Matchesfashion new programme
Clockwise from top left: Priya Ahluwala, Harris Reed, Thebe Magugu, Grace Wales Bonner (Photo: Matchesfashion)

The Innovators Programme, Matchesfashion’s new designer collective, was “born from a desire to futureproof emerging design talent,” says Natalie Kingham, buying director of the London-based fashion retailer. Matchesfashion has often been first to take a chance on new labels and recognises that it’s tougher than ever right now for an independent designer to be successful as a result of the global economic slowdown brought on by COVID-19.

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“From late March, as we entered lockdown, we kept in close touch with our designer community via Zoom and also had very open conversations with industry insiders including the British Fashion Council,” Kingham says. “We could see how precarious small designer businesses were and wanted to ensure that we could commit more than just orders to names we have worked with and supported.”

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  • Crystal-embellished tulle and upcycled-twill blazer by Germanier

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  • Studded recycled linen and cotton-blend dress by Chopova Lowena

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The programme encompasses US$2.4 million in marketing support, one-to-one mentorships, and preferential business terms for 12 womenswear and menswear labels. They include London Fashion Week favourites Wales Bonner, Halpern, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Art School, and Stefan Cooke, as well as new voices in sustainability Germanier and Chopova Lowena.

  • Bow-waist wool-twill midi skirt by Charles Jeffrey Loverboy

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In September, they will be joined by menswear designers Bianca Saunders and Priya Ahluwalia, one of the eight finalists who split this year’s LVMH Prize; 2019 LVMH Prize winner Thebe Magugu; and Harris Reed and Ludovic de Saint Sernin, two labels that focus on gender fluidity and inclusivity.

  • Hibiscus-print cotton-poplin shirt by Wales Bonner

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“We tried to select designers with their own unique DNA and point of difference,” Kingham says. “Each has their own story and we knew the programme could further amplify this.”

This story originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.