In the three years that Debra Langley has been a judge of the local stage of the Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen competition, she’s seen plenty of talented local designers in this time, but the one thing that she feels they could do more of? “They need to think way bigger,” she says. “Like the potential for digital exposure, pop-ups, collaborations, and international distribution across different channels.” And with over 20 years of experience developing international businesses in the fashion and technology industries, you know Langley’s insights are not to be taken lightly. We catch up with the enterprising fashion maven to get her thoughts on the upcoming NewGen competition and to get some valuable advice for potential participants.
Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore: What qualities do you look out for in a designer that sets him/her apart from the rest?
Debra Langley: In the competition, we look at every aspect of the designer and his/her work: The approach to design, construction and potential commerciality of the collection. It may be that we only see a glimmer of something special in the early stages, but our job as judges and mentors is to help the designer build upon that that talent.
What practical aspects do you feel are important for the designers in this competition?
DL: I think there are two sides to this: The practical requirements on the design-and-make side, and the pragmatism that’s required on the business side. It’s critical for a young designer to understand what’s already out there, who the competition is, who potential partners and retailers are, and where there might be opportunity.
Who is one designer in the fashion industry that you feel is a good role model for young designers of today?
DL: I‘m a huge fan of Christopher Bailey at Burberry, who I feel is a perfect blend of commerciality, creativity and innovation. In a few years, he has managed to recreate the brand’s identity, bringing in his own DNA while still respecting Burberry’s heritage, so the Burberry we see today is wonderfully modern, but you still understand where it came from.
What is are some trends in the world at large that you can see shaping the fashion industry in the coming months?
DL: The trend I’m watching right now is the way technology is being used to improve our industry. Right now, we’re seeing the value of people’s real-world creative skills blending with technology to create a compelling offering, like Google tying up with Levi’s in Project Jacquard, which is at the forefront of creating amazing fabrics that can be interactive in some way—and that’s very exciting.
What is the most valuable piece of advice that you could give to participants?
DL: Always be open to learning and growing; take feedback and process it carefully; allow yourself to be influenced by and to learn from the world’s design talent but don’t become so enamoured of any one that you no longer stay true to who you are.
Think you’re the next big star in fashion? Sign up for the BAZAAR NewGen Award HERE.
Text by Pakkee
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