A very special fashion show is taking place in Belfast this week, as young designers from UnifyNI.com showcase their latest collections. Recently, Celtic Life International spoke with designer David Henderson – whose work is featured in our current edition – about his passion and profession.
What are your own roots?
I grew up just outside Belfast Northern Ireland, going to school in Belfast itself most of my life. I studied Textiles and Fashion Design at the University Of Ulster. I specialized my degree in Print and Textile Design. This focused on creating prints by hand and digitally for fabric. My final year work was based on Armour, the embellishment and rigidity of the fabric and textiles. I took and innovative approach towards the technical side of the course, find new and interesting ways of structuring materials and bonding them together to sculpt the fabrics.
When and why did you get involved with design?
From a young age I have always wanted to be a designer, even as a child I was interested in Architecture and Car design. Fashion came as a result of wanting to do illustration, I have always loved fine detailed drawing so when I progressed into illustration and then print design, it seemed like a natural progression to move into the physical construction of the garments. I did this after studying at University, so I am pretty much self taught and have enjoyed the various challenges that this has presented me over the past 3 years.
Are they the same reasons you do it today?
Yes I still love it and thoroughly enjoy creating a piece from the drawing stage right through to seeing a full collection on the catwalk.
What are the challenges?
There are many, though teaching yourself how to create a piece that is perfectly fitted and finished to the highest standard would be the most difficult. There are obviously high levels of stress and financial commitments to creating and launching a collection. We tend to do everything our selves, from promoting the business, targeting clients and generally making the garments, really quite like a doing the job of a whole team, but by yourself. Personally I really do enjoy it, I have learnt so much in the past 3 years and im sure I will learn a lot more in the years to come.
What are the rewards?
Seeing a collection on the runway and creating a tailored bespoke dress for a client are incredibly rewarding. It’s like an artist selling a painting only we get to see our customers wearing their piece of art and enjoying feeling great in it.
Is your work more ‘inspirational’ or ‘perspirational’?
It’s both very demanding and hard work but inspiring even to myself to keep going season after season. Even today I try to push the boundaries and create something new and unseen before, I try not to go with the standard trends, yet i do like to be ahead of it, I try to come up with a garment that is a one of a kind, sculptural and elegant. Sometimes ill push it too far and make a piece that isn’t the most practical, but they are the most fun to do. I think a lot of designers could learn from themselves by letting go once and a while and just make something they are proud of that will inspire them for years to come. I try to balance my work between the innovative and the elegance creating everything from Bridal, evening wear, party dresses and conceptual pieces.
What are your thoughts on design and fashion in Northern Ireland today?
It is definitely growing, year by year we are churning out some top designers, most end up in London competing with the best of them. Fashion has certainly been over looked as a viable career in NI but saying that It has left room for those of us coming through today. Our students are creating garments of the highest level, as are our designers. I think we have such a culture behind us that is simply inspiring, it gives us all the foresight and drive that we have to catch up with the rest of the world. I don’t see it as a negative coming from Northern Ireland – I think it just means we have more room for development. There is a growing fashion community here and given the size of our country that means we are all quite close and know each other well, we all have very different brands and are obviously quite competitive but having such a tight knit community gives us strength to collaborate on large events together quite like our work with Unifyni and our showcase this may. We based our company around this network of designers, photographers and stylists and it’s been very successful as a result of this.
What’s next on your creative agenda?
Most definitely to get back to my roots; I want to delve back into the technical textiles and move forward through couture fashion pieces, I want to be known for being a fashion sculptor, molding and manipulating the fabric into a piece of wearable art. I still have a long way to go, and a market to find for that but it is those pieces that really grasp my inspiration and the attention of everyone around me. Over the past year I have had a piece that has been requested to be photographed more times that all my others put together, it shows that the creativity grabs the imagination of everyone and I think that’s something to build on. I am progressing into men’s wear and ladies casual wear as well, and they will hopefully be the financial support which I will build my business on going forward which should allow me to grow year by year.