Richard Quinn wins the H&M Design Award 2017

By blending demi-couture with 60s textiles, ethical thinking and a twist of darkness, Richard Quinn has won the H&M Design Award 2017. We caught up with him right after the announcement.

What started with over 500 applicants from 40 different schools around the world for the H&M Design Award 2017 was eventually whittled down to eight very talented finalists. And while it was a tough decision, Ann-Sofie Johansson, creative advisor to H&M and jury chair, announced yesterday evening in London, UK to a packed room of international press that the winner is Richard Quinn.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Richard immediately after the announcement, “but also really surprised because the things I do are quite demi-couture. There are pieces that are very strong, but they can be taken away from the styling and worn day-to-day, as well. It can still be a statement piece without being completely in your face.”

The pieces in question included a floral dress with a Dior New Look silhouette paired against sparkly black and white houndstooth, foil-printed separates and a one-piece covered in fuchsia roses. Throw in some power shoulders from the 80s and slick black patent, and you had a darkly decadent collection. It certainly caught the eye of one of the jurors instantly:

“I felt that Richard really stood out. When I walked into the showroom, I was immediately drawn to his space,” said Yasmin Sewell, fashion director at Style.com and H&M Design Award jury member. “After meeting him and hearing about his vision and the sustainability elements, I also noticed he never spoke about himself – he always spoke about the team. Ultimately, he was able to create really desirable, wearable and relevant pieces. The trench coat, the beautiful embroidered bag and shoes… I think he’s really got something. I genuinely think we’ll see him really going places.”

With the award, Richard, a Central Saint Martins graduate from southeast London, has won €50,000 prize money, one year of mentorship from H&M and the opportunity to have key items from the winning collection developed and sold at H&M. This year, the jury consisted not only of Ann-Sofie Johansson and Yasmin Sewell, but also Imran Amed (founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business of Fashion), Pernille Teisbaek (founder and creative director of Social Zoo), Zanita Whittington (creative director of Azalle and Zanita Studio) and Margareta van den Bosch (creative advisor to H&M).

Be everything for someone and not something for everyone.


Zanita Whittington
 

The jury’s motivation for selecting Richard as the 2017 winner was that they felt he delivered the full package – creativity, technical skills and ethical thinking – and that he had the potential to create a successful brand. While he was still letting news of his win sink in, Richard reflected upon how he fell in love with fashion to begin with: “I really got into fashion at around 14 or 15 when I started buying magazines like Vogue and Pop. But I’ve always loved the imagery of fashion. Tim Walker is my all-time favourite and the fantasy to it, that really appeals to me.”

WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU’RE GOING TO DO AFTER WINNING THE H&M DESIGN AWARD?
I’m going to call my family!

TALK US THROUGH THE COLLECTION YOU SHOWED THE JURY.
It was all about taking the traditional imagery of the 60s – the flowers and the upholstery – and really twisting it, in kind of a dark way. But then creating garments that when taken out of that context, you can hang on a rail and wear.

THE JURY PRAISED YOU IN PARTICULAR FOR “ETHICAL THINKING”. HOW HAVE YOU INCORPORATED THAT SPECIFICALLY INTO YOUR WORK?
”My MA was funded by Stella McCartney and through them, I went to talks and things that really educated me about an ethical way of working. It really opened my eyes to the damage that can be done within the fashion industry. So my whole collection is ethically produced. The fabrics – everything is printed in London to cut the carbon footprint. All the patent pieces aren’t really leather – it’s a formula I mixed and then dipped clothes in to get the same effect.”

DID ANY OF THE JUDGES GIVE YOU ADVICE OR WORDS OF WISDOM THAT WILL STAY WITH YOU?
”Meeting the jury was an amazing experience and it opened my eyes to the idea of fashion as a business, especially when talking to Imran. But the jury also reassured me that the way forward for the brand was to really hold true to the aesthetic and not water it down, and to create intelligent pieces that people want to wear, which I think we’ve done so far, but we can now push further.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
”We’re opening a print studio since I’m a print and textile designer as well as a womenswear designer. For example, I provide prints and textiles for other young designers in London at affordable prices that are ethically produced. I also hope to show another collection next year!”

THE FASHION PROS ON HOW TO MAKE IT AS A FASHION DESIGNER TODAY
“Have a unique vision, but also be relevant and understand the market. Know what is working now and what people want now – be tuned into the zeitgeist in some way.” – Yasmin Sewell

“You need tenacity and need to know where you fit in, your niche. You should be everything for someone and not something for everyone.” – Zanita Whittington

“First, have a strong identity and stay true to that. Then, it’s about how you market it. Take the time to understand how you should communicate your brand.” – Pernille Teisbaek

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