Since November, up-and-coming designer Sadie Clayton has worked with All Walks, promoting diversity alongside us and through her own label. Sadie debuted at London Fashion Week in February, showing her collection in the opulent confines of St Giles in the Fields Church. Sadie’s collection – featuring copper saddles, human hair and dramatic, structural black fetish garments – and her selection of diverse models was never going to go unnoticed. We spoke to the 23-year-old Kingston graduate originally from Mirfield, West Yorkshire, to discuss inspiration, the struggles of being an emerging designer and her push for diversity.
Why is diversity important to you?
The signature of my brand is to be diverse. In my Graduate collection, I used copper and the colour popped against black skin. I used a black model in my lookbook and since then I’ve always wanted black girls. I want people to know that when they come to one of my shows they will see diversity on the catwalk. Also, there aren’t many black designers in the industry, so I feel if we do have diversity within our campaigns and on the catwalk, they will inspire new upcoming artists to do the same. Some of the big fashion houses don’t use black models, and they are the big boys; designers like me look up to them, and if they aren’t doing it, people at university aren’t going to do it.
Were you taught about designing clothes for women of different shapes and sizes at university? If not, do you think this needs to change?
No I wasn’t. It absolutely needs to change – then it would broaden our knowledge of diversity. It is a whole new aspect of design, and it all boils down to the fact that size does matter. The grading system isn’t taught in education for different body shapes. Evans is for larger women, New Look has a curve range, but none of us are taught how to design for larger women.
Did you enjoy your time at Kingston?
I think I would have been more accepted elsewhere. However, I’m glad I went there because I did stand out. I chose it because you could eat your sandwiches on the river and it had nice surroundings. But Kingston is known for how commercial it is; people always get jobs at Max Mara, H&M etc., whereas that’s not me nor my ambition.
Tell us about your graduate collection.
It was inspired by erotic romanticism, which is movement where there are a lot of bodies wrapping around each other. They were all naked bodies and it didn’t matter what size or shape they were, it was free. That’s what inspired the shapes and sculpture. I was also inspired by Japanese home interiors.
How hard was the transition to creating a collection for London Fashion Week?
There was actually less pressure because I didn’t have loads of deadlines. I was setting my own deadlines, so I was going at my own pace. It was a very fast pace, but I was still at ease because I had no pressure from tutors.
What did you learn in creating your debut London Fashion Week Collection?
The whole production side of it: I sourced all the models and make-up artists. It was exciting because I never had that during my degree. I got to cast models who represented me as a designer and use make-up artists that created my aesthetic on their faces. The music was also very important too. I had to outsource all of these things and I had complete creative control. I also stuck to six looks, because that’s what I knew was do-able and achievable from my graduate collection. It took about 3 months to prepare.
What inspired the collection?
I was looking at 1940s chandeliers and was inspired by the weight of them, and repetition in the metal, jewels and crystals. My inspiration is always so simple, and very minimal. It’s the fabric that makes it. I love to collaborate and introduce people to my brand who can bring something new to it that I can’t. Charlene Ong made the shoes and Lucinda Popp was my knitwear designer.
The shoes were quite a statement…
Yes, I designed them with Charlene Ong. I’ll say I want this particular shape, and then she’ll know how it works on a foot, and she will develop and design it so it works. We used the same show design for this collection as we did with my graduate collection, but I wanted them in black for LFW.
You used a diverse group of models at LFW. Were they professional models?
Only one of the models was from an agency. They were amazing. All of my clothes were a size 8 and it still worked. I had so many compliments and amazing feedback after the show about the models. You don’t have to be a professional model to look amazing on the catwalk.
How did you feel the show went?
It was such a huge success, and I underestimated myself. There was a queue out the door of the venue, waiting to see what ‘Sadie Clayton’ had in store.
Your venue was very opulent; did it fit in well with your aesthetic?
Absolutely. It was so grand. As a designer, I don’t do anything by halves. I am very out there. The church and sculpture itself complimented my collection.
What are your favourite colours to work with?
Copper! The truth is that in fashion there has always been aluminium, steel, silver, gold and brass, and I wanted to bring something new, that’s why I worked with copper. I worked with metal copper sheets in my graduate collection, but they were very labour intensive, expensive and not so safe and wearable. So in my London Fashion Week debut I took the plumbing copper saddles through, which were more wearable, diverse, and juxtaposed industrial material with woven material.
Would you make a ready-to-wear collection?
Possibly in the future. All the garments are ready to wear, but the fabrics I choose make it more like wearable art.
What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
I came second place for the Innovation Award for my Graduate collection, and filling the pews at my debut London Fashion Week collection was quite a feat – people were standing. The press so far has also been great.
What are your anxieties about starting a career in the fashion industry?
Not knowing whether you are going to succeed or not; it’s such a struggle and it’s exhausting, each season. As I’m new, I have no backing in terms of money, which means it’s all on me. All my success is on me.
Is there enough support out there for emerging designers?
Apparently there is quite a lot our there, but it seems like an obstacle to get that support – I will find it one day.
What issues have you come up against?
Fabrics are really expensive and you can only buy minimal quantities of 500 metres from trade shows, which is no good for a starting designer.
Are you now conceptualising your next collection?
Yes, I’m going to have more looks. I’m working with a pattern cutter, which means I can be a bit more experimental. I want hats, I had hats for my graduate collection.
Do you come up with the photo concepts for your Lookbook?
Yes, I do the whole styling aspect, but me and my amazing photographer Iris Bjork talk about what lighting we want etc.
What kind of designer do you hope to be?
The person I like to be is to stand out, and I want to bring something new and fresh to the industry. It’s a known fact that everyone follows trends because they want to make money. I want to make wearable art that the ‘Sadie Clayton’ customer can stand out in and enjoy.
Do you think fashion is a tool for empowering the individual?
Yes. I get a lot of publicity with my own look, let alone with what my talent is. I don’t want to take over the world or anything.
Describe your own style..
Elspeth Merry is a recent University of the Arts London Journalism graduate. She was Features Editor of her University newspaper Arts London News, and is the Features Assistant at 1883 Magazine. She has also written for the Huffington Post and spent last summer in New York writing for Zink Magazine.