The Made in Italy, Designed in Britain exhibition is now live at the Protein Studios in London until 20 June and features the work of 10 emerging designers including Ali Abdul-Rahim of Mai Gidah, Kay Kwok, Cat Potter, Qi Zhang, Jule Waibel, Martine Jarlgaard, Per Hansson, Sadie Clayton, Fannie Schiavoni and Liam Hopkins of Lazerian.
Stefan Segal, founder of NJAL, which supports emerging designers and ethical designs, spoke to The Industry about the project, along with Alcantara chief executive Andrea Boragno.
NJAL was established to give emerging talent a platform and this exhibition is designed to do the same thing. How did you select the designers taking part?
We issued a UK wide call out to our vast database for designers to submit their innovative designs to be considered for the project. From the entrants, we selected ten of the best and most exceptional designs.
The designers chosen have already shown their pieces at exhibitions and fashion weeks around the world.
How does the collaboration with Alcantara work and how did it come about?
When we were first introduced to Alcantara they expressed their need to inject creativity from the world of fashion into their brand.
The partnership with NJAL allows some of the extraordinary talent coming out of the UK to collaborate their ideas and designs with the company’s inventive materials.
Over the last few months, Alcantara and the designers have shared ideas and creativity, taking inspiration from each other for future projects.
Alcantara is not a new discovery however, they are already well known in the automotive industry and have established a strong relationship with supercar brands.
Alcantara and NJAL are showcasing how the material can be used in fashion to innovate design. This is what we are exhibiting at Protein Studios.
What are the highlights we can expect to see at the exhibition?
The designers involved in this project have immersed themselves in the world of Alcantara. They travelled to the company in Italy to discover the pioneering material from a company that has primarily been used in the automatic industry previously and not been used in fashion.
They have altered the material to create couture and high fashion garments. These pieces will be on display at Protein Studios in Shoreditch from 13th to 20th July 2016.
Will the designs be featured on the NJAL platform?
Yes, the NJAL website will feature the ten designers starting from the first day of the exhibition.
You hail from Italy, so I am sure you have a strong affinity with Italian-made products, but what is it about British design that is so special?
Britain, for the last decade, has been an environment where people in the design industries haven’t been judged for their ideas. London, in particular, has provided an environment for creatives can just be themselves without judgement.
Let’s talk a bit about NJAL, it has grown beyond recognition since it was established, did you think when you started out you would achieve such scale?
It was always the plan to become more than just a platform for emerging designers, but a lobby or political force to ignite change in the fashion industry for the last four or five decades.
You set up a pop-up shop in NY recently, following pop-ups in Berlin and Dubai, how did that go and are there plans for more?
It was highly successful. We had a completely sold out event. We set an example for a highly curated selection of emerging designers to be able to compete with French and Italy fashion house. We are currently working on the next pop-up shop.
What is next for the NJAL initiative?
Developing our online presence at the same time we are moving the origin event to Milan. It is our plan to change the way fashion works.
What would be your one piece of advice for a new brand or designer trying to establish themselves today?
Don’t accept any rules as fashion needs a reboot.
Your product is very well known in the world of interior, what was it about fashion collaborations that attracts you?
The relationship between Alcantara and the world of fashion has deep roots. Today Alcantara is more and more often chosen by fashion brands for clothing, bags, shoes, belts and any kind of accessories, for both men and women. Thanks to the development of new technologies able to customize the material according to designers’ stylistic needs, Alcantara is spreading in the application of both fashion and hi-tech accessories.
Alcantara’s Fashion Department manages customers in the luxury and high-end segment, which is the market with the highest growth rates and where Alcantara has managed to gain an increasingly important role.
Many of the most famous international fashion brands – as, for example, Cartier, Lancel, Peuterey and Swarovski to name a few – have come to know and appreciate the material for its extraordinary aesthetic and sensorial properties, as well as for its extreme versatility of use.
What are your most successful fashion collaborations so far?
Alcantara is a highly future-oriented company: for many years, we have been cultivating an extremely rewarding relationship with the excellence of the global design community, collaborating with both top designers and emerging creative avant-gardes.
Today the design community fully understands the endless potential and versatility of this beautiful, one-of-a-kind material, as well as its ability to constantly renew itself.
Among the most important and recent partnerships within the fashion industry are Aquilano Rimondi, Manish Arora, Yojhi Yamamoto, Paula Cademartori, Alessandro dell’Acqua, Arthur Arbesser, Rebecca Moses.
Why did you choose NJAL to collaborate with and can we expect to see Alcantara featured even more heavily in fashion in the future?
The collaboration with NJAL was a natural choice for Alcantara.
On one side, NJAL is the pioneering force cultivating design talent from around the world. On the other, Alcantara is known the world over for being exceptionally versatile. Our excitement in working with these ten designers, selected by NJAL, was to see how the material was skilfully adapted and reinterpreted to give each final design its own distinctive look and feel.
This collaboration remarked the strong relationship that Alcantara Company has for many years with the design community giving us the opportunity to work first hand with talented designers at the forefront of new trends with their cutting-edge collections. The material provoked the designers to experiment with style, techniques and applications when creating their bespoke piece for this exhibition.
Made in Italy, Designed in Britain runs from 12-20 July at Protein Studios, Shoreditch