Emerging fashion designers and recent BA (Hons) Fashion Styling and Production graduates Clarissa Henry (AKA Vintage Doll Risa) and Lauren Byfield, founder and curator of the Haze Archive, are using their positions as influencers in styling and fashion to encourage young people from all backgrounds to break the taboo of the creative fields and get ahead in the industry.
The pair linked up with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) earlier this year to run a series of workshops and classes with youths and teenagers who have a passion for working within the creative industries but a lack of understanding of the industry due to family working in other sectors or the taboo of insecure work and opportunities. Vice, The Slumflower, and GUAP created the workshop for the ICA as part of IN-VISIBLE: Rebel With A Cause, which is part of In Formation, a wide-ranging programme of public events assembled to explore its role as a civic institution, showcasing creative talent from across young London and beyond.
We sat down with Clarissa and Lauren to find out what made them want to go into fashion, running brands and how working with global brands is now daily life.
Can you both tell us a little bit about yourself and why you wanted a future in fashion?
Clarissa: I studied creative subjects from college to doing a foundation at Ravensbourne and then to London College of Fashion. Lauren, also studied creative subjects, fashion, and clothing at college, Fashion Design at Birmingham City University, then finally relocating to London to study at LCF.
We both graduated from BA (Hons) Fashion Styling and Production this year and found having supportive parents that gave us the freedom to choose our academic paths contributed to our confidence, development, and journeys, allowing us to become extremely successful in our individual paths and industry. However, we noticed that it could be quite difficult for others that did not have the same insight or encouragement, especially young people from ethnic minority families and hard to reach backgrounds. From our personal experiences, we have seen first hand that studying creative subjects e.g. fashion, photography, graphic design, can be seen as a taboo and not taken as seriously as other core academic subjects, this is what lead to the start of The Lab.
Individually we have had great experience in fashion, from freelance styling, campaign/editorial work, fashion design, and marketing all outside of education. Working with brands such as Nike, ASOS, John Lewis, Urban Outfitters, Liberty London, just to name a few and also a number of fashion PR companies.
How has Styling and Production helped you get to where you are today?
Styling and production has helped us in many ways. Mostly, it has helped us to understand business within fashion and also develop our determination to create our own fashion brands and platforms. We came to a point of understanding our individual interests and style of work and translating that into everything we do. Both of our final projects have become companies that we aspire to carry on developing.
How did Vintage Doll Risa and Haze Archive get started and why?
Clarissa: I started VintageDollRisa simply because I wanted to start documenting my growing style and blog about my interests in fashion. I started at the age of 17. At the time I loved thrifting and finding vintage sportswear and 90s style pieces after school or on weekends. I decided to translate that love for it in the overall theme of my blog and personal style. My audience grew which opened many doors for me in terms of collaborations and being featured in online brand campaigns. It also allowed me to attend London Fashion Week as an influencer which was something I never imagined could ever happen.
Lauren: My relationship with my family, love for fashion photography and my Caribbean heritage are all factors that inspired me to create Haze Archive. I have always had a love for fashion and I developed that at a young age, which continues to grow the older I get. Through Haze I wanted to celebrate all of these factors, I also wanted others to be able to celebrate with me, which caused me to develop the multi-platform concept and create the first book. I want Haze to be a tool and resource that can be used for people to reference, for people to reminisce on fond memories as well as using it as a way to reflect the strength of my Caribbean heritage, its beauty, and its modern influence.
What is your design style and aesthetic?
Lauren’s aesthetic is very much Afro-Caribbean 70s style mixed with a modern flair.
Clarissa’s style is very much a mixture of vintage sports-luxe with a 90s attitude.
What drives your creativity?
Our friendship and working with each other drives our creativity, we are constantly bouncing ideas off each other. As well as that, we always love researching, going through archives from each era, whether it be music, movies, sport, old family photos and our black heritage/culture.
You both have been running a series of workshops at the ICA since graduating. What do the workshops explore and what sort of reception have you both received?
We carried out our workshop with the ICA under the name of The Lab, which myself and Lauren decided to start just before our workshop with the museum. The Lab is the UK based creative youth engagement company that aims to bridge the gap between the lack of encouragement and uncertainty surrounding creative subjects and to drive, encourage and guide young people towards fulfilling their creative potential as well as delivering first-hand engagement and development of creative skills. The Lab is able to bridge the gap between larger service providers and youth engagement, creating tasks such as drawing and art development, garment making and customisation, fashion styling, photography, creative writing and image making just to name a few.
The workshop with the ICA was designed to explore identity. We decided to create stencils that we would spray paint onto t-shirts as a customisation activity. We cut stencils such as music notes, sports equipment, cameras and fashionable items as examples of things the young people that participated can explore or take interest in doing in the future. We also created badges of cartoons/emojis that represented individuals from ethnic minorities or communities seen as “other”. The workshop was a big hit and resulted in us having to have two assistants on the day helping with the organisation of the event. It also resulted in us being invited back to work at a youth club, The Link, in Thamesmead.
How did the ICA collaboration come about?
Our course tutor recommended us, and we then pitched our idea.
Can you tell us about your role as Outreach ambassadors?
Our role as Outreach Ambassadors allows us to work with young people that are undergraduates, giving advice, leading by example, displaying and inspiring others with our work and also helping out in whatever events and activities that encourage these young people in studying creative subjects. Its very rewarding and we get to connect with individuals that have such great potential, which inspires us to keep working hard.
Is there anything you think the mainstream media fail to cover or discuss properly?
The media fail to portray real lives, and real issues that affect young people, specifically within the creative industry. We would like to see real journeys and success stories of people that are more relatable and like-minded. We feel that it is easy to feel very far removed from successful people within industry, we hope that there will be a way to bridge this gap and show young people that they too are able to strive regardless of their background and environment and show more examples of people that have managed to break through not just a small amount that can be found via social media.
As well as this we feel that the media, industry, and institutions make a small attempt to represent ethnic minorities but only end up isolating them further through categorising where our ideas and concepts are meant conveniently to sit.
Where do you see yourselves in five years’ time?
Clarissa: In 5 years I see myself with a striving businesses, building with young girls, through fashion, sport (GDSBRAND) and digital creating. Also traveling and experiencing other fashion scenes and creating in other big cities!
Lauren: I see myself developing Haze Archive, with my first and second book volumes published working towards the third, running The Lab alongside Clarissa and expanded throughout the rest of UK. As well as continuing to run my soon to be thriving female clothing brand twoAM.
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