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Meet the designers from Top Drawer January 2023

All the designers from Top Drawer pose together in front of the UAL stand
  • Written byCareers and Employability
  • Published date 31 May 2023
All the designers from Top Drawer pose together in front of the UAL stand

UAL’s stand at Top Drawer showcases up and coming designers and giving them an opportunity to meet with buyers face to face. Top Drawer is the UK's leading design-led trade show, carefully curated with buyers in mind. As well as our dedicated stand, two of our designers were also featured on the trends section of the show. Let’s meet the January 2023 designers.

Emily stands at the Chin Chin prints stand at Top Drawer showcasing her products

Chin Chin Prints

Emily Chin-Sillah is an illustrator and graphic designer born and bred in South London.

During the first lockdown allowed Emily created her first location print as a gift to her mum. Initially intended to be a one-off illustration soon led to requests from friends and family to create other local landmarks, from this Chin Chin Prints was launched.

Emily’s prints celebrate local landmarks with her illustration style of vibrant colours and layered textures.

In the past two years, Chin Chin Prints has gone on to be featured in the press as well as being sold in several stores across London.

“I saw this as an opportunity to potentially get wholesale customers and experience being at a trade show without the heavy upfront costs and also just be among other UAL alumni. It’s exceeded my expectations, it’s like a community, I thought I was going to be a lone wolf fending for myself against the big traders but we’ve all supported each other, it’s been really lovely. It seemed really intimidating coming in on my own, with my own booth and not knowing what to expect, I probably wouldn’t have done it any time soon. If feels a little less daunting, there’s less pressure, there’s a lot at risk when you do it on your own – there’s pressure to make the money back, I think that would override the experience. If you’re thinking of applying for Top Drawer, do it. Be fearless, there’s nothing to lose, even if nothing comes from it the experience alone is something you’ll be proud of. It prepares you for the reality of running a business and dealing with wholesalers.”

A necklace is being placed on the Dripped Goods stand at Top Drawer by hands with bright blue nails.
Dripped Goods

Dripped goods offer contemporary hand-crafted wearable treasures, made slowly with care, to cherish for a long time. Founded in 2020 by Amy Flynn, a working-class designer-maker based in Merseyside, the brand stands for quality and longevity whilst still adding some fun into personal adornment! Elements are hand carved or sculpted in wax, before being cast into recycled sterling silver here in the UK. Every piece of jewellery is carefully considered, designed to be gender-neutral and made to last.

“I’m at a pivotal point in my brand, and I wasn’t sure if retailing was right for me, so I thought this was a great opportunity to test it out because it’s highly subsidised by UAL, so I thought there’s nothing to lose really, just give it a go. The opportunity to meet all of these buyers and all these people I usually wouldn’t have access to, they’re all here on the day in front of you. I think I underestimated how much effort goes into setting up these stalls and I have a much greater appreciated for the amount of time and effort people have put into this. All other the UAL alumni have been really supportive of each other so that’s been really nice, and I have a few leads of potential buyers to follow up with. If you’re at a point where you’re happy with the quality of your product and price point, and you’re considering retail definitely give it a go, it’s such a huge discount, if you have the opportunity to do it, definitely apply.”

A close up on the found thread logo surrounded by a scarf on the Top Drawer Stand
Found Thread

Found Thread creates luxurious silk-printed scarves with quirky twists. Witticisms of nature are explored, where elements combine for patterns that border on the surreal. Found materials are also transformed into new accessories.

Found Thread was created by Mia de Las Casas, an Irish designer based in London. Since its beginnings in the Irish countryside in 2019, Found Thread has developed unique collections and commissions in a signature style. These include Arcadia Falling, Collection II and Zodiac.

Found Thread is now stocked in Wolf and Badger, NJAL, Not Just a Shop. Scarves have been featured in UK/Irish Tatler, The Irish Independent and The Earth Issue.

“I needed to go to the next level, most of my sales and networking was online so it’s great to be in a physical trading spot and see what everyone else is doing as well. I knew there was going to be a lot of competition, but also inspiration from other brands, the people are lovely. It’s nice to start off with a small space to then know what the bigger spaces are like for next time. It was great o be with other UAL alumni and we all helped each other to get prepared, and it was nice to have everyone standing beside each other for moral support. And now if I do a trade show in the future, I know how much I have to prepare for it, now I feel a lot more prepared to do another show in the future. If you’re thinking of applying for Top Drawer, my advice is to organize your line sheets and make sure they’re ready to go because if you’re talking to someone, they like to chat but they also like to know the facts.”

Ilke holds up a handmade face mask and smiles, showcasing her products
Ilke Usluca Design

Ilke Usluca Design focuses on creating earth-friendly and conscious textile products. After working in the fashion industry, Ilke became increasingly aware of unsustainable practices. After her MA she kept developing her ideas whilst working for other companies and becoming an advocate of zero-waste. In 2020, she started her own range. Consciousness, quality and multi-functionality are among the core of the products. Ilke designs all the prints and handcrafts each product in her studio in London. With a strict zero-waste policy, Ilke is aiming to help cut down the pre-consumer waste which is a big problem in the fashion industry.

“I thought this could be a good opportunity to showcase my product and meet with potential buyers, it could be great to make those connections. I normally do markets so it’s direct to consumer, it’s similar in a way but this is much more a serious situation – customers when they come, they know what they want to buy whereas the buyers have to believe in your product to sell it in their own shop. I was a bit anxious, but as the first day went by it got easier, it was more conversational than I thought it would be. I had one sale on Sunday and met with a couple of really interested people so I will be following them up afterwards. I would say definitely apply if you meet the criteria because UAL helps a lot, they give you all the briefs, education and information you need to know before a trade show, which was really helpful because for instance I realized some of my prices were wrong – even if nothing comes from the show it’s still good to take your business to the next level. You will feel more confident, even if you talk to one client and they look at your product and say “oh they’re beautiful” you’re already done, you’re already happy.”

Karolina stands at the Lagom Glassware stand at Top Drawer showcasing her products

Lagom Handmade Glassware

Lagom Handmade Glassware is a woman-led business launched in 2022 by Karolina, an alumnus of Product Design from UAL Central Saint Martins. Designed by Karolina, the glassware is produced out of high-quality scientific glass in the Czech Republic by skilful craftsmen. The products are made to last a lifetime.

Each product is named after an inspirational woman that has shaped the landscape of art, design and society. Lagom makes every effort to send it to the customer’s door using recyclable packaging.

“I wanted to apply for Top Drawer because I wanted to take my business a step further and try to get into wholesale, I was only selling direct to consumers, and only selling through my website so far. So far it’s worked rather well but I’m excited to get it to some bigger shops. The show is much bigger than I expected, it feels really nice to be here and be part of it. I’ve met a lot of owners of smaller shops and there are more people coming from bigger shops today, I’ve also met a lot of business owners which has been really good. I don’t think I would have exhibited without this opportunity because I have a very small business, I’ve just started 10 months ago, and they helped us prepare for the trade show, and we’ve had loads of calls and coaching so we can maximize the opportunity at Top Drawer. I found out about the opportunity through not just a shop, I sell there, and they said my product might sell well here. If you have a small business and don’t know where to start this is a great place to be.”

Mahin stands holding one of her colourful prints at her stand at Top Drawer
Mahin Hussain

Hailing from the bright and colourful land of Pakistan and now settled in the UK, Mahin Hussain is a print designer and visual artist. Mahin’s print-based collection of work is inspired by her childhood memories and the iconic cultural imagery of the sub-continent. Her current collection is a nod to the quirky symbolism around her reimagined in her strong colourful style. Contrasting colours, bold imagery and tactile textures form the base of all her designs. She believes in colour and thinks everyone needs some in their lives.

“I started in 2021 and since then I’ve been on some platforms online but I wanted to explore other opportunities and I think it’s such a good way to meet people and showcase your brand. It’s in the middle of this big inspirational place and there are so many contacts to be made. When we were coming here I felt a bit intimidated by meeting retailers and buyers but once you’ve set up and you’re more relaxed you realise it’s quite casual. I think being part of the UAL stand at Top Drawer – you’re with all of these other makers so there’s support, the training we got I feel really prepares you for what you have to do here. It’s opened my eyes to things I had no clue about, it allows me to think about a different path that I could explore further. As a small business I would never have been able to do a stall here, doing it with UAL makes it feel like it’s doable. It gives you a glimpse of what it would be like to exhibit solo in the future.”

The Rubino Wilson stand at Top Drawer displaying their craft kits

RubinoWilson is a design and fabrication studio and teaching platform for creative workshops. We teach a range of different disciplines including metalwork, woodwork and mould-making. These skills can also be taught in your own time and space with our workshop kits. RubinoWilson also runs ORE Projects: a mentoring scheme for teenagers to learn workshop practice in a professional, non-discriminatory environment. Unlearning workshop prejudice against women is at the core of the project.

“We have our kits stocked in the Barbican but we’re looking to find more stockists, we were struggling with how to do that, so we liked the idea of the Top Drawer package and the help – the seminars and tutorials we got leading up to Top Drawer were really helpful. It’s been way more successful than anything else we’ve tried, in terms of trying to get stockists. We’ve met some people making products in the same realm as ours and got some tips from them which is good. I don’t know if it would have been financially viable for us to do a trade show right now without this opportunity, the amazing thing about the UAL stand is it’s affordable and it’s given us a chance to try.”

Uri stands behind the Shaven Raven Designs stand at Top Drawer
Shaven Raven Designs

Shaven Raven Designs is the moniker of East London-based graphic designer and illustrator, Ufuoma Urie. After a career freelancing, the UAL alumni started a greeting card and gift wrap brand in 2020. Designs feature nods to the creative's own heritage using bold Ankara patterns, her love of the macabre (gothic motifs, movie monsters, magic, Halloween) and a celebration of queer identity. Shaven Raven Designs prides itself on being socially and environmentally conscious, bold and inclusive.

“Top Drawer was a bucket list thing for me, I’d been working for a very large retailer before, and I really wanted to be part of Top Drawer when I visited under that company. I thought I could really see myself here. I did a talk through Careers and Employability and at the talk, I spoke to someone who said, “Why don’t you just apply?” I looked at the criteria and I can’t believe I was chosen – I cried! I feel like UAL is the university that keeps on giving. From yesterday alone it’s exceeded my expectations, even the organisers since before we got here have been really involved. I’m really grateful to Top Drawer for having me. I’ve had three major retailers approach me and it feels great, some people I’ve also known through UAL have also exhibited here and they’re doing really well. It would have taken me a while to do a trade show, I’ve been doing lots of markets in the last year but as soon as this opportunity came up I knew I had to take it. For someone who is thinking of applying, I’d say go for it, you have no clue what will happen in life so just take the opportunity and say yes!”

Jiaying stands behind a display of her jewellery in a red dress

Jiaying Wang

As one of the most recognisable fashion personalities from China, who graduated from Central Saint Martins., Jiaying Wang brings broad experience, combined with notable achievements within the fashion industry, as a designer, fashion model and international educator.  Founded by designer JIAYING WANG in London, W.J.Y. is a creative house dedicated to designing timeless jewellery and fashion for high-quality modern daily wearing.  With a W.J.Y. Design philosophy of ‘freedom of fashion’, the design extends craft-ship to sustainability by natural gemstones and fabrics.

“I saw Top Drawer through a UAL email, and I think it’s a great chance for me to exhibit my designs here. I think I got more visitors than I thought I would, I attended previous exhibitions as a visitor, but at this show, I can see that more businesses come here. I got a lot of business cards from retail shops and more interestingly I got some contacts from a museum shop, I didn’t expect museums to come here, but my friend told me they’re usually interested in very special jewelry like my collection. It’s opened the door for me to attend another trade show in the future, it’s given me experience. It’s a good test for your product, it’s good to prepare before as well – I got a notification 2 months before the show which was useful.”

If you're interested in exhibiting your product at Top Drawer on the UAL stand, you can find more information on the Top Drawer page, and sign up for our newsletter to find out when the next opportunity to apply opens.

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