Notes on sustainability: Frances Corner in conversation with Bethany Williams and Phoebe English
In celebration of this year's London Craft Week, LCF brought together two of fashion’s most exciting young designers, LCF alumna Bethany Williams and Phoebe English, to discuss the challenges of running their own labels whilst remaining true to their values. During an insightful conversation with Head of College Professor Frances Corner OBE, the two designers shared their thoughts on the future of the industry, how they are re-writing the rules of fashion by cutting waste and creating fewer garments and refusing to produce collections every season in an effort to slow fashion down.
Phoebe English; Frances Corner; Bethany Williams.
Phoebe's eponymous label, launched in 2011, is known for its close attention to detail and quality and is made entirely in England, with all the production run from her studio in South London. The Central Saint Martins' trained designer is led by her sense of responsibility and sustainability, refusing to incorporate mass made or ‘fast’ fashion in her collections. Even though "society equates best with bigger," as she said during the conversation, Phoebe has put all her focus into driving her brand in the opposite direction, reducing the garments available for each collection: "Journalists would drop out of shows and give bad reviews, but all I did was develop my products and make less, better," she added.
The womens and menswear designer wants to use her presence in the industry to spread awareness on the resources used for every piece created. She told Frances how she leaves notes in her customers’ orders to reinforce her brand’s commitment to sustainable practices:
It takes a lot of carbon, water and time to make one garment, so we try and communicate the story of how we make them to get people to understand the time that goes into the process.
Phoebe English AW19 collection
Just like Phoebe, Bethany's eponymous brand is also deeply rooted in sustainability and craftsmanship. Since starting off her career as a designer in 2016, after graduating from her MA Menswear at LCF, Bethany has been demonstrating how fashion can be used as a tool to better lives and create positive change in the world. It was for this reason that she was awarded the second Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design earlier this year.
Bethany tirelessly uses her voice and influence as a young designer to fight for social and environmental causes, collaborating with communities and charities — including LCF’s Making for Change initiative — during different steps of her production cycle, as she explained during the conversation with Frances:
As well as the planet, we also have to think about the people who make the garments. Their views, their lifestyles and how you can make a change.
Bethany Williams Breadline collection
With the intention to re-write the rules and disrupt the fashion system, both UAL graduates are challenging the traditional approaches that have dominated the industry until now. Bethany and Phoebe agreed that staying true to their ethos and defending the pillars of their brands are essential to make a positive impact in the industry, with fashion designers being responsible for setting an example for future generations: "The world is changing and the industry and business will have to change with it," Phoebe concluded.
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