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25 August 2012

Guest blogger: Vauxhall Fashion Scout

Our penultimate ‘Takeover’ post sees us interviewing the man behind Vauxhall Fashion Scout, Director, Martyn Roberts. Since leaving his native New-Zealand, Martyn has made London his home, setting up Vauxhall Fashion Scout in 2006 and in the process, changing the lives and careers of those scouted and supported over the years including Peter Pilotto, David Koma, Felder Felder to name a few. 

It’s his innovative approach to educating designers on business and strategy, supporting them through the years that has seen him cement his position in fashion history as being at the forefront of emerging design talent. We speak to the man himself to find out where it all began, where’s he taking the company and how you, fashion’s future, can kick-start your career.

As someone with a background in PR, what prompted the decision to begin hosting a seasonal fashion showcase in support of new, and emerging design talent? 

 Throughout the whole of my career in the fashion industry I have worked with emerging designers; as a PR, I represented designers such as Boudicca, Lara Bohinc and Christophe Lemaire (now Creative Director at Hermes). At that time many new designers held shows in one-off venues, such as empty shops, and nightclubs. Starting up a new label is hard enough, and running their own venue created even more stress and work for the designers, and could work out extremely expensive. Buyers and media were not happy with this, as these shows were often poorly organised and located all over London. So we decided to create a professional event located next to LFW and were fortunate enough to secure Vauxhall Motors as the title sponsor. Vauxhall Fashion Scout was born. 

What visions did you have for Vauxhall Fashion Scout when setting up the company? Do you feel you've achieved what you set out to do; and what do you wish to do with VFS in the future? 

We wanted to give the most creative and exciting new designers the opportunity to show their creations to the world's media and buyers. For the first few seasons we simply presented these designers, but we quickly realised that they needed more support and advice, so set up mentoring programmes and advice networks with the aim of making them sustainable businesses. Many leaders and experts from the fashion industry have given their valuable time to help London's hottest new talents build their businesses. The team at Browns have been really supportive of this and have helped many new designers with great advice.

Are there any moments throughout Vauxhall Fashion Scout’s six-year history that have stuck as memories affirming the importance of what VFS does to propel the lives and careers of such talented individuals? 

 Every season brings great moments of joy. We get to see designers develop concepts into collections, and the buzz is unbelievable when the collections hit the catwalk- or unveiled in our exhibition. I love it when I see these designs in store- or even better on someone when I'm walking down the street. Often we discover these designers whilst they are still at university, and it is wonderful to help them grow their business and reach towards their dreams.

This week- as part of 'The Takeover' series- previous Merit Award winners, Leutton Postle have shared that "a lot goes into a label aside from designing"; for those still studying, perhaps unaware of this, how would you advise they go about educating themselves on the processes involved in building, and sustaining a business? 

 It surprises many designers on how much other work there is in running their own business. Designers love designing, but they need to also learn about pricing, selling and all the other aspects of the fashion industry. VFS runs mentoring sessions where experts give designers real advice about all of this. These sessions are free, and [the] next series will begin after fashion week.

For those interested in the preparation, and work that goes into running VFS for the five days of London Fashion Week, talk us through the work involved; what's the make-up of a successful showcase? 

Where to start? There is so much to organise - 34 shows and events, 60+ designers and 12,000 guests. I [am] so lucky to have an amazing team who make sure it all happens. Planning starts as the last event finishes. I like to be involved in all parts of the process, and working closely with my team. A good part of my time goes into working with our sponsors Vauxhall, Toni&Guy, and The Body Shop. Without them there would be no VFS, and no support for designers. 

Once all's been, and done- and the Paris showrooms shut-up-shop- how do you wind down, before it's all-systems-go again for another Vauxhall Fashion Scout season? 

After it's all over, the whole team takes some time off to catch-up with sleep and relax. I always have a day where I don't leave the house, and watch movie, after movie. After all that planning and organising, it’s great to switch off, and enjoy other people's creative vision.

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