From fashion graduate to retail fame
21 March 2014
A UK fashion student from South Africa has become the latest designer for an international retailer after his designs were spotted at a graduate fashion fair.
Ryan Farrell, 31, saw his designs go from a university catwalk show at Graduate Fashion Week to become a brand new clothing line at Asda in less than a year.
Judges were impressed by the bright colours and patterns he used, that were inspired by the Ndebele tribe from his home country.
Ryan, a recent BA Fashion and Design graduate from Nottingham Trent University, says he was surprised but proud that his African-inspired designs had achieved such success.
'There was such high competition – I never thought my design would be so successful,’ he says. 'I think people were drawn to those bright colours and the way I’ve blended old and new.
'There’s a great respect for different cultures and heritage in the UK, too – maybe that made a difference.’
Every year, Graduate Fashion Week is an opportunity for UK fashion students to show their designs to the industry – it’s known internationally as the top talent-spotting event for budding designers.
'It’s difficult to get into the fashion world,’ Ryan admits. 'But opportunities like Fashion Week, and the connections I made in my course, gave me a foundation to break through.
'My course was outstanding,’ Ryan adds. 'The tutors took the time to connect to you and nothing was limited – there were so many resources.’
Ryan spent two months working at the headquarters of Asda’s George fashion label and was at the centre of the process that saw his designs turned into the G21 Talent line.
'I learned a lot from working there,’ he says. 'I had my own computer and desk, and if I needed any help then the printing team or my line manager were there, and I sat in on meetings about new trends.’
Ryan, who came to the UK when he was 21, said it was the UK’s dynamic fashion environment and tradition of innovation that drew him to study here.
'There’s a heritage and depth to the whole industry here,’ he said. 'The history of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, mixed with a really modern side, made the UK so exciting for me.
'I came to the UK to travel and I didn’t have plans to stay, but I was interested in fashion and started looking in magazines and online, seeing all the events and the creativity here, and in the end I applied for college.’
'New ideas aren’t just about shock factor here,’ Ryan says.
'People don’t just value celebrities for their big names, either.
'Everything here is analysed and given a critical eye, so you’re in a good place if you’re young and innovative.’
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