Katie Ann McGuigan is the winner of Fashion Scout’s Merit Award for AW17. This Westminster grad, with an eye for colour and an uncompromisingly bold aesthetic, is a pretty fierce talent and her show on the 18th Feb is likely to be one of the highlights of Fashion Scout this season.
Katie’s designs are intense, multilayered and satisfying. There’s a duality to her creations that we love – take a quick glance and feel the thrill of a classic silhouette or a mouthwatering pop of electric colour, but look up close and the designs are threaded with intricate and gloriously forward thinking detail, from laser cutting, to vinyl printing. These are pieces with serious depth.
Before her collection hits the catwalk at Fashion Scout, we thought we’d get some insight into how Katie got to this point and who she makes these looks for. We’ve tried to keep the fangirling to a minimum.
Perhaps the most fascinating element of any collection is the inspiration – this is what opens the creaking trapdoor into the designer’s creative mind. Katie’s strong, modern aesthetic, with its graphic prints and oversize silhouettes, makes quite an impact, so where did it come from. She told us, “the colour palette and many design references in the collection are drawn from the starkly captivating photographic work of Michal Chelbin, particularly her book Sailboats and Swans.”
Katie describes the imagery of inmates of prisons in Russia and the Ukraine in the book as “both sadly moving and visually stunning.” You may or may not have come across Chelbin, a photographer whose work has graced the pages of The New Yorker and whose images have a similarly layered feel to Katie’s aesthetic. The portraits in Sailboats and Swans are haunting, timeless, complex and bold.
That same sense of timelessness is reflected here too – a tension between vintage and modern creates looks that feel both familiar and like an entirely new perspective. Katie says she “would like to consider my designs modern, but I appreciate the traditional” and the classic references aren’t hard to spot – a full skirt here, an oversize shoulder there. That’s because vintage is often a starting point, “I work from old garments or ideas to create a new and modern point of view.”
In terms of who she designs for, Katie has a quirky woman in mind, “daring, bold, and strong enough to wear such bold garments. Someone who doesn’t care to please others.” In other words, style wallflowers and fashion conformists need not apply.
We also think you’d be someone who demands attention to detail, not just the more superficial elements of design but the depth and interest that texture and volume can add to a piece of fashion too. “Print and texture are what make my garments,” acknowledges Katie. But the use of such heavy print requires a bit more thought than your average process, “I need to consider what fabrics I am able to use, to allow the screen prints, digital prints and even things like vinyl and laser cutting to be as clear and vibrant as possible.”
It’s a mistake we all make, to assume that someone with such talent must have had an easy road from creating to getting ‘discovered.’ However, as any graduate who has been through this process knows, it’s not that simple. Katie says it all comes down to “money…Without Fashion Scout and the opportunity they have given me, I would never have been able to fully develop my own collection, with its own solo show.” As ever, thumbsup to Fashion Scout but still so much work for the British fashion industry to do at the graduate end, in terms of support and finance.
So, what does it feel like to suddenly be thrust into the spotlight of a Merit Award Winner gong? Busy, it seems. “I am lucky enough to be able to use the University of Westminster fashion studios, so I and my team of three interns end up spending most of our time there. A lot of my day is spent organising, cutting out garments, draping on the mannequin, drinking lots of coffee and working towards my show. When I get home at night, I have a quick dinner with my boyfriend, and then usually I keep working to prepare for the next day.”
Katie doesn’t seem spectacularly phased by the degree of work involved in the process – her route to success, she says, lies in passion, hard work and ambition. Plus, she’s aware that opportunities must be grasped with both hands, “I think, as fashion moves so quickly, especially at the moment, theres no knowing what will happen next.” With plans for her own brand and studio out there in the future, as well as the influx of activity that will inevitably follow the show this month, Katie has her hands full. But, right now, all we can think about is her upcoming show – what can we expect from it? “Leather/ Print/And Print.” For the rest, you’ll have to watch on the 18th to find out.