Last November British brand Boden joined forces with the British Fashion Council to launch an initiative to support and foster emerging British talent. They gave Camilla Elphick, Caitlin Charles-Jones and Sam McCoach of Le Kilt the opportunity to work with them on the year-long Future British Award programme, promising the new designers not just financial support but also mentoring in areas including product development, brand identity, PR and marketing.
The scheme helped take these designers to the next level - with Le Kilt even winning support from The Duchess of Cambridge, when she wore one of their skirts to an event in Scotland.
Now six months later, Boden have unveiled two new designers who will join this initiative, Alice Ashby of Blake LDN and Arthur Yates of Bruta. While these labels aren't yet household names, Boden's backing signals they are brands to note and buy into now.
Central St Martins graduate Alice Ashby was an assistant knitwear designer at Rag & Bone in New York and went onto launch her own knitwear label in September 2012. Blake LDN is all about wearability, with collections focused on clean lines and elevated basics. It's not surprising that her chunky knitwear has found a loyal following from fashion influencers such as Camille Charriere.
Yates meanwhile founded his label mens and womenswear label Bruta in 2015 with no formal fashion training. His designs celebrate art and local crafts, with colourful shirts adorned with hand-drawn sketches.
"We had such a strong group of applicants for this second award," Johnnie Boden says of why they selected this year's winners. "Both Alice and Arthur stood out, but for different reasons. Arthur is highly original; Alice’s work is feminine and commercial."
As for what this award means for these emerging designers, Johnnie Boden explains it gives them training, as well as financial support. "Each designer is given a bursary, but more importantly the recipients have access to business mentors including my leadership team and the British Fashion Council’s extensive network," Boden explains. "At Boden alone we have directors with a lifetime of experience in all areas of fashion and retail from digital marketing to product development and sourcing. "
"Even after 25 years in the business I still remember how hard it is at the beginning," Boden says of why this project is so important to him. "This is a really authentic way to give something back to the industry that I love."