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2009 April 23

Fashion's Fringe Benefits

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(NEW YORK) The applications for the British fashion talent search known as Fashion Fringe at Covent Garden 2009 are due next Friday, and according to founder Colin McDowell, the competition is stiff as can be. "These are difficult times, and what is required in difficult times is not courage exactly but statement," he said this afternoon via telephone. "When we're choosing young people, it's even more important than we always thought it was to have someone who really understands busienss."

It's especially poignant, then, that Donatella Versace is serving as this year's honorary chairperson for the main event, while the new Accessories platform is helmed by Tamara Mellon. "I have a great weakness for women," McDowell confessed. "I like to have women as chairs because they're much more much direct and to the point."

As for his working relationship with these fashion powerhouses? "The thing about Tamara is that she's a woman of enormous style," McDowell continued. "The shoes that she produces under the label of Jimmy Choo are exactly right for her life--very swish, sophisticated and grown-up. What I also like about her is that she is a businesswoman. She'll be asking some very rigorous questions about business. Donatella is so gentle and so encouraging with them all, but there's that little bit of steel that you need when you're leading a committee. I like practitioners, and we do have them on all our committees and mentors."

McDowell identified the strength of Fashion Fringe at Covent Garden in the platform's mentoring program. "The important thing is explaining the quick, complicated business of keeping a fashion business afloat in a first few years," he said. "London has never geen good at that. We've been good at finding talent and training talent, but until comparitivelty recently, we've never really managed to let them to think in terms of business."

Meanwhile, many of England's young creatives are dropping off their applications in person. "I don’t have anything to do with judging, but I always have a bet with myself about the winner--and I am always wrong," he laughed. "Ultimately, some say that a successful fashion designer means being 90 percent business and 10 percent creative. I think there's a lot of truth in that."
ASHLEY BAKER




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