Ireland is dominating the fashion springboard, albeit from London. The NEWGEN (New Generation) is an award presented by the British Fashion Council to up and coming designers based in the United Kingdom. Established in 1993 by the British Fashion Council, the NEWGEN, or New Generation, is awarded to up to 20 designers in the areas of catwalk, presentation and exhibition. Winning a NewGen comes with more than just congratulatory prestige, recipients also receive business mentoring and financial support for three, or, if they’re lucky, four seasons. The British Fashion Council also offers up its catwalk space, providing a physical platform from which collections can be exhibited. TopShop have also been on board since 2001, offering shop space to the winners. It is clear that the NewGen is more than just an award; it is a launch pad from which new designers emerge clad in financial and business support as well as having a space from which international buyers can see their work. For many, NewGen is the kick-start of a career.
The Spring/Summer 2013 contest privileged just three with the catwalk stance, two of whom are Irish. Enter J.W. Anderson and Simone Rocha. Considering Alexander McQueen is a previous recipient, this is nothing to be sniffed at. Anderson and Rocha are the visionaries of SS13.
Hailing from Northern Ireland, J.W. Anderson fell into womenswear as a result of demand. Boyfriends were suddenly finding girlfriends in their J.W Anderson menswear pieces. If that’s not a cry for wider variety, who knows what is? Ask and thou shall receive. Anderson presented the ladies with a collection of their very own in 2010, without straying too far from the original product. If the demand originated from a woman’s desire to wear men’s clothing then why provide a feminine collection? In place of this mythical feminine collection was born Anderson’s unique style. A softer menswear collection, but for women. Focusing on his most recent collection, for purposes of relativity, pyjama shapes and patterns are shoved in your face. Boxy t-shirts dotted with turtles, kilts, a psychedelic print on a quilted top, zebras on trousers. A topsy-turvy whirlwind of design, Anderson manages to turn obscure into individual while still maintaining enough quirk to ensure self-expression and statement. He manages to totally mismatch outfits in an idiosyncratic way as opposed to the somewhat expected emo teenager look. J.W. Anderson thinks outside the box to deliver something truly unique.
Equally as individualistic, if somewhat more tame in terms of pattern, but not in texture or style, is Simone Rocha. Having only been in the circuit for two years, the waves in her wake are pointing only one way. Rocha’s designs walk the line between a well-refined woman and a colourfully expressive girl. Each piece is thematic and although she identifies more as a designer than an artist, her desire is for each item to look as beautiful on a hanger as it would on a body. What is most notable about Rocha’s work is the juxtaposition of the fabrics she implores. Lace encased by plastic, pyrex and mohair. Rocha’s reverie knows no bounds.
Despite being quite different, the two have more in common than immediately meets the eye. Besides both now being pegged as designers to watch, the clothes in each realm speak to the same type of woman, despite being stylistically different. Wild and inhibited but secure and contained. There is no mess only direction and the freedom to be whoever it is you are as well as whom you will be. Anderson pins it down when he describes the J.W. Anderson girl as “They’re all over the place these girls. They might boil over but they don’t…”. Nailed it, it is the same undercurrent that flows beneath Irish designers J.W. Anderson and Simone Rocha.
Words: Hannah Mullen