s womenswear collection, NEWGEN has been a huge contributing factor to his success. “I knew about the BFC [British Fashion Council] from my menswear, so it was natural to apply for NEWGEN with my womenswear.” NEWGEN is one of the world’s most internationally recognised talent schemes, working in conjunction with the fashion industry, and in the past has supported designers such as Alexander McQueen, Matthew Williamson, Christopher Kane and, more recently, Meadham Kirchhoff and Mary Katrantzou. Discussing the benefits of NEWGEN, Tim states: “It is fantastic and a great platform for designers. London Fashion Week is internationally known, the BFC is internationally known, and therefore to be associated with it is just amazing!” London Fashion Week is very different when compared to other fashion capitals in terms of its strong support network for up- and-coming designers: “London has a great artisan history; something similar to NEWGEN doesn’t exist in Paris and it doesn’t really exist in New York or Milan. London is great because it has eclecticism.” London has a huge influence on the fashion industry worldwide and, in August 2011, took the fashion capital of the world top spot from New York, according to a survey by Global Language Monitor, conducted each year. “One of the biggest things that London has given to the fashion industry in the last ten years is vintage as a concept. It’s all about mixing style together and eclecticism, mixing old and new with expensive and old.” 

When it comes to the inspiration behind Tim’s designs, he uses a combination of physical and mental artefacts, as he says taking these mental references and turning them into designs is about “developing the mental picture in my head”. “I have been involved in the fashion industry for a long time now and have a huge mental reference of the last 30 years of fashion.” When it comes to physical artefacts, Tim loves vintage clothing: “I buy a lot of vintage pieces, and will often take a mood from them.” 

Within Tim’s designs, resilience remains an important factor for both his menswear and womenswear collections. “All of my garments are made with really good fabric that I know is going to last, and I think that is really important. There are some pieces which you know are going to be season pieces. They may not be physically tired but you know that, visually, people will want to have moved on. As a designer, it’s important that the price of your garments is heavily reflected in terms of quality. Your clothes have got to last – if people are paying a lot of money for your designs, then the clothes have got to last.” 

While the turbulent economic climate continues to have an effect on the fashion industry, for Tim the ‘sale’ aspect is something that he takes into account when designing his collections: “The fashion industry is going through a tough time, the general economic situation is not good and that leads to stores being more conservative about what they sell and becoming ruthless if items aren’t selling. It has to be a business, so to a certain degree this can limit what you’re doing, as you need to acknowledge that you need to make money. Fashion isn’t fine art, it is making clothes for people; and if your clothes don’t sell, then you aren’t doing your job properly.”

Word by Katie Handy-Beith

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