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Meet the designers from Top Drawer September 2022

The UAL stand at Top Drawer, people are standing in the foreground looking at colourful products on display.
  • Written byCareers and Employability
  • Published date 21 October 2022
The UAL stand at Top Drawer, people are standing in the foreground looking at colourful products on display.

Top Drawer is the UK’s leading design-led trade show which united brands and buyers over 3 days of exhibitions, seminars, talks and product demonstrations.

Careers and Employability organise a stand twice a year at Top Drawer to showcase emerging creative graduate businesses from University of the Arts London. This time we featured a diverse range of businesses, selected based on their creativity, ethics, and commercial viability. Products range from interior and homeware products to fashion accessories, prints and stationery.

Several UAL graduates also had their products featured on the new Top Drawer Launchpad area and Teresa Rego’s product was used as the image for the brochure. The edit was created to introduce the newest market-ready designs from the freshest new talent.

We went to visit the UAL stand at Top Drawer to meet the graduates who were featured this year. Here’s what they had to say:

Blue and green paper jewellery is held by Natalie at her stand at Top Drawer, the colourful circular necklaces also feature on her stand along with yellow, green and blue earrings.

Biju Jewellery

Biju Jewellery was born from the idea of blurring the boundaries between materials of opposing qualities, such as paper and silver and using them to create new and exciting pieces.

In their process, they combine their love for paper art and silversmithing in order to create jewellery that is unique, lightweight and contemporary.

Through the use of upcycled materials, their brand advocates for sustainability and the products they offer are recyclable, vegan and cruelty-free.

I heard through not just a shop, they emailed me and told me about the opportunity, it was close to the deadline, so I rushed to apply, it was my last chance because I graduated 5 years ago. I’ve looked into trade shows before, but the spaces here are quite expensive so it was always something you aspire to but it’s not easy to do. The last few days have been amazing, it’s been wonderful to talk to people and get feedback. I’ve never met my customers, I only work with not just a shop and another independent shop in London so I never see people face to face, and I never have a chance to hear what they think. I’ve had lots of questions and managed to answer them.

It’s fantastic, even so long after graduating, having these opportunities, I don’t think a lot of us would have made it here without this opportunity. A lot of people ask about it, a lot of students ask and say they’re interested in doing it next year, we saw a few people who have done it years before and they’re back here so, that’s a great sign”

Julie-Anne stands at her stand at Top Drawer, she holds a colourfully painted watering can. Behind her her stand is decorated with lots of other colourful watering cans.

By Julie-Anne Pugh

Julie-Anne is a British Surface designer who specialises in outdoor work and in particular gardening.

With the objective to “make the everyday unforgettable” Julie-Anne launched her own take on Watering Cans in 2020 and has

been stocked in design led retailers in London, Seoul and Tokyo and a new retail space opening by the British Design Museum.

She collaborates with leading brands and was recently commissioned by London Boroughs to help promote and create more attractive outdoor spaces to be used by the community.

All of her work is individually designed and painted in her workshop in Greenwich.

I got on the Creative Business Accelerator a few months ago and that’s how I heard about Top Drawer, but Top Drawer has been an exhibition I’ve wanted to exhibit at for such a long time. I’ve always watched from afar.

I probably wouldn’t’ have done a trade show yet, I know it’s quite expensive, so I’m grateful for the opportunity because it makes such a big difference, being able to stand beside so many other entrepreneurs. I’ve found it quite fascinating, the people who I’ve ended up speaking to, some of them I haven’t expected to have such an interesting conversation but also to attract different people from different shops, different museums, and farm shops and so on. A lot of them have been coming, and it’s the smile as soon as they see the product, I’m like “Ok cool, even if they don’t want it now, in 6 months’ time they’re still going to remember because of that moment when they laid eyes on them”. Once you’ve seen one of my watering cans you can’t really look at a plain watering can again so I’m almost apologising to people that I’ve seen at this event because they’re not going to be forgotten. If anyone exhibits here in the future, being ready to accept the orders is the thing I’d recommend, on the first day I thought ok, I’m speaking to some people and handing out some catalogues, but I hadn’t done the dress rehearsal for if someone said “Julie-Anne I actually want to order right now” and you’re thinking, oh woah ok what do I do now, it was actually quite exciting.

Cynthia stands behind a stack of cushions at her stand at Top Drawer. Behind her a colourful logo is printed on the wall with a blue D and green/yellow squares.

Cynthia Director

Cynthia Director is an India-based textile company that produces quality products for the home.

This collection includes block-printed cushion covers, table runners, tea towels and napkins inspired by nature. All of the designs are created by Cynthia and then block-printed by artisans in India on 100% cotton and cotton/linen fabrics.

Cynthia has directed projects and developed collections across fashion and home markets in New York, London, and India.

I’ve been to Top Drawer just as a visitor while I was a student at UAL, and I’d done some trade shows professionally, but this is the first time I’m doing it for myself which is very exciting. It’s been great because you get to meet buyers and you get feedback things I’ve forgotten to do, like I didn’t have a certain care label, I didn’t have my prices final, the first person came up to me and asked me how much this was, and it was like ‘um’. It’s been helpful and also having the deadline of the show, you have to make decisions and get it done. I don’t think I would have made the investment for a booth for myself, what I did like about doing it this way is it’s not a huge booth, so you can just showcase your work, and all of the support, like the webinars, it was very helpful. From doing this I know what I would do differently next time

Sahiba stands at her stand at Top Drawer holding a candle holder, behind her are colourful products and a sign saying "Happy Rooms"

Happy Rooms

Happy Rooms is a cool and colourful homeware brand based in London and founded by Sahiba Saluja. They create products that are playful yet practical and feature a mix of home accessories and table linen.

All their decorative pieces are handmade using an eco-friendly raw material called jesmonite. This includes their collection of candlesticks, incense holders, coasters and trays. Their table linen is designed in the UK and made in India by a small artisanal family.

Products are stocked in various independent stores across London.

I think it’s been quite a learning experience; it’s been very good in terms of orders, I got a couple of orders which I wasn’t expecting. I got interest from buyers from Japan, New York, and Australia, it’s good to know your product would sell internationally. I learned quite a lot about their culture, what kind of colours they like, and what kind of things they like, so if I expand internationally, that will be my starting point. I’m glad I took part and I’m glad I got selected, I don’t think I would have done a trade show otherwise – it was really intimidating I thought am I ready as a brand, are my products good enough, but this has been a really good feeler towards what you can do, and I’ve got some great feedback which helps your confidence so maybe now in the future, I would do another trade show.

Millicent Sanders stands at her stand at Top Drawer, she has pink hair and wears a green knit dress. Her stand has her products surrounding her - knitted bottle holders, scarfs and spools of thread decorate her dispaly.

Millicent Sanders

Millicent Sanders is a textile designer and graduate from Central Saint Martins specialising in knitted products. Colour, texture, and shape are her language and flow into everything she does.

Millicent works mainly on industrial sampling machines to develop fabrics which are applied to fashion, furniture, and footwear. Working with deadstock yarns she creates one-of-a-kind colour accessories and lifestyle products.

This collection of home and lifestyle products includes cushions, table runners, bottle holders, phone holders and handkerchief scarves.

“I graduated from BA textiles at CSM last year, so doing this fair was new and exciting. I saw the opportunity on Instagram, it’s been really interesting, it’s as important and valuable for me to meet everybody here as an exhibitor and get insight into different trade fairs, and like what they do and what they expect, and who comes, and how they have relationships with buyers.

But also, the people coming through, it’s an interesting and diverse range, of people and contacts. I’ve been to lots of trade shows to see them, but this is my first time exhibiting. It’s different coming from the other perspective, they’re all very different, this one is gifts and home, and it’s very tailored around that, it’s very commercial. That, just learning about what Top Drawer is about is very valuable.

I might not come back to Top Drawer solo, but I’ll do another trade fair and it’s a good practice for that. It’s hard, you can’t miss it, it’s a good opportunity, even just to practice setting up and what you say, it makes you assess what you are and what you’re selling, and I think it’s going to really help me focus as a brand, what I want, and who my market is.

Teresa is at her stand at Top Drawer, holding a colourful patterned makeup bag. Behind her are lots of textured colourful products

Teresa Rego Studio

Teresa Rego Studio creates colourful and bold illustrations inspired by nature and urban landscapes and applies them to lifestyle products and prints.

Organic and geometric shapes are balanced and made to stand out to bring colour into everyone’s homes.

Teresa is an award-winning illustrator and designer based at her studio and showroom in Porto, where she also collaborates with a variety of national and international brands.

All products are made sustainably in Portugal.

I think I heard about it through the newsletter, it was a while ago, a few years back and then there was covid and when I went out of Uni I felt I wasn’t prepared yet to have products on display so now that I have quite a nice range of products I thought it would be a good time to try a trade show.

I probably wouldn’t have done a trade show if I hadn’t seen the opportunity, or at least I would have come a few times as a customer and to see how it works. What people are buying, or if I was to come by myself, I think I would have waited longer to be more professional and having something more stable than coming now.

I really like having things in not just a shop, and also because I’m not living in London anymore so it’s nice to have a place in London where people cause buy my work. It’s nice to have a retail spot right in the centre of London, I think they’re very helpful because they send a newsletter with new opportunities, and searching for new products, or Christmas products, so it’s good to know that someone is going to buy the new products that you’re making.

I would probably come back, maybe in January, because people are saying my products are more for summer, but I think they’re for all year long! But maybe buyers would prefer to see them in another season, so I would like to try it again to see the difference. It also depends on the feedback I have after the market, but so far so good.

To find out more about how to apply for Top Drawer, have a look at our website.

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