Starting a clothing brand without financial backing sounds nearly impossible. That is, of course, unless your drive drowns out the people who tell you what cannot be done. British fashion designer, Jane Bowler, has that drive as well as an immense sense of individuality in her creations. She isn't inspired by what other designers do. Which, in a world of crop tops and platform sneakers, is rare. Today, maintaining a unique aesthetic often presents extra difficulty. So, how is she doing it? Technology has worked in her favor and the designer opted to back her upcoming London Fashion Week show through popular funding website, Kickstarter. She stays true and dedicated to her vision and while doing so, creates a loyal relationship with her brand's followers. It's easy to become one of those followers. Her designs are so incredibly unique, both in the materials that their made up of and in shape. If someone were to describe the future of fashion, I'm sure it would look a lot like Jane Bowler's clothing- plastic and metallic tessellates that stand out, but in the coolest way possible. Her spring collection promises to be even more exciting as she states that it varies tremendously from the last. While on her kickstarter campaign, I took the opportunity to interview Bowler on her past, present and her company's bright future. Take a hit of Jane Bowler.
How did your interest in fashion develop? How did your upbringing influence the way in which you create?
I grew up in a small town in the Midlands, a long way from London. I always loved art and design at school, but never really thought about fashion until I finished studying Textile design at University. I was constantly making and drawing when I was little! In fact, I had this crazy idea that when I grew up I would like to own my own sweet shop and paint and draw in the shop whilst I sold sweets and ate them too. When I was growing up, my family always went to car boot sales and charity shops and I think this helps you to appreciate the little things, and not over look certain materials which may be deemed as ‘cheap’ or ‘mundane’ and also allows you to see beauty in something that someone else is throwing away. I would buy clothes and materials, which I would then transform into something else, or something, better! I think this has definitely fed into my design process today.
During and after you went to the Royal College of Art what experiences have you had in the industry? How did going to the RCA assist you in becoming a designer and developing your own brand?
The Royal College of Art was a great way for me to showcase my work and be seen by the right people and press. So, that was a great start to the label. I attended the RCA after I had worked for two years in the industry, so I already felt like I had the tools to begin to think about setting up my own label prior to my MA. I worked for a small studio where my boss taught me a huge amount as well as being very open about how things work and how to run a business. This is something that I endeavor to also give back to anyone who interns and works with me, it is so important to have a great work relationship with anyone that helps you out and I want people to get as much out of working for me as they possibly can. None of this making cups of tea and running errands malarkey! It needs to work both ways and this is one of the secrets to growing your brand! Being surrounded by a great team.
Inspiration always starts with the materials that I find and the processes that I work with. I get so inspired by the experimentation side of my work, and allow this to shape the collections. It's really fun because I never quite know how the collection will end up looking.
What materials are your favorites to create with? Have there been some you've tested and did not work? What is the most unique material you have used for one of your pieces?
Plastics are my thing for sure! I love transforming them into luxury high-end garments and accessories. It's such an uncommon material to be used in this way and I love the challenges that it presents. Some of my collections have used recycled materials such as plastic shower curtains and bath mats, so those are definitely the strangest.
Many fashion designers move to New York or Paris to start their brands. London is still considered a growing fashion city. What are your thoughts on this notion? How has going to school in London and starting your collection in London assisted you?
I loved my time studying at the Royal College of Art in London, and the platform that this gives you when you come to showing your graduate collection. It was also amazing to be surrounded by so many amazing designers and creators from different disciplines as well as creatives from all over the world. I LOVE London and can't imagine being anywhere else! My amazing PR agents ‘Bloody Gray’ are here, it's brilliant for sourcing all of my materials and you are surrounded by some of the best fashion talents in the world!
Are there any designers that you really admire?
To be honest I try not to look too much at other designers or admire them in particular. It's too easy to get subconsciously inspired by others and I try and avoid this as much as I can. It helps me stay unique. Although, if I had to admire a designer, it would be because they may have had a similar journey and the same struggle that I did, funding it themselves and powering through… I admire that, it takes a lot of strength and guts, as it's not easy!
What are you currently working on? I see that you're utilizing kickstarter- could you explain more about that. Why are you choosing this website for funding instead of investors?
I am currently working on my spring 2014 collection. It's very exciting! Aesthetically, it's very different from my past collections and I am really looking forward to showing it at London Fashion Week. This leads me on to talk about my kickstarter crowd-funding project. Self funding your fashion label and holding down other jobs at the same time means that new designers generally don’t have a great deal of money and after all, anyone setting up a business will always struggle for the first couple of years anyway. So I have set up a crowd funding project for the second time this season. Crowd funding is great, it not only allows my followers to support my brand and help me show at fashion week, but it also works in their favour by allowing them to get their hands on Jane Bowler exclusives and current season accessories with a huge discount! So it’s a win win situation for everyone. If anyone would like to get involved in this, just take a look at the project here.
What advice would you give to other aspiring and emerging designers?
If you LOVE it then go for it! It's hard work, but it's well worth it.You should always have a go and take a risk, otherwise you will regret it forever.